Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mechanic or technician...

If you work on bikes for a living, do you call yourself a mechanic or a tech (technician)?  This is a question I've pondered for quite a while.  I think I first heard the term "tech" used by the warranty guy at a bike company where I was working.  I recall stopping and thinking the term was strange.  "Well, has your bike tech check this or that?  Can your tech try this?"  Bike tech, eh?  Hmmm.  I'm not sure I like that term.  Maybe it's appropriate in this modern era where a laptop might be used to diagnose shifting problems or reprogram a slow derailleur.  The term "technician" sounds fancy like you might have gone to school and earned a degree to tech on bikes. 

I'm a bike mechanic.  Been so for 25 years.  So, Mister Smarty Pants, what then is the difference between a bike mechanic and a bike tech?  The way I see it, not a lot.  However, the minor difference is enough that I want to be a mechanic.  I see a tech as going by the book.  Performing tasks by rote.  Replacing rather than repairing.  That last bit is at the core of what makes a mechanic a mechanic.  Repairing.  Seeing a problem and fixing it.  Taking the time to repair a $20 part rather than installing a new part that, for all intents and purposes, would take much less time to replace than repair and, in effect, put more money in the coffers.  

Then there's also that "challenge" thing.  You know, you're presented with what looks like a basket case of a bike that the owner wants repaired.  There might be sentimental attachment to the bike or the owner really just wants the bike fixed instead of spending what might be an equal amount on a new-to-them bike because then what to do with the basket case?  Toss it?  I see this scenario quite a bit.  I know that a lot of shops won't spend the time necessary to revive an old, neglected bike.  They'll steer the owner over to the new bike section.  I don't follow this approach - most of the time.  There was one time a bike was brought to me that needed virtually every part replaced.  In that case, I declined the work and sent the owner to the Re-Cyclery

I've been thinking about this for quite a while, but it was the repair yesterday of an old Nishiki road bike with 105 down tube shifters that made me think more about what it means to be a mechanic instead of a tech.  This bike had a chain that was rusted solid and a freewheel that wouldn't freewheel and tires that were as crusty as week old toast.  The hubs were a bit rough, but overall, the bike was in good shape - and the owner loved her bike.  I gave her an estimate and got the go ahead.  

First order of business was removing the rusted chain which took breaking it apart in two separate locations.  I did not try to salvage the chain, but the freewheel was on my radar.  The freewheel in question was an old Shimano 600EX 6-speed model.  These are pretty good freewheels.  I've use quite a lot of them on bikes over the years.  There is an outer threaded dust cover over the outer race.  Both of these are removed with a pin spanner and are left-hand threaded.  Removing these two pieces exposed the bearings.  Lots of tiny bearings.  My goal was freeing the frozen freewheel quickly by flushing it with some WD-40 and if this didn't work, then it was new freewheel time.  A couple of shots of WD-40 and the freewheel was freewheeling.  I continued to flush it while adjusting the hubs (they felt great after a quick bearing adjustment).  After the freewheel was flushed and spinning smoothly, I dripped some Phil Tenacious Oil over the bearings along with a little light grease for the bearings and buttoned it back up.  I let it sit overnight so any excess oil would drip out.  Next morning it was like new again.  

So, what did we learn?  A frozen freewheel can be easily repaired and by repairing it and I didn't have to throw it away (actually, freewheels can be recycled at Resource Revival).  Mechanic or tech?  What do you think?

IMG_0005
The freewheel.

(What's playing:  KWMR Swimming Upstream)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Here's your chance: Indy Fab & Kish...

Every once in a while, a gem comes through the shop.  Sometimes the gem is a classic bike.  Sometimes it's a modern bike that has the pedigree of a classic.  Here are two frames that are both classic and modern.  And both are for sale.  The owner of these frames has more bikes that the average Joe and each one of these frames has been replaced by something equally classic and lust-worthy.  

First up is an Independent Fabrications XS frameset.  This frame is a carbon/titanium hybrid with titanium crown lugs and carbon main tubes.  It's the top of Indy Fab's line and this kingly frameset can be yours with no wait.  The owner of this one never quite gelled with the fit on this frame and is now on a Pegoretti that has seen saddle time on Italy's Strada Bianca.  In an effort to keep the stable streamlined, he's offering up this beauty of a road frameset.  The IF XS is priced at $3,000.  New, this would set you back to the tune of $6,000.  Seat post, stem, and King (fit for a king) headset are included.  It's in excellent condition.
52cm center-top of seat tube
57cm effective top tube
173mm head tube
110mm stem
Approximate 73 head, 73.5 seat angle
Independent Fabrications XS
Independent Fabrications XS
Independent Fabrications XS
Independent Fabrications XS
Independent Fabrications XS
Independent Fabrications XS
Independent Fabrications XS

Next up is a Kish titanium single speed with a Vicious fork and a King headset.  This is a dedicated rim brake single speed bike.  Stripped down.  Lean.  Machine.  Simple.  $1800 will get you this sweet bike.  
Kish Ti
Kish Ti
Kish Ti
Kish Ti
Kish Ti

Call or e-mail with questions.  

(What's playing:  KWMR Silver Dollar Jukebox)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bells and whistles...

The final build last week pulled out all the bells and whistles.  Except there were neither bells nor whistles on this bike.  Yet.  This turned into a complete bike build after deciding the owner's current mountain bike couldn't be converted into more of a touring bike because of the lack of eyelets and braze-ons.  This build was a fun process and it turned out pretty nice.  The owner will be using this for commuting and weekend camping trips up into the mountains or over to the beach.  

The bike was built with on of the 59cm gray Monster Cross frames.  Shifting is Shimano 105 ten-speed an XT rear derailleur.  There is an STI barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur to manage cable tension.  The cranks are a great option for folks wanting to use 10-speed road shifters but want lower gears than what is commonly available from Shimano or SRAM's road or cross groups.  Sure, a mountain double crank could be used, but the problem with mountain cranks is that their pedal stance is really wide and they have a 50mm chainline which the 105 front derailleur won't reach to.  And by using 105 STI shifters, one has to use a road front derailleur.  Use of bar-con levers allows any front derailleur to be used including mountain.  

Back on track.  The specific parts used on this build necessitated these exact parts.  Oh yeah, the crank.  The crank is a new Sugino OX601XD model that has a unique bolt pattern that allows for a big range of gear options.  This particular build is a 46/30 combo.  One could achieve this with a White Industries VBC crank, but it's my experience the VBC cranks don't play well with 10-speed chains.  This Sugino crank is most definitely 10-speed compatible providing crisp up and down shifting. 

Other highlights are the Mavic A719 rims with the Schmidt SON28 front hub and Ultegra rear hub.  Rubber meets the tarmac via Panaracer Pasela TG 32 tires.  Salsa Woodchipper bars and Pro Moto 1 stem, Brooks bar tape and B17 Special saddle, Tubus rear rack and a Salsa Minimalist front rack (to carry a sleeping bag), Honjo hammered fenders, and White Industries Urban pedals with Bruce Gordon half-clips.  The whole thing comes to a stop via Paul Components high-polished Mini-Moto brakes.

The bike turned out really nice.  My test ride on the bike was fun.  The bike was really smooth, comfortable, and quiet.  I thoroughly enjoyed building this bike and hearing how nice it rode from the new owner.  

Brandon Cross

Brandon Cross

Brandon Cross

Brandon Cross

Brandon Cross

Brandon Cross

Brandon Cross

Brandon Cross

(What's playing:  Joan Armatrading Rosie)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Monotone bike building...

Last week saw a frenzy of gray bike building as the last of the gray frames left the building (except for the 50cm and 65cm sizes).  There were a several full bike builds and a couple parts transfers.  All turned out very nice.  

First up are a couple of 65cm builds that were parts transfers from other bikes.  The first one was a transfer of parts from this 62cm frame.  The owner immediately felt much more at home on the 65.  The second 65 build was also a transfer of parts from a Rivendell Atlantis.  I particularly like the old (vintage?) Ritchey road cranks in 180mm.  

Monster Cross
65cm frame built up with parts from the 62cm NorCal cross bike.

Monster Cross
This 65 is for another big tall guy who says: 
"Nice solid yet comfy road and off road feel. No unwanted flex yet plenty of give to smooth out the lumps and bumps.  Unlike my last off road "ten speed", this bike climbs out of the saddle real well. With my hands on the hoods or in the drops I have all sorts of leg and arm room to tilt the bike side to side to help propel the thing forward.  

I've had LOTS of bikes over the years and with most, the inaugural ride lead to lots of tweaking of parts and stem and seat angles, not to mention brake and derailleur adjustments. I didn't have to do a damn thing. He nailed it perfectly."

Monster Cross
This 56cm frame is for a rider who also owns one of my 56cm road frames.  There are several two-bike Black Mountain Cycles owners.  This one is built similar to his road bike with SRAM Rival shifters, but this has an X.9 rear derailleur with a Shimano SLX 11-34 cassette and a 46t large ring.  Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road tires and Salsa Cowbell bars round out the package.  

 Monster Cross
One-man production line.

Monster Cross
This 53 is going to Louisiana.  The seat, seatpost, and stem are placeholders as the owner already has these parts.  SRAM Apex/X.9 parts with upgraded White Industries T11 hubs.

Monster Cross
This one turned out super nice.  Lightweight was the goal and it came in feeling light.  My Park scale somehow failed even with new batteries so I couldn't get an exact weight.  Built with SRAM Force parts and White Industries T11 hubs.  Alloy spoke nipples help get the weight down.  This bike is headed to Kansas.

White Industries T11
White Industries T11
Wheels

One more bike tomorrow.

(What's playing:  The Black Keys Run Me Down)


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Look back, look forward...

So, it seems one now needs to remember to write 2013 on their checks instead of 2012.  That might take some time, some crossing out, some initialing to instill.  I am not typically a retrospective person and I'm not one to make resolutions.  So, a New Years post getting all gushy over the past while offering insights on personal growth and changes for the future ain't a gonna happen here.  What today is is simply my 18,491st day on this here rock.  One day at a time.  Do what needs to be done today and tomorrow will naturally fall into place.  Yesterday?  Yep, that happened.  

However, I would like to give a big ole "thank you" to folks who have supported the shop by buying frames and bikes and t-shirts and having me build wheels and service their bikes.  It's as much fun as it's always been and I do appreciate everyone who has, in some way, kept me busy at the shop.  ¡Muchas gracia!

So, what's going on?  Well, the gray monster cross frames were a resounding success.  So much so that unless you are a book end on the size range, gray is sold out.  The only sizes available in gray are 50cm and 65cm.  Plenty of orange in all sizes, though.

Speaking of 65cm frames, these were pretty much a dice throw.  In fact, the whole business plan was a dice throw.  There was no real, solid detail that there was a big demand for a bike shop in Point Reyes Station.  There was no demand for frames coming out of a shop here.  I had a hunch.  Actually, a pretty good hunch and luckily, it paid off.  So, yeah, 65cm frames.  Had a hunch about these too.  The market for bikes and frames to fit the 6'3" and taller crowd is pretty limited.  Why not.  So far, these big man-sized frames have been sprinkled around the country, from the Santa Cruz area, to the mid-west. 

Okay, so maybe I am getting a bit retrospective.  What can you expect from a retrogrouch?  There's a good way to stop that introspection and that's to post a couple of photos of recent builds.  

Someone's Christmas present
This 50cm was built for a local woman who had her mountain bike stolen late last summer.  She also has a road bike, but now that she's ridden this one on both dirt and pavement, she is loving how smooth it is on both and says she wants to sell the road bike and be a one-bike kinda gal.  This is pretty much a 105 10-speed build with an XT rear derailleur and an SLX 11-36 cassette.  Tires are 40mm Clement MSO on Velocity A23 rims.  Fenders are Velo Orange 50mm wide Zeppelin.  

62cm Cross
The owner of this one saw the gray and dug it so much that he decided to buy a gray frame and have the parts from his first generation 62cm orange frame transferred (that 62 orange frame will be offered for sale soon as a used frameset).  This owner had an "a ha" moment recently when he installed the Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road 43mm tires on his bike (available in the shop or mail order for $50 per tire - just sayin').  Previously, he had been a die hard skinny, high-pressure cross tire rider.  We're talking 32's at 80 psi.  His first ride on the BG tires was a revelation at the capability of a tire that actually had traction in the dirt and was smooth on the road.  He's still running more pressure than I would, but he'll come to see the benefits of lower pressure.  

Okay, now go and have a great Thursday.  

(What's playing:  Nick Lowe Endless Sleep)