Saturday, November 17, 2012

A quick and simple project


Bike Exchange workdays are usually every other Saturday. Today is different; because of Thanksgiving they're only one week apart. I'm barely up in time and rush out without the camera. Go back and get it...

The program shares space with a car repair facility, in an industrial area near Costco. That will pay off in a few hours when the Costco pizza shows up! The humble exterior hides a lot of first-rate tools and new parts. The repair stands, allen wrenches, and special tools are the same ones pro cycling teams use to maintain their bikes. It feels like we're able to give the donated bikes a professional makeover.

The program design is brilliant, too. 
  • Donated bikes stay out of landfills. Their value is tax-deductible. 
  • Tools and parts are funded by selling the better bikes. 
  • Volunteers, including groups from local tech companies, provide the labor. Newer volunteers develop repair skills. Mechanics donate their expertise without the need to do every little step. 
  • We all get to meet each other and socialize during the process.
  • People in the community who need bikes for work or play receive a quality used bike. They get to feel independent. And it's greener when trips are made on two wheels instead of four.
In other words, it's a non-profit program that leverages capitalism to achieve environmentally and economically sustainable goals.

This morning it's raining. All the covered spots are taken, so I pair up with Steve. He arrived at the same time as me and is lifting a girl's Schwinn onto a repair stand.

He thinks he won't need help because this one will be 'simple'. The bike is in good shape. But that's always what we say at the beginning.

I start cleaning while he works on the rear brakes. There's too much play; it takes too much squeezing on the brake lever to stop the back wheel.

The cable is short and frayed, so adjustment options are  limited. Steve thinks the cable housing is also an issue, since the curve between the seat tube and brake is too steep for good leverage. That might be root cause. We end up replacing the cable and housing. Steve has done this before; he's obviously a brake whisperer.

After identifying the parts we need and fetching them, I align the pads. They should address the rim at the correct angle, without rubbing against the tire. I also lube the chain.

Turning the crank to distribute lube Steve notices friction at a certain spot. The drivetrain is not supposed to have a friction point! Something in the crank or bottom bracket is causing it. Maybe it just needs grease?


We remove the left crankarm to get at the bottom bracket. To do that the pedal also has to come off, which it does not want to do. I hold the handlebars, Steve sits on the seat and stops the crank with one foot while a third volunteer stands with all his weight on the pedal wrench. Success!

At this point a couple shows up because they want to buy our Schwinn for their granddaughter.

There is a little ring around the bottom bracket and we're not sure if it's regular- or reverse-threaded. I distract the buyers while Steve applies a hammer and screwdriver to loosen it. Regular-threaded.

The guy retired a few years ago and donates his time to a community farm in Sunnyvale. It's really interesting, his process finding that farm and what he likes about it. Before that he worked at a golf course, then a winery.

His wife sees my Route 66 shirt and asks if I actually did that ride. Yes! though it seems like a long time ago it's been only 7 months. In fact under different circumstances I would be starting a 450 mile tour to the north right now. Weather derailed the plan. Showers here mean a deluge of water in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, all day long. Quack!

The bottom bracket was too tight. It gets some grease and an adjustment, then everything goes back on the bike. Steve tunes the rear derailleur so it actually shifts into the lowest gear. I remove the old seat and install a better one after clearing it with the new owners.

Voila! Three-and-a-half hours later the bike is checked by a mechanic and goes off to a new life with a sporty 9-year-old girl.

A fun, productive day with a satisfying ending. Now I know one more volunteer and he's good to work with. Not to mention the practice with brakes and bottom brackets!

1 comment :

  1. After some of your brevets, I figure you're used to rain, but I can see not wanting to spend days and days like that. Quack, indeed.

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