The Mule Abides – Again

After ragging about the mechanical delays in getting The Mule back on the road, I thought it would be a good idea to take it for a ride and see if the darn thing works.

Yup.

I rode to Arlington by way of Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood. The weather was splendid. The Mule and I get along about as well as bike and rider possibly can. All the shifts were true. All the braking was bueno. (I had severely toed-in my brake pads. They were silent, but they were rather lame in the stopping department. Now I have stoppage.)

I even gave the granny gear a good work out by riding up South Walter Reed Drive, a steep hill that never, ever ends. I took a couple of big gulps of water before I started up the darned thing. Bad idea. Nearly saw that water again near the top. For the last 50 yards all I could think of was “Who’s idea was this?” It would have been wise to take a couple of hits of albuterol but clearly my brain function was not at optimal levels. Near the top I was hurting so bad that I didn’t even notice any pain in my ribs.

(Ribs update: the exterior bruise is gone but the area is still sore to the touch. At least I can roll over in bed without pain waking me up. I think I will begin doing my back and physical therapy exercises again tomorrow – oh, how I hate them. They are yoga-ish. Also, Monday I have a date with the weight machines at the gym.)

The rest of the ride felt a little off. I had moved the saddle forward just a touch because I noticed that I was riding on the nose of the saddle during my tour. I addition to stretching the leather on the saddle, I was compressing a nerve in my perimeum causing sharp stabbing pains after about 30 miles. This doesn’t float your boat when your riding 80 miles in a day, believe me.

Today I rode 32 miles and had no pains but now my lower right back isn’t happy. My working theory is that moving the saddle forward resulted in a slight up-tilt causing my back to bow a bit. So I adjusted the nose down one click on the saddle adjustment mechanism.

I did notice one thing that was off about the bike. The stem (the piece that connects the handlebars to the bike) is on crooked. I probably knocked it off line when The Mule and I took a tumble in La Belle, Florida. It’s pointing about 5-10 degrees left of center. This is easy to fix, except that I need to loosen the stem but and the stem bolt is rusty. Won’t budge. I sprayed it with some oil. Maybe it will free up.

Long story short, the bike is in pretty great shape. No additional work is needed. I might take Rando Mike up on his offer to install a generator hub/light system on The Mule. He’ll do the work. I pay for the parts. And buy the beer.

This could get expensive.

The Butterfly in My Old Hood

My co-workers wanted to get me a retirement present. Of course, they know about my bicycling habit so they decided to feed my addiction. Kelly sat right outside my office. I convinced her to try bike commuting. Her schedule didn’t allow her to do it much but she was persistent. She even braved flooding on one of her commutes.

Kellyflood

We’re having fun, right Kelly? The waters receded. She survived.

Chip, Kelly’s husband, bought her a new bike for Christmas. About three weeks before I retired she asked me where to get her bike worked on. Knowing where she lives I recommended two places, Spokes Etc. in Alexandria where I bought The Mule, and Papillon Cycles in Arlington. When I lived in the Ballston neighborhood of Arlington, Papillon was the closest shop.

About 17 years ago The stem (the part the handlebars attach to) on The Mule kept coming loose. I had it tightened over and over again and still it came loose. So I called Papillon and explained my conundrum to Bailey, the owner. Bailey didn’t know what else he could do to help me but he referred me to Paul, a mechanic who at the time worked at CityBikes in DC. (Paul now works for Bicycle Space.) Paul fixed the problem in five minutes with a very thin washer. So because Bailey was so helpful, The Mule lives.

(Side note: the people of BikeDC are super lucky to have so many good bike shops. There are many more than the ones in this post.)

Kelly wasn’t really looking for a place to get her bike repaired. She was looking for a shop that I liked where she could buy me a gift certificate on behalf of my co-workers.

For the last few weeks the shifting on my Cross Check has been messed up. I’ve tried to fix it. And my local Spokes shop tried to fix it. It worked fine in the mechanic’s stand at the bike shop but didn’t work well at all on the road.

I was going to have Spokes replace the shifter cable and the housing (the black plastic casing through which the cable runs). On a whim I decided to take it Papillon to use my gift certificate.

John, the mechanic, greeted me and we put the bike up on a stand. He loosened the housing and examined the cable. It looked like it was brand new. He moved it back and forth through the housing. It moved freely. Next, he examined the teeth on the cassette (the gears in back) and the alignment of the derailler with the cassette. All looked good. Then he ran the chain through the gears. Once, twice, three times. We could barely hear the chain clattering a bit in the one offending gear. He released tension on the chain by dialing the barrel adjuster about 1/4 turn. Then he shifted it over and over again. No clattering.

I took it out for a test ride. I tried and tried to get the chain to skip. In every gear. It shifted properly up and down.

Happy face.

Mission accomplished.

Thanks to John, to sneaky Kelly, and my co-workers.

 

Errands and Bunnies

I don’t feel good. I think the emergence of pollen has caused major bodily malfunction. I will feel fine in a week. Until then I will be moving around in a daze and my tummy will hurt.

All of which is no excuse to skip running errands on my bike.

I began the day driving to the bike store (not a qualifying errand) to pick up The Mule after its 40,000 mile maintenance. It feels like a new bike. The wheels and pedals turn freely. The brakes make it stop. Bring The Mule home gave me a happy face. Thanks to the folks at Spokes Etc. in Belle Haven, my local bike shop, for taking care of my baby.

Once I got home and put all the bags and doodads back on The Mule, I took off on Little Nellie to buy some drugs. I bought some awesome windowpane and som25234599180_7aca9ab239_me truly righteous weed from my local dealer named Cosmo.

Actually, that’s a lie. I rode Little Nellie 1 1/2 miles to the Rite Aid to buy my asthma medicine. So much for my exciting life. Lungs gotta breathe. I nearly had a heart attack when the pharmacist charged me $200. All last year, inexplicably, the same medicine had been free. I honestly don’t mind paying but the inconsistency adds yet another layer to my bewilderment with the health care and health insurance industries in this country.

After riding 25235709060_4e25063c91_mhome, I changed into my hiking boots and rode Little Nellie to Spokes for some TLC. I was expecting to walk home, but Chris, the mechanic at Spokes had other ideas. Little Nellie’s rear shifting sucks. It has sucked for a couple of years. I replaced the cable and housing a few months ago to no avail. So I was all set to buy a new derailleur and shifters. Chris said that my derailleur worked fine but my shifter was toast. He looked up shifters on their on-line catalogue and could only find expensive Shimano Dura-Ace shifters to work with my 9 speed cassette. Then he found a part that cost $10 that might solve the problem. We agreed that I would swing by on my way home from work and they’d swap the part out.

Instead of hiking home I rode. I was not feeling well at all. My belly feels like its going to explode and my head felt like I was stoned. I made the ride home in o24912322314_c12863a9d5_mne piece.

Then I took a two hour nap.

I woke up just before nightfall. Mrs. Rootchopper and I drove into DC to check out the giant inflatable bunny rabbits in Yards Park. All I can say is artists sure have strange minds. Judging from the smiles of all the people milling about I’d say we could use some more of this whimsicality in our lives. Here are some bunny pictures.

Errandonnee Control Card Entries

Errand No. 2

Category: Personal Care

Miles: 3

Observation: Why is health care such a confusing mess in this country?

Errand No.3

Category: Bike Shop

Miles: 8 1/2

Observation: I am so grateful to have a good bike shop (Spokes Etc.) near my home, There are many more (Papillon, Bicycle Space, Wheel Nuts, CityBikes to name a few) within a 20 mile radius). If you want to have nice things like a good local bike shop, you need to give them your patronage.

 

 

 

 

Incrementally DIY

When I was in grad school, I couldn’t afford bike mechanics, so I did most of the work on my bike myself.  In the years after that, I simply didn’t have the time – or desire – to work on my bike, so the best tool in my bicycle repair toolbox was my Visa card.

As it turns out I live about 4 1/2 miles from the nearest bike shop. Even with a car, a trip to the bike shop takes about an hour. That’s an hour I can use working on the problem myself.

The list of things that I now know how to fix is growing. I can change a flat with either a patch kit or a new tube. I know how to replace and adjust brake pads. Since these are the two most common repairs, they are really good to know. This year I learned how to change the cassette on my Bike Friday. (It’s a special cassette with a special tool that my local bike shop didn’t have.) Today, I replaced a broken link on the chain of my Tour Easy.

I have some unconventional tools in my toolbox:

  • I use metal tire levers to get my tires off my wheels. (I never use them to get the tires back on. Try it. You’ll find out why. It will cost you a tube.)  Plastic levers break. Metal tire levers were hard to find like leather saddles. Thankfully, the industry has repented and bike shops now carry both.
  • I always keep a piece of cardboard handy (although a credit card is also useful). I use it to toe in my brake pads. When toed in, the front of the pad hits the rim before the back of the pad. This keeps the pads from squeaking. Squeaking is for mice, not bikes.
  • My favorite tool is a dollar bill. I use the dollar as a tire boot. I fold it twice and place it between the hole in the tire and the new tube or the tube patch. This keeps the hole in the tire from chewing a hole in the tube.  (I call these secondary flats mystery flats because you can search all day and never find a piece of glass or wire in the tire.)
  • A short piece of wire from a coat hanger. Today, I figured out how to replace a chain link in my chain. It helps a lot if your chain tool is not broken. (I just bought a new one.) You need a something to hold the chain taut while you work on the bad links. You gather the chain around the bad link so that the bad link and the ones around it sag below the rest of the chain. Then you use the wire to hold the main part of the chain taut while you conduct the operation.
  • I use zip ties or the straps from my toe clips when mounting tires on my Bike Friday. The rims are every so slightly bigger than spec and the Schwalbe tires I use are really stiff. Once I get the tire bead partially over the rim, I use the ties to keep it from slipping off while I am persuading the rest of the bead over the rim.

I have a few specialty tools:

  • I carry a Fiber Fix emergency spoke. This is a cleverly designed Kevlar cord that you can use as a substitute when one of your spokes breaks,
  • I have a Capreo cassette tool to remove the Capreo cassette on my Bike Friday.
  • I have  special wrench for tightening my Brooks saddles. Unfortunately the nut it turns is broken on The Mule.
  • I carry a nut driver to tighten the hose clamps on my Tour Easy. These are used to hold the seat back to the seat base and to the seat back stays. (It sounds dumb, but you can buy a hose clamp anywhere if it breaks.)

What strange tools and doodads do you keep around for working on your bikes?