Saturday, August 10, 2013

On the Virtues of DIY Bicycle Mech


Forever ago, I don't even remember when, I bought a set of brake pads for my converted mountain bike commuter's BR-M454 cantilever brakes when I saw them on a popular auction site. The old pads were still good at that time, but I thought that having a spare set on hand would be a good idea for when I did need to replace them. As it turned out, though, these big blocky pads last a long, long time on a commuter bike. Since it seems much harder to find replacements now, I will probably try to recondition the old ones a bit, too, since they still seem to have a lot of material left. While they are currently pretty grooved and glazed-looking, with a big lip on the bottom from where a lazy home mechanic avoided readjusting them as they contacted lower and lower on the braking surface, I think with some sand paper and cleaning up, they could be made usable again. Which sounds like a good idea now in case I need replacements some day.

While I was at it, I shortened the cable housings which had gained some extra due to lower handlebars, and also lowered the straddle wires closer to the fenders, since they had always looked a little high to me. Fenders, by the way, are the perfect antidote to any concerns of the straddle wire falling onto the tire should the main cable break or something. My straddle wires are only a year old or so, so I didn't replace them. The overall effect of shorter housing with less bendy routes was noticeably smoother and easier braking. Yes I fiddled around slightly obsessively to try to get it just right, but I had some nice fresh classic M-System housing laying around just begging to be used.

I went for a test ride up to check out something strange I saw last night on the way home from seeing Elysium, the new movie. A few weeks ago, I went to see another movie, and on the way home, I noticed a car parked in front of a fenced-in, boarded-up building. The car's door was open, and it looked abandoned, in front of  2747 Camelback Road. Last night, same place, I thought I saw the same car, in the same place, with the same door open. I couldn't imagine that it had just been left sitting like that for weeks, so I today I went back to see if it was still there.

Before I left, I looked up 2747 Camelback, and found out that it was once the Fox Animation Studios building (c.1994 - 2000). They animated the movie Anastasia here, among others. When they closed it down, Fox shifted to an animation studio in Connecticut, where they made Ice Age. In any case, I'm glad I looked it up so that there was at least something interesting, since the mystery open-door car was gone when I got there today. My original brake pads were still shiny, fresh and new back when they were starting up their cartoonish practices here, and my bike was performing much more exciting mountain biking related functions than its daily ride back and forth to work now.

The test ride was a success. Great stopping, no squealing, screeching, or wailing banshee sounds from the vicinity of the fresh pads. Combined with a quick clean up and relubing, and the old Fuji was riding nice. 

Oh yeah, I made it sound like I was going to say something about the virtues of DIY bicycle work. I enjoy it. I took my time. I was methodical. It felt virtuous to do it myself, in my own way. I did take the appropriate tools along on the test ride just in case, though, and made the first stops carefully, just in case. The old box implores the purchaser to consult with their Shimano dealer if you don't feel confident about installing or adjusting the pads. Prudence and caution is warranted. I feel like I learn something every time I work on the bike myself, though. This time, it was the advantages of focusing on adjusting the straddle wire length, which now seems like the most direct way to dial in the setup. Oh, and also that Anastasia was made here, in a building that's abandoned now, but that in my probably overactive mind still has some kind of imprint of the powerful imaginations which once worked in it. It's a purplish color, faint, but just visible, as a glow around the edges.

Building where I saw the car


  1. You like mysteries, too! I'll have to be on the lookout when I pass that place in the future.

    1. I'm going to have to go to another movie at the same place at the same time, to see if the car is parked there only at certain times.

  2. "Shimano dealer" is, presumably, more legal than "Drug dealer?"

    1. First one's free. Hey buddy, you want to try this electronic derailleur? Super smooth...

  3. There's a lot of DIY info (tutorials written and video, forums) at Bicycle Tutor

    Even if you don't DIY, the site can help you prepare for interactions with local bike shop.

    The door-open car at 2747...a lonely visit by Yul Brynner?

    1. Thanks Don, I'll check that out. I can't help but think there's a trip to one of those bicycle mechanic training programs in my future. I think it is my destiny. Yul was cool.


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