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I’ve become a bit of a wrench…

I find myself as a sort of semi pro bike mechanic these days. I’ve currently got a Specialized Tarmac, Specialized Venge, Cannondale Synapse, and a LiteSpeed something other in the house and garage for various types of service, as well as a friends wheels for tubeless setup. I don’t know how this happened really, I’ve never advertised my services, and I have no interest in doing it for real money. It just seems to spread by word of mouth. Later today a lady I don’t even know is bringing a Surly by, which is a cool enough bike. She thinks it’s a broken shift cable, but isn’t sure.

I think right now this is happening because COVID has overwhelmed the bike shops around here as everyone is taking up riding again. I’ve heard time and again that the shops can’t get bikes in fast enough to meet the demand, and their service departments are crushed. When you add in the sticker shock that lots of part time riders get when you quote them legit service rates (mechanics gotta eat!) you get this casting around looking for alternatives. “It’ll be 100.00 to change a cable and adjust derailleurs, and we can look at it in September…”

I usually charge parts plus a bag of coffee, or if Jackson is helping a 6 or 12 pack of root-beer. Jack helped rebuild the Canny V500 we did earlier this year, and he has helped in some capacity on most of the bikes. He digs the mechanical simplicity of a good bike drivetrain. I don’t have any overhead, I have the tools from my own fleet maintenance projects, and I work when I want, so I guess this makes me more approachable.

One thing I wouldn’t mind doing is getting more involved with a racer. Keeping a race bike, or a couple race bikes up and ready to roll would be satisfying, I may pursue that if the season every gets under way again. Maybe a Cross racer, or a Cross Country MTB rider. I haven’t done any racing myself in a very long time, and I kinda miss the scene. I’ve got the little bike club setup, but I haven’t gone anywhere with it since COVID has come on. The original idea was to have kind of loose co-op of riders and racers just build some comradery and get more people turning legs. I’d still like to keep that the focus, but its a cool theme to use for racers.

Jackson seems to be enjoying the service aspect as well, he likes being the different solutions to problems the companies come up with. I’m rebuilding my older Campy stuff right now with an eye on a classic Colnago to carry it around, maybe something Ti just for kicks, and that has hi lighted the differences and similarity between Shimano and Campy to both him and me. They are more alike than different mechanically, but more different than alike ergonomically on the older stuff, though the new stuff is almost the same.

This reminds me I need to rebuild my fork…

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Finally some long overdue bike content…

The oldest boy and I spent some time this weekend setting up an older Cannondale V500 for a friend who’s daughter will use it as secondary transportation at college. The bike was apparently picked up at a pawn shop a few years ago, and then languished in the garage as a well intentioned attempt to “get in shape” as so many often do. The tires had dry rotted and glued themselves to the tubes inside, someone had rather crudely drilled out the presto holes in the rims for Schrader valve stems, and there were burrs all over the edges, likely flattening several tubes. Additionally the rear brakes were badly misaligned, and since canti-levers are iffy to adjust for most folks, it looks like no more than passing attempts to remedy their lack of power had been made. The shifting was off track a bit, but not bad, just enough to make that noise we’ve all heard from a million misaligned bikes on the trail or bike paths, just the sound of friction. It had grip shifts from the factory, and someone had put full size grips on it, leaving the inch or so extra just hanging off the end of the bar (!!), and even those were pretty much fully worn out. I really don’t know how people ride a bike like that, and I do accept that not everyone takes these things as seriously as I do.

We went over it from nose to tail, we made up a little punch list of what it needed, and then what was going to be difficult, given the bikes age. For instance, the frame isn’t wide enough to fit any bigger than 1.9 x 26 inch tires, and those aren’t fallin off the shelves at the LBS (or online really) these days. Thankfully I had a set of older all terrain (almost semi slicks really) from an old project in the box, and I was able to use those, free in up space in my storage boxes, as well as getting her some tires better suited to the way she actually rides. We put a standard tube up front, and a slime filled tube for the rear to ward off pinch flats and such, since the bike is transportation, not a race bike. Those slime tubes are heavy just the same, that wheel was easily 500 grams heavier with it.

We replaced all the cables, including the brakes, but as the housing looked basically new, we just lubed them with the new cables. The canti pads were ok, if a little hard, so some careful adjusting and we had some solid stoppers for her, and when road tested by Jack who outweighs her by 50 pounds, and definitely rides harder than she will, they received the “great brakes” rating, typically reserved for discs by the boy who never had never ridden old skool stoppers before.

We lubed up the non cartridge headset, cleaned and lubed the fork seal wipers, checked the torque on the hub bearing caps, and scrubbed the drive train free of the surface rust wrought by garage life. While I was truing the wheels, Jackson took to scrubbing the seat which had some sort of white grease or something similar on it. I wouldn’t have bothered but he got it spotless, and then moved on to removing the weathered paper stickers placed smack in the middle of the head tube by the pawn shop. In the end, for a bike that probably hadn’t seen a proper bike mechanic in 20 years, she came out very nice. Our intended riders mom picked up a generic rear rack to enable easier carrying of the backpack and book bags college students are saddled with, so we mounted that up and loctited the screws to prevent them creating that rattle all those things seem to have.

Jack took sometime to thoroughly scrub the frame, and then waxed it with nanowax from Meguiar’s and we called it a day. We delivered it two days later, so she’s now had it for about three weeks. Her mom came by my office the other day to let me know she loved it, and was thrilled. She hadn’t expected the appearance to improve so dramatically, so she was surprised with the total package.

Job well done.

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Getting older but better

Observations on age and improvement…like wine but less red…

It wasn’t that long ago that I could ride 300 miles a week, drink hard on Friday and Saturday nights and still knock back a century on Sunday. Those days are over. Definitively, and for many reasons. I’ve had a few real and long lasting injuries in the last few years, thankfully not related to cycling. I say thankfully because injuries incurred from the bike usually bring to an end your riding. In my case as they were occupational injuries, once I had the requisite surgery to do the repair, riding the bike was recommended to me as my recovery method.

When i got back on the bike post surgery this May, I had to accept that I was essentially a beginnng cyclist. While I might have the wits and bikesmarts of an experienced rider, I definitely didn’t have the body. The legs were weak, the lungs were tight, and even my back and neck were barely up to the task. It’s been four months now, and something like 70 rides, and I’m feeling a lot more like my old self. I’m still slow, relatively speaking, and my endurance sucks, also relatively speaking, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Progress is obvious to those around me, and it cant be hidden from the scale, the power meter or the training log. My weight is down over 29 pounds, my FTP is already up 30 watts from my January threshold power test, and all my clothes are loose. In my fact my uniform, that I wear every day, barely stays on me right now.

As I’ve previously pointed out, I’m a recently self admitted data geek. I kinda feel that at 45 years old, I don’t really have the time to chase rabbits down unknown trails during training, I kinda need something of a sure thing. By measuring my performance on a regular basis, I can redirect as needed to keep progressing. I’ve always tracked my rides, and logged my miles, but I never really worked it into any kind of holistic training regimen. I just did what my legs felt like and pushed as hard as I could all the time. Using the old F.I.T. Acronym, I pushed frequency to every day, Intensity to 11, and Time to all day.

In the last four months, I’ve followed a much more carefully planned strategy, more time conservative, and to be perfectly honest, I’ve seen better improvement than I would have using my old methodology. I used the TrainerRoad guys plans as a base, and built my weeks around total Training Stress, working in aerobic stuff for weight loss on my commutes, and harder more structured stuff (anaerobic, and HIT) during my at least two trainer rides a week. One of the best decisions I’ve made in years was investing in the Wahoo KICKR last December. I bought it in anticipation of being broken for a while post surgery, and that was definitely the case. What I didn’t expect was how much I would enjoy structured workouts on it. Lately I’ve been que’ing up a TrainerRoad workout, putting some first person cycling video on the big TV in front of my trainer, and jamming some appropriate music while I ride. I’ve got a pretty good sound system in the garage, so I can really blast it.

I’m about to start working in two short, easy runs a week to channel some of my cardio fitness into the things I have to do for the army, but personally, its all about the bike. The oldest boy is loving his mountain bike, and he’s been riding a lot himself, so I’m looking forward to being able to do some real rides with him in the spring time. Maybe Pablo Duro canyon, and something kind of epic. A year ago I didn’t really think that would be possible.

Things are looking up.