walking around in tap shoes and pyjamas since 2010 - my cycling log (opens in new window)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When All Else Fails, Run Away, and Live to Fight Another Day

Today, I diagnosed what I will guess was half of my FD problem: the little screw that holds the shifter cable in place was partly stripped, giving it just enough purchase to shift once or twice in the workstand, but nothing more.  I showed it to Jon, who agreed that was probably at least a good part of the problem, and we replaced it with a new one, complete with proper threads.

I popped the new screw on, tensioned the cable (first in the wrong ring, which was silly), and screwed it down tight.  Then I fiddled with my limit screws for a moment, lubed my chain (again), and tried shifting: voila!  Back and forth it went, from small ring to big ring and big ring to small ring, a dozen times and change.

Excellent!  I thought.  Then I did a little jig, and proudly (if stupidly) announced that I'd fixed my front derailleur.

Well ... as they say, pride goeth before getting stuck in a big gear again.

Off I went to play at Eva Bandman Park, which is quite near work.  Halfway there, I was feeling a little frisky and caught sight of a bunny -- err, another guy on a shiny road bike -- so I popped into the big ring and gave chase.  I was gaining ground when he turned around in the driveway to Eva Bandman.  Since I had reached my destination, I called off the hunt, swung into the drive, hit my left shifter and ......



I figured perhaps I'd just hosed up the shift.  Maybe, I reasoned, I'm out of practice.  Never mind that downtube shifters are about as uncomplicated as it gets, cycling-wise, and that I was able to shift from small ring to big ring and back with no problem from the moment I bought QS.  You know how it is.  Reality is blasted inconvenient sometimes.

So I clicked my shifter back into place, circled in the parking lot, and rolled back up the drive to the starting-lane entrance.  There, I did a bunch of laps while fiddling with my shifter.  I'm sure that some of the folks hanging out in the parking lot were wondering what, exactly, I was doing up there, riding back and forth like a madman.  I was embarassed and pretended I was scoping out the course (which was somewhat true, but I wasn't feeling quite up to attacking the 2013 World Cup course with 53x23 as my easiest gear).  And, of course, I did a few bike-handling drills (bunny hops, serpentines, little sprints) just to make it look good.  They probably just assumed I was drunk.  Or crazy.  Maybe both.

I realized, as I was riding around and around that narrow strip of pavement, that the FD was moving some -- it's just that there wasn't quite enough tension on the cable to get it back to the small ring from the big one, once I'd shifted over.  I suspect I may simply not have tightened it down far enough, or perhaps it came out of its surprisingly-complex little track, or something along those lines.  For all that, it may just be that the limit stops are all wrong, and I just need to fiddle with the screws a bit more.  Preferably this will involve acquiring new screws somehow, as mine are looking rough -- the winter has not been good to them.

I returned to the shop in good spirits, having had a nice, quick little ride in the broad sunshine, and decided not to fiddle any further with the derailleur for the day.  I decided to file it under 'Lost the Battle, but Will Win the War.'  After all, FDs can be replaced, if all else fails.

Having decided to forego the FD for the time being, I spent half an hour wrestling my seatpost (next step? ammonia, per Sheldon Brown).  I suspect the mechanic may be as much of a problem as the seatpost and/or the seat tube -- I still lack full use of my right shoulder, in particular such uses as lifting and twisting, both of which are generally involved in removing a difficult seatpost.  Likewise, even under normal circumstances, I possess all the massive, staggering upper-body strength of an anemic 8-year old boy (8-year-old girls are often stronger than 8-year-old boys, since girls mature faster -- that or else my horseback-riding friends when I was a kid were simply shirking their destinies as future female caber-tossers).

At any rate, I'm consulting the immortal Saint Sheldon on front derailleurs.  On Friday, when I'm back in the shop, I'll give fixing it another crack (tomorrow I plan to clean the house a bit more, tool around on the bike, and maybe go to one of these budge meeting thingies that they're talking about on the LBC listserv).  I got a bit closer today.  If, between the seatpost and the derailleur, I can get QS entirely humming by end of day Friday, I do hope to play on the 'cross course a little this week ... though maybe, instead, I'll just finish putting Swift back together (It turns out we have Travel Agents, which are the one bit I plan to add to make the road-style brake levers work with Swift's v-brakes) and give him a cruise around the course instead.  I'd like to finish Swift anyway, in hopes of coaxing DD out for a ride with the LBC on Saturday morning (one I can do even if I can't get out of my big ring, and which it wouldn't hurt me to do in the big ring).

The neat part, of course, is that I've come just a bit closer to being able to maintain my classic Shimano 600 FD.  Note, of course, that I did not say 'FDs' in general -- before working on mine, I looked at every single bike in the repair bay and realized that not one of their FDs even resembled the 600 -- and few of them resembled each-other.

Considering that, even a few months ago, I was mortally afraid of more than glancing at my derailleurs (I had this notion that they were something like ghosts and might vanish in a cloud of vapor if you looked at them too directly), I can at least consider today's efforts to be a partial triumph.

The silver lining, I suppose, in this slightly-annoying cloud, is that it won't kill me to ride bigger gears for a while.  The body adapts, and the great part is this: if you get used to spinning a fairly big gear while riding on the flat and climbing, once you have smaller gears again, you can ride those that much more easily (as I learned this weekend).  The trick is to avoid mashing whenever possible, since it's ineffective, bad for your knees, and looks silly (and I feel justified in saying this, as a former all-mashing-all-the-time cyclist who is very grateful to still have very good knees).

So that's it for now.

In the Battle of the Wrench, QS is winning right now, but I'm confident that -- in time -- I will come out ahead.


  1. You'll figure it out! I'm not very good with such things, but I'm trying to learn ... though sometimes when I need to "trust the bike," and I don't know what I'm doing, that's when I pay a professional to work on it.

  2. Oops! Not sure how I missed this comment :D It seems like the more bike people I talk to, the more I realize that just about everyone has that point at which he or she calls in the professionals ... even the professionals themselves!

    Come to think of it, maybe that's why Sheldon Brown shuffled off his mortal coil -- perhaps the Powers That Be had a problem They couldn't solve and needed a good bike mechanic :D