I am an awesome bike mechanic

Posted on April 29, 2007 by Chris Lumens in biking.

Back in college, biking was a big part of my everyday activities. I rode to and from class several times a day, went for night and weekend rides with Ted and Ian, and in general just used it for transportation. For a while, our saying was “if it’s not thirty miles, it’s not worth it”. After college, I got lazy and stopped biking. It didn’t help that I was living on the worst road in Atlanta and would have died every single day I got out on the road. Things didn’t improve once I moved to Nashua because I was able to buy a car and didn’t need to bike everywhere anymore.

At some point, I lost sight of the fact that biking is a lot of fun and can be exercise instead of just transportation. Also, Lon decided we need to start biking to work a couple days a week for training. So yesterday I checked out the bike and decided what all needed to be done to get it back in shape. The first thing to do was get rid of Nashbar’s cheapest road tires. I installed those a long while back when I decided I was never going to ride on anything other than pavement, but now I live next to a large park with unpaved bike paths. The 26x1" tires always did look kind of silly on the bike and while they were cheap and provided little rolling resistance, they were really cheap and didn’t make me feel very comfortable on uneven surfaces. No longer a poor college student, I sprung for the 26x1.5" Specialized Nimbus tires and some new tubes. They’re a little bit more substantial in width and tread so they should do better on my typical ride.

I looked at getting new cables and brake pads, but both of those seem to be pretty good. I’m not even sure how I’d know that cables need to be replaced. So that finished up the new parts purchases.

The next thing to do was tune up a couple components. A quick check of the wheels showed that they didn’t need to be trued, so I decided I’d be able to do all the work at home. As everyone knows, truing wheels is impossible so I was glad I wouldn’t have to tackle that myself or pay to have someone else pretend to do it. That just left the brakes and derailleurs. The brakes went pretty quickly since they weren’t too far out of adjustment. The only real thing to do was make it so the rear brake lever didn’t require pulling it all the way against the handlebars to apply the brakes. I got it to where you only have to pull it 75% of the way to the handlebars. Hooray, improvement.

The rear derailleur was easy, too. It only required minor tweaking to the high and low limit screws to get it just right. The front derailleur was a much different story, however. The front shifter was missing the middle chainring entirely, which isn’t really very good. It was also requiring a lot of nudging to get it into the highest chainring and stay there. So I fiddled with the limit screws for a little while and finally got it to not require any nudging, but it was still really slow to switch to the middle chainring. I started tweaking the barrel adjuster on the cable and messing with the limit screws a little more. For some reason I could always get it close to shifting, but the chain would still rub against the derailleur itself.

Somehow, I eventually managed to get it to where there was a huge amount of slack in the shifter cable. I messed with the barrel adjuster a little bit more, went to test the shifting, and the stupid thing snapped in two pieces. On the one hand, I was pretty aggravated that I wouldn’t be able to finish up and take a test ride. On the other hand, I was happy that my work on the shifter was now done and would require a professional to fix. The guy at the bike store said he might have to replace the whole left grip shift since they don’t just sell the barrel adjusters. I guess I will know tomorrow.

The really aggravating part about this is that I still don’t understand how to get front derailleurs into proper working order. Perhaps some day I’ll learn. At least it’s a pretty crappy day outside so I’m not missing much by not being out on the bike.