Sunday, May 04, 2008

It's official. I can't fix bikes.

Date: May 4
Mileage: 29.2
May mileage: 132.7
Temperature: 39

How much time have I wasted on a shifter cable? Enough that I really should have left my bike at the bike shop for three weeks, and given them a few hundred dollars just to keep it away from me for that long. Because if I spend any more time tightening and loosening cables and screws and staring intently at the nubbin pulley wheels on my rusted-out derailleur, I am going to throw my entire bike off my balcony and hope the devil's club grows thick enough to prevent me from ever trying to retrieve it.

I know, I know, I know. I need to learn this stuff. But people like me shouldn't be teaching themselves the procedures. That's like telling a dyslexic person they should teach themselves how to read. I have a genuine mechanical learning disability. Only because someone held my hands and guided me through every excruciating step did I learn to change a tire or put a quick link on a chain. Simple stuff baffles me. I thought the cable replacement would be easier than simple. So I browsed Sheldon Brown's and Park Tool's Web sites for a while until I got sick of trying to decipher Sanskrit. Then I propped up my bike, oiled the cable, and threaded it through the only possible places for it to go. Then I spent hours adjusting the tension and tweaking the derailleur screws just to get the thing to shift smoothly. I came close a couple of times. But then I'd try to execute a hairline tension change, only to end up with the chain skipping all over the place. In the end, I stripped the threading for one of the screws and mangled the cable, and gave up with an adjustment that is about as choppy as it would have been if I had never bothered with it all. I didn't replace the old housing, and maybe that's my problem. But it doesn't matter. I am done. Done. Done. Done.

So my new plan is to wait out this bike shop backlog by ordering a new derailleur online, and then taking the whole setup into the bike shop to have it replaced properly after things slow down. In the meantime, I think I will just slash the cable and accept my bike as a clunky three-speed.

Or put it in the basement. I thought about that. I really like riding my new mountain bike. It rides so comfortable, so smooth, and I've been making a genuine effort to keep up with the cleaning and maintenance to keep it that way. My only problem is the mud-specific tires I bought for it, which put up more rolling resistance than studs on pavement. This time of year and this location require a lot of pavement riding, so I'd be subjecting myself to much frustrating slowness if I use the Karate Monkey for every ride. At the same time, putting slicks on a mountain bike limits my trail riding options; plus, slicks on a mountain bike is just sad. And I'm not going to switch tires back and forth. I am the world's slowest tire changer. Did I mention my mechanical disability?

Too bad Ibex Bikes is sold out of all of their Corridas. Despite Roadie's problems (and they're mostly my fault after years of lax maintenance), I really like this bike. For the price, I think it's a great touring/training/commuting bike. It just needs a little TLC. And an entire set of new components.


  1. Need to learn from the mistakes thats all. Maybe get the mech at the LBS to show you how its done. I normally try and squeeze in a peak at what my mech does to my bike so I can try by myself the next time.

  2. You could ride single speed...changing gears is for whimps...=)

  3. Hi Jill!

    I have the same problem and recently spent a couple of weeks trying to fix up the bike I sold to a friend before giving it to her. After all those hours, I gave up and took it in to our bike guy. I said, "What's the deal Carl? I know what I need to do but can't seem to get it to work!" He said, "Yeah, it just takes a lot of practice." Unfortunately, I didn't have the patience (or spare screws and cables) to keep practicing. He fixed it up in no time.

  4. Jill ...

    I know your posting wasn't meant to be funny, but the visual of you tossing your bike out into the thicket gave me a chuckle. Sorry. ::Ahem::

    All sadistic vaudevillian visuals aside, perhaps you need a BikeRepairMentor? Or, a BikeRepairMuse. Where one finds one of these is beyond me, but do your best to find one.

    Another idea; when I lived in Minneapolis they had a bike repair co-op. A place you could go to work on your bike using their tools and everyone's expertise. Might Juneau have something like this? Probably not, but you could ask around, and in asking someone just might offer to help out.

  5. It's actually much simpler if you have only 1 bike to ride. Then you never get to blow off your maintenance or repairs, unless you don't want to ride.

    The proper tools help.
    Knowing how to use them helps even more.

    You should watch what you say: "I have a genuine mechanical learning disability." People with real learning disabilities might be offended. You do not have a learning disability, you are just ignorant when it comes to fixing your bike. Ignorance can be corrected. Don't be lazy, take the time to learn what needs to be done. Learn to care for your bikes, like a cherished lover, not a drunken one night stand.

  6. Why don't you get a cheap wheelset for your monkey and put the commuter slicks on them? That way, all you have to do is do a quick wheel change instead of a laborius tire change when you want to switch from road to mountain. I've got a wall full of wheelsets, all with different type tires and ready to go.

    Btw, I think "learning disabilities" is already pc enough that you don't have to worry about offending.

  7. I agree with Craig . . . on both points.

  8. Jill- I am fairly mechanically inclined-- so I thought-- and use to rebuild engines (Fords mostly)... I actually had a tough time getting to learn and adjust bike components. Mostly because I thought it would be easy and was surprised how picky/finicky they were. Finding the right gear settings are worse than adjusting manifold valves. I would suggest buying new parts, good tools and get a some sort of bike stand (and a good boxing bag to throw the tools at or hit).

  9. hey jill, i read a lot and rarely comment, but this post made me laugh because I recognized myself in your mechanical disfunction. i just posted about it the other day, so if you want feel better about yourself and see how much more of an idiot you could possibly be:

    ps. joedell is a dummy, and clearly has no idea who you are if he'd accuse you of laziness. rock on.

  10. Jill,

    The specs on the new equipment is really getting fussy. There use to be a lot of slop factor available in the shifting, but now it has to be right on. If the wheel isn't fully seated in the drop outs, or if the derailleur hanger is slightly bent/twisted, then the doggone thing doesn't shift for beans.

    I still use my 1974 vintage SunTour friction bar-end shifters on my commuter. The heck with all that indexed stuff at o'dark thirty in the morning on my way to work. I can always find a gear I like with friction shifters.

    Keep smiling - everyone will wonder what you are up to.

    Enjoy the ride!

  11. shifter cables have to stretched b4 they can b dialed in,ie. After all the play is taken out of it, pull on the derailer cable along the down tube while turnining cranks. It will shift up and down the cassette as yuo turn the cranks. Do this for a bit and the then set up the index... stretching is goood but no while your on the road JRA....

  12. Poor jd has a humor disability.

    igonorance is bliss.

  13. The real shame here is that there is not a shop available to you that can do things in less than three weeks. Not everyone is, or can be, a mechanic. Knowing how to change tires is good, because you may need to do that to get home, but there is no shame in drawing the line somewhere (like derailleurs, for instance). You might have some luck putting the energy of frustration into trying to find an actual worthwhile shop that will get you rolling in a timely fashion, or maybe trying to persuade an individual mechanic to help you out now instead of later. Speaking as a long time bike mechanic, I can say that bribery works. Beer and cookies are commonly accepted currency. Winsome pleading might not hurt either, if your dignity can stand it. Val

  14. "Too bad Ibex Bikes is sold out of all of their Corridas"

    Check out the Salsda Casserole.

    Yr Pal DrCodfish

  15. Derailleur technology really hasn't progressed much since it was introduced. It's all just springs and tension -- which means that there is no precise fix.

    The most important thing is to have a great deal of time and patience. It's all just a great deal of minor adjustments and a bit of trial and error. Aside from that, most bike repairs are just simple and tedious.

    Of course, the smart move is to throw out the old bike and get a proper road bike -- something with drop bars and a nice stiff frame.

  16. The easiest thing to do would be to find if there's a local bicycle club, or another rider in the area that can show you how to fix your derailleur. You might actually make a new friend in the process too !.

    Inner cable replacement is actually pretty easy, replacing the outer housing is what takes more time. The only tricky part is pre-stretching the cable, then playing with the cable adjustment barrel at the derailleur to get the middle gears to shift right.

    The REAL fun part is when you buy a new rear derailleur and have to not only set the cable tension, but also the upper and lower shift limit stops on it. Without one of those dorky plastic spoke protectors on your wheel if you get it wrong you wind up risking shifting the chain into the spokes, destroying the spokes, bending the chain, and ripping your derailleur (and hanger) off the bike.

    I rebuilt my road and mountain bikes for the Spring back in March, and stripped both of them down to the bare frame. I bought new cables and brake pads, and overhauled EVERYTHING on them. I had my MTB all ready to go, and thought about giving it it's first test ride, but decided there was too much gravel on the road, so I went hiking. To make a long story short, I fell that day while hiking, broke three bones in my leg, and now have over $21,000 in medical bills and I'm laid up until July. I wish I'd have bike riding instead !.

  17. yeah, everything you said in this post reeks of "i want to be a single speeder... i NEED to be a single speeder." so just give in. listen to your heart.

  18. If you ever get back in the land of Hatu come visit us we can tune up your tune up skills. Or better yet there might be a collective in Juneau. If not why not start one you have the time right!

    PS Jordy is right on the single thing.


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