Thursday, May 22, 2008

Six-Minute Maintenance Tips, Bike Shop Stories, and Independent Fabrications' BMX Bike

Listin’ To Me….

So as of last Sunday there's been a link to this blog at, probably because I mentioned their products in the first entry. Apparently 9 people have read it since then. 3 of them have been me. However, one of them was Bulgarian, and to him I say, Здравейте, Моя луд приятел!

For those of you who don’t know, there’s a race going on in Ireland right now, the FDB Insurance Ras, known in its heyday as the Milk Ras. Although this year’s edition has the misfortune of occupying the same space on the calendar as the Giro, and now the Volta a Catalunya as well, and has lost some of the cache it had back when names like Roche and Kelly were on the start list, it’s still a race of considerable pedigree, not to mention difficulty. This year, it will include, for the first time in its storied history, a team from Bulgaria, Team Nessebar. One of their riders, Martin Grashev, came in a solid fourth in today’s stage, and now sits in seventh overall, nine seconds back of the leader. Късмет, Martin!

Incidentally, if any of you are wondering how I know about the Bulgarian reader, take a look at Sick, yes, but don’t get all worked up about how I’m monitoring your browsing habits while you’re innocently reading this blog, because I’m not, and you won’t get any unsolicited emails with photos of me shaving my legs or anything like that. To be honest, I don’t even really care how many people are reading this, or what connection speed they’re reading it at. Mostly, I love the thought of how unbelievably global cycling is. I wonder what the riding’s like in Bulgaria…

Anyway, when I heard there was a link to this blog on Finish Line’s website, I read my first entry again, and immediately decided to write another one, if only to get the first one archived and hopefully out of the public consciousness, where it clearly has taken up a most stubborn residence (9 people makes it public, right? 8, no, but 9….) It’s not that it was all bad, it’s just that I really waxed way too poetic about lube, forgetting that you order the Happy Meal for the toy inside….

So what I’m going to try this time is lists, sort of like what Samuel Pepys, the Original Blogger, did in his Journals…

What I Could Have Done In The Six Minutes It Took Me To Read The First Entry Of My Blog

  • Filled a Chain Cleaner with Ecotech Multi Degreaser, clamped it on my chain, run the chain through, dried the excess off with a rag, lubed the chain with Pro Road CR, eaten four black cherry Clif Shot Bloks, wiped off the excess lube, and had a drink of water, in that order.
  • Sprayed Speed Clean on my rear rim, wiped off a month's worth of road grime, repeated on the front rim, and inflated my tires to 100 psi, not 120, because they're Michelin Carbon Pros and seem to handle best at 100 or else.
  • Done the same on the V7 rotors of my Hayes Stroker Carbon brakes, then inflated my Michelin Tubeless tires to only 30 psi, or dreamt of doing that, because I don't actually have that equipment, and will never be able to afford it. In fact, I'm currently using a 1997 Judy SL with a 1" steerer, and a head tube reducer installed in the 1 1/8" head tube of my Ellsworth so that it'll fit. I've convinced myself that it's retro, and therefore cool. Girls pick up on it immediately.
  • Played with my dogs.
  • Sprayed my embarassingly filthy Trek 5500 frame with Bike Wash, wiped it off, using a rag to get between the cables and tubes and making certain not to forget the underbelly of the downtube, then sprayed it down again with Teflon Bike Polish and wiped that off as well, all the while delighting in what I believe to be the fragrance of watermelon as it wafts into my nostrils.
  • Ridden one mile on said 5500. Yes, six minutes for one mile works out to 10 mph. It was a long winter.
  • Called my mother, asked how she was doing, then hung up halfway through her weekly rant about how irresponsible it is for me to still be "working on bikes at this age."
  • Made an appointment with a therapist.
  • Dipped the wire brush from the Finish Line Brush Set into a can of Citrus Degreaser, shifted my front and rear derailleurs to the largest ring and cog to open them up, brushed out the insides of each parallelogram with the moistened brush, sprayed any remaining dirt out of the derailleurs with Speed Clean, ate four margarita-flavored Clif Shot Bolks, wiped the derailleurs off, and sprayed them both down with Teflon Plus to keep them running smoothly at the pivots.

Yes, that last one would only take six minutes, actually around five and a half, because I just went out and did it to make sure. And here’s the kicker: if you added up the first, second or third, fifth, and ninth points above, in other words all of the ones that actually have to do with maintaining your ride, you would end up with a perfectly clean, lubed chain, clean rims, inflated tires, a clean, polished frame, and clean, lubed derailleurs – all in twenty-four minutes.

And you’d be bouncing to go ride, because those Black Cherry Shot Bloks pack 50 mg. of caffeine apiece.

You Smell Nice

You may have noticed that I mentioned something earlier about the fragrance of watermelons wafting into my nostrils while I’m cleaning my frame. It’s not because I hide watermelons in my garage so that aliens don’t take them, because that wouldn’t make sense, now would it? I mean, it’s not like they can’t get into my garage...

Mostly, "watermelon" is what I call the smell I associate with Finish Line's Bike Wash. In fact, I've been sniffing their products since I began using them at the first shop I worked at almost twelve years ago. Allow me to explain why by describing a day in the life of a first-year a list....

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday In Hell

  • I hobble in with yet another herniated disc from a collision with a car, and get handed a pile of repair tickets and a bucket of soapy water. "You're late again. These are the repairs you didn't do yesterday. Start by cleaning them." It's 9:30. The shop opens at 10....incidentally, Bike Wash wasn't around at the time, and soapy water took about three times longer, mostly because it leaves streaks.
  • The first customer in the store buys a full Yakima roof rack with ten bike attachments for his new BMW, then asks if we have any bikes under $200. "Install roof rack," writes The Owner on a repair ticket, and slips it into a slot on the repair board under Bill's name. Bill removes it and slips it into a slot under mine.
  • It gets busy, really busy, because The Owner tells us we must sell a bike to every single person who comes into the shop in order to make room for the order of 40 Treks that happens to be coming in right then while we're trying to sell bikes and get caught up on repairs and eat the half a Clif Bar we found on the floor by the pump.
  • I get dollar bills thrown at me. This sounds great, but it isn't, because it's The Owner who's throwing them at me while screaming, "This is what you're doing every time you blow out a tube because you didn't seat the goddamn tire!" It's my third day, so I can see why he's upset that I haven't learned to do this correctly yet.
  • It's ninety degrees in the shade, except there is none and I'm trying to install ten bike attachments on a roof rack that takes four. It all feels kind of loose, but we don't have any bikes under $200 anyway, so it's not like he's going to put anything on it....
  • The Owner tells me that the UPS truck sounds like someone kicking an empty box down the street, which is beautiful and poetic.
  • We order burritos during a lull, then get too busy to eat them, and there's no room in the refrigerator because of all the burritos.
  • "Didn't you wash this bike like I asked you to? It's got streaks all over it. Do it again...."
  • Don lies slumped over the Saf-T-Kleen tank in the small basment with no ventilation where he was soaking chains in Saf-T-Kleen, then reinstalling them on bikes, then blowing them dry with compressed air, which vaporized the Saf-T-Kleen solvent so that he inhaled it and died. Since he's the third mechanic in two weeks to die this way, The Owner finally decides to drain the tank and replace the solvent with Citrus. Parts come out as clean as they did before, the shop smells like oranges, and everyone, much to their chagrin, stays alive.
  • Yadda yadda yadda
  • It's the end of the day. I break down boxes out back while the air cools like an engine in the humid twilight. I lift my own bike, mine, onto a stand, and begin going over it carefully, and lubing the chain link by link with Cross Country, because it's supposed to rain in the morning, and it's the Island, so the rain is salty at that. And then it hits me, a smell like jasmine, I kid you not, wafting up from the lube, and I lean in closer, and it's jasmine, I'm sure of it. But the stars are flicking on and that means it's time to go, so we lock up, throw a leg over, and ride our separate ways, disappearing like shouts into the night, streaming...

Maybe I have some kind of olfactory dysfunction that translates odors into floral fragrances, because not everyone agrees that Bike Wash smells like watermelon, or Cross Country like jasmine. Anyway, that was one of the most beautiful summers of my life, and since we were a Finish Line shop, and used only Finish Line products on repairs, every time I smell one, it brings it all back.

Neal, if you’re reading this, thanks for giving me the start.

The Toy In The Happy Meal

Last but not least, check this out:

The photo on top is taken from, the one on the bottom from the current issue of Mountain Bike. Both depict Independent Fabrications’ one-off BMX bike featuring carbon tubes and titanium lugs, as displayed at this year’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show. I’m 6’3” and have the bike handling skills of a drunken giraffe, yet I want to ride, nay, race BMX after seeing this thing. I want to start with the most entry-level bike out there, learn the sport from the ground up, and earn that thing, even though they’re not going to put it into production, and I couldn’t afford it if they did. But it’s beside the point: great products ignite passion, and this is one….

Speaking of BMX, check out this clip:

Hilarious….you can practically learn how to form the superlative in French just by listening to it….

‘Till next time, when I’ll explain why I seem to always be writing about bike maintenance in general, and Finish Line in particular….

Благодаря ви за четене на това