Tag Archives: mechanical

Mechanical course 101

I learnt something yesterday.  Oh yes, I actually got my hands dirty, (sort of), and learnt something that I can now use regularly moving forward.  I remember when I got the Kona both Paul and Andy had been excited to inform that I would be able to perform all of my own maintenance on the bike.  Never again would I have to pay for someone to fix it for me.  Imagine the savings.  And on top of that, it was going to be fun!

Well, until this past weekend I had never really had to worry about maintenance or even fixing anything.  The Kona is a solid bike, and as is the nature of fixed gear bikes, there is very little mechanically that can go wrong, and so you can be pedalling for months without an issue.  Those of you that read my entries regularly will know that last week I did have a “wheel wobble” issue.  The rear wheel was loose and there was a little bit of lateral movement.  It did not take a genius to determine that this was probably not a terribly good thing.  So, as you will have read, I played around with it for a bit and through trial and error managed to dial out the wobble.  I was not at all sure I had done it correctly though.

Not wanting to discover that I had made man error by experiencing a wheel coming off, I dropped round to Andy’s yesterday afternoon and he taught me how to disassemble completely the rear hub, remove all the bearings, clean it all up, grease everything up, put the bearings back into the cones and then put it all back together again.  The most important part is making sure that you lock the locknuts to the spacers correctly without actually putting too much pressure on the bearings cones.  I had done this wrong the first time last week.  I knew this because when I lifted the rear wheel off the ground and gave it a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ type spin, it stopped almost immediately.  It’s a bit of a game.  You have to lock one side, then adjust the other, getting it almost to where you want it, and then tighten the locknut to the spacer which will typically take it that last little bit without over-tightening it.  Sounds easy, right?

The last bit you have to get right is getting the tension right on the chain.  Too loose and it’ll fly right off the chainring.  Too tight and you put unacceptable strain on the links and you could have a snapped chain to deal with.  But getting the right tension and also ensuring that the wheel goes in straight requires a bit of playing and practice.  Again, it’s not difficult, but you have to be patient and work both sides.  Small adjustments on each side will get you there much faster than trying to tighten one side completely and then force the other to behave.

All in all, a very satisfying time.  I think I have a future as a home bike mechanic yet.

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Hoo Haa!

A quick entry to gloat more than anything else.  Wait!  Before I get to the gloating the day did not start off especially well on the bike.  I pulled the Kona out of the shed and quite by chance happened to feel that the rear wheel felt a bit lose as it dragged across the brick.  I thought that I had not tightened up the rear nuts enough, but that wasn’t it.  The wheel has a certain amount of play left and right, and that was something new to me.

My first instinct was to get in touch with Andy who knows pretty much everything there is to know about working on a bike.  A quick look at my watch, however, confirmed that he would already be at work and so unable to assist.  “Alright!“, I said to myself, “I’m going to have to fix this one all by myself.

Let me just paint a little picture here.  I don’t have much in the way of tools.  In fact, just this past weekend I finally bought the right size wrench for the fixie so that I would not have to use an adjustable spanner that was stripping the rear nuts.  Realizing immediately that this new wrench of mine was not what I needed to solve this latest wobbliness, I headed down to the basement and rooted through my toolkit, if you can call it that, and produced the aforementioned adjustable spanner as well as a fat pair of pliers to jam the other side (should that be required).

My first attempt to fix the looseness in the wheel resulted in the wheel losing almost all it’s “looseness”.  I had put everything back together and then lifted the rear off the ground and gave the wheel a good spin.  It stopped almost immediately.  Interesting.  So I took everything apart again and loosened a little what I had tightened up thinking all the while to myself that it did not make sense at all.  Still, it seemed to do the trick.  The wheel spun freely and there was no more lateral wobble.  On my way!

Now, finally onto my gloating moment: the ride home.  The afternoon ride is typically faster than the morning one regardless of the conditions.  I find that I am more aggressive on the way home, no doubt to discharge a day spent at my desk on conference call after conference call.  Nothing like a hard ride to rid you of any stress energy.  Today was no exception and I knew within the first 2 km that today was going to be a quick one.  And so it proved to be.

Record time for a commute on the fixie.

I felt great the whole way back and so did the Paddywagon.  Average speed 31.1 km/h is pretty good given the route that I have (very slow start leaving the Campus and Nun’s Island) and of course the fact that I only have the one gear.  I only wish that I had the cadence metre on the Kona because my legs must have been spinning in the 110 rpm range the whole way.  I was reminded, however, that on a fixie you’re never going to be able to motor like you can on a road bike.  I was bombing along the Lakeshore about 1.5 km from home and feeling pretty invincible, when all of a sudden this young bloke goes flying, (and I mean flying), by me on his time trial bike.  He’s all tucked in the aero position and he didn’t even have time to acknowledge me such was the speed at which he went by.

All of a sudden I felt slightly mediocre again.  Ah!  Who cares!  I was rocking today!

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