Friday Group Ride #425

Friday Group Ride #425

Nothing changed, that’s what I kept thinking, as I sat on the curb, scratching my chin and absentmindedly rolling my chain backwards through its derailleurs. We were 25 miles into a 30 mile ride, sunny day, dry roads, mild to warm temperatures. The pace was decidedly moderate. I’d not been out of the saddle, or even the big ring for that matter.

But my chain was skipping.

I’d assembled this bike myself. The chain was all but new, having been installed on another bike for photos only. I’d pinned it in the old-fashioned way, without a master link, and then lubed and worked the pinned link to make sure it could run freely through pulleys and over cogs.

But now it was skipping.

I fiddle-faddled with it, by which I mean, I tightened some cables and added some tension to the set screw. I rolled the chain forward and back. The skip was regular, once per revolution, and that eventually led me back to that pinned link. Admittedly, that should have been the first stop on my diagnostic tour, but I had forgotten about the bike’s assembly, and as I’d been gliding along smoothly moments before with no good answer to the question, “What changed?”

Once I discovered the bad link, I worked it back and forth in my fingers thinking it might loosen. Eventually I gave up, shrugged at my riding companion, and with just five miles to go, resolved to ignore it. I could be wrong. I don’t believe in magical thinking, but after trying to smooth my pedal stroke, with no positive impact on the skip, willfully ignoring it did seem to make it go away.

I am not a wrench. I live on the word side of this industry, not the hand side. Things are mostly better if I don’t touch them, but I have some personal pride (character flaw) that forces me to build my own bikes and fix my own problems (mostly), and that leads to episodes like this one more frequently than I’d care to admit (but just did).

This week’s Group Ride asks you to rate your own bike mechanic skills on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being pro-level mechanic with a new idea for rear suspension design, and 1 being not entirely aware of what to even call some of the parts of the bike. I speak to a lot of bicycle-enthusiast humans whose blindness to the machine is really stunning, but also a little inspiring. I give myself a 5.

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18 comments

  1. Quentin

    6 or 7. I also have assembled most of the bikes in my garage, but your story sounds familiar, so maybe that number is too high. My score would have been higher in the past, but technology is advancing faster than my knowledge of it.

    1. DUJANA aka the Godfather of Roll

      Most of my cycling mates would say I’m an 8 but l’d give myself a solid 7. I’m with Quentin with respect to my skills vs advancing technology.
      Robot, I had a similar issue with chain noise which actually turned out to be a cracked derailleur pulley.

  2. Neil Winkelmann

    I’d like to think I’m an 8, but more like a 5 if I’m being honest. I know what to do, but I’m clumsy and slow. The only thing I won’t take on with modern bikes is pressing bearings in and out of BBs.

  3. Miles Archer

    I give myself a 2 or a 3. I fix other mechanical things around the house. I’ve adjusted brakes and derailleurs after watching youtube videos. I have such horrible memories of over-torquing bolts on my ten-speed as a kid that I have no desire work on my bike. I’m pretty sure I could, but I don’t want to. For me, a bike is a toy, not a hobby.

  4. Michael

    Five-ish. I am befuddled by the shocks on my mountain bike – I am sure I COULD figure them out, but I have no interest. Seeing the mechanics with gloves and fluids, well, I’ll give my bike and money to them and avoid that. My other bikes, well, yes, I do pretty much everything on them, but slowly and sometimes very inefficiently.

  5. Stephen Barner

    9. I would give myself a 10, but the last time I pulled a paycheck for wrenching was over 30 years ago. Still, with 50 years of road riding and hundreds of thousands of miles under my tires, I have yet to pay someone to work on my bike. I did buy my first new bike, a 1969 Schwinn Varsity, assembled, but I got a discount on the Motobecane that followed it by buying it in the box. After that, I was inside the industry and I have bikes that no one but me has ever touched since they left the factory, decades ago. We never got new bikes as kids. I learned mechanics early, as my dad insisted that I work with him as we built our bikes out of what parts we found at the dump. He always insisted that the bike get new paint when it was done. I learned it’s a good idea to stick with a color close to the original, and that it’s darned hard to pur a smooth coat of paint on a round tube with a brush–especially an old one.

  6. MattC

    About a 6. I’d give me a 7 if I would buy more of the special tools required. Also there’s a few things I’m just too intimidated to do (such as a full blown annual rebuild on my Cdale Carbon Lefty Max fork). Seems funny, but at work I’ll gleefully tear right into stuff costing a LOT (ie: more than my house) but working on MY bike it’s an entirely different matter. But even tho, I am a tinkerer at heart, and pretty good w/ my hands. And we NOW have youtube…THAT is a VERY valuable resource…you can find detailed video on almost anything these days (thanks to all the people who go WAY out of their way to make those btw!) W/out youtube I’d be much less inclined to try the hard stuff (I am about to order the rebuild kit for my fork, mostly cuz I get tired of the cost). And really, it’s not THAT hard…just gotta get all the pieces back in the right order, much like anything else. Keep it clean and orderly as you disassemble and reassemble. After that I might just give myself a 7 (I do still need a few special tools to do the fork right).

  7. Steven Down

    A steady 5. It would have been a 6 in the past, but as my bikes are all old school tech, my rating deteriorates with age. No bolt throughs, press fits, internal routing, flat mounting or carbon rims have ever been tended by these oily fingernails. Can still build a wheel, but not so often these days. Mark me down to a 4 with whatever is next year’s big innovation…

  8. Luke E

    Even after mechanic courses at BBI, UBI, Bill Woodul’s, PBMA and a suspension clinic at ABI, and building some frames, I’d say lack if full time shop employment keeps me at a 7.

  9. Tominalbany

    Three. Most definitely a three.

    I change tubes and tires.I lube.I adjust brakes and cables. I still don’t know how to adjust the setting on the RockShox that came with my Trek Fuel back in 2001.

    Anything else? It goes to the shop.Fortunately, there’s not a lot of anything else.

  10. ken ashton

    That bad link is the one thats rolled/bent in the package at its max turning point. I always look for it when I install a new frame, its always there.

    1. Tominalbany

      I wonder if that’s the one that resulted in a broken derailleur early this spring. I had a new chain put on by the LBS before spring season hit. Then I got stranded with a trashed derailleur. Broke the trapezoid in half, basically.

  11. AG

    I would give myself a solid 4. Not because I’m not very tech savvy, and actually I’m pretty good with taking things apart and putting them back together. It’s just that at some point I don’t have the proper specialty tools which are very costly (derailleur alignment tool anyone?). I think if I had all the cool tools I could double my rating. But then I would never go to the bike shop and where’s the fun in that?

  12. scott g.

    I’m a 7, I do everything except install headsets.
    A slow wheel builder, Really boring wheels, 3x, alloy rims.
    This years learning’s include first thread-less stem bike,
    first bike with a Simplex TdF derailleur and pin striping.
    Riding the reverse slope of technology.

  13. David B

    I think I might qualify for 10. I build frames and wheels. I’ve machined hubs from raw stock. I’ve had my machinery race in the IHPVA but my bicycle related patents have all expired 20 years ago, which has got to pull my rating down a little.

  14. Hugh

    6-7 overall; I do my own builds, 98% of my own repairs, occasionally put bikes together for others. There are some things that drag down my rating and installing chain links is one of those. Probably because I try to use the chain breaker to re-install the pin. So I use a master link and now I’m an expert again.

  15. Dan Murphy

    Solid middle of the road 5. Very rarely does a bike go to a shop.
    I’ll strip a bike and rebuild, but have never built a bike up from scratch. It may take forever to build it back up, but it gets done, and I’m in no rush.
    I’ll buy a specialty tool sometimes, like a Campy BB tool, or a brake bleed kit.
    I’m sure I do some things that would make a pro wrench cringe.
    I generally don’t do much with wheels, – maybe a small tweak to fix a little wobble. Anything more goes to the shop.
    Screw ups – ha, how much time do you have? The last one was a disc caliper that ended up with fluid leaking out all over.
    Yup, solid 5.

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