Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Cheap Bike Mechanic, Part Uno

Photos out of order. Wire on brake, no good. The tools I needed. Wrench in place. And brake before I stared.

The brakes are fixed. I spent a bad 25 minutes gathering tools (I hate the chaos of our garage and the worst part of any good repair job is the hunt for tools—of course, the worst part of any bad repair job is that after the stressful hunt for tools comes abject failure …).

I know from other bikes, but not from Blackie, that brakes are pretty simple devices, and I should learn to tighten them on my own—and recent rides down the MMU hill have been a bit scary due to the need for auxiliary brakes (my shoe on the cement) to stop the bike. Brakes just naturally get a bit loose after a while, and I have every reason (aka, I don’t want to die) to get them fixed.

The basic process is to clamp the brake shut, loosen the screw that holds the brake cable, tighten the cable with pliers, tighten the scew and then unclamp the brake.

My first obstacle is that I don’t own any clamps. So I decided to use wire. Yeah, I know, if there had been a way, I probably would have tried duct tape. What can I say?

I did the front brake first, figuring that in the scheme of things, the key brake is the rear one, so the front one was the volunteer.

I wired the brake shut and loosen the cable screw, which required that I spend a few minutes finding the correct hexagonal wrench.

And the brake promptly loosened. Try as I might, the wire was using would not act as a adequate clamp for holding the brake shut.

This is usually the point in the process, where, ala “Blast from the Past,” I start speaking French, if I haven’t already Frenched a bit while searching for tools.

Blog fans, I am happy to report that no romance language was abused in the making of this post. Before I had time to get really frustrated and start dropping “French” bombs, I had a thought.

I have two hands. I don’t really need to tighten the nut holding the wire in place until after I have tightened the wire—I can use my tools (pliers and the wrench) in sequence, with the my master hand (the left) while my slave hand (the right) holds the brake shut.

So I did. And the front brake ended up very snug. I repeated the process on the rear. I ended up not quite so snug, my theory is because the cable is longer and naturally has more “play.”

I’ll have to take a test ride later to confirm it, but I think I fixed my brakes in about 2 minutes (after a 25 minute tool search). I’ve decided that the pliers and wrench can now ride along with me—in my man bag during commuting seasons, in my camel back during recreational bike season. That way, whenever I think they are getting a bit loose, I can quickly tighten them.

CR Biker is feeling pretty cool at the moment. But wait, there’s more. We found a “silla caguro infantile para el centro de la bicicleta” on clearance at Wally World (yes, we shop there about twice a year, probably just to check the clearance aisle for odd items not found elsewhere in Christendom). It’s a child bike seat that sits in front of the rider, rather than behind him.

That will be “bicycle maintenance, part dos.” Numbering en espanol, of course, in honor of the box the seat came in.

Stay tuned, blog fans. Another post coming later, about how easy it is (knock on wood) to install this new seat. And I do have to take Blackie out on a test drive to confirm the cheap mechanic didn’t French up the brakes.

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