Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Surely It Was Sabotage

I planned to visit my FNBS (friendly neighborhood bike shop) even though it is pretty much not in my neighborhood anymore. When I was working on that side of town it was a short ride and a reasonable walk away. I could arrange for significant repairs to be done between morning break time and the end of the day and lesser issues resolved between lunch and end-of-day. Now, it’s a nine mile one way ride or a three bus (#75, #1, and #27) mass transit journey, but Bikes and More will remain my FNBS. The reasons are simple; excellent service, an awareness of the needs of commuters and a willingness to take care of bike-lifestyle riders.

My visit was prompted by a need to replace the middle chainring on the High Sierra, a condition that has existed for a long time. I’ve avoided the middle chainring, it being more inconvenience than problem, but wanted to make the bike fully functional now that it has excellent tires and fenders. Before reaching the shop things turned worse when the chain refused to pass through the rear derailleur properly by slipping off the guide pulley. Even my untrained eye recognized that part of the structural metal of the derailleur was badly bent. How? Sabotage, I’m sure. While I slept, certainly. Why or how mattered much less than whether it could be repaired or replaced and how soon it could be done.

An evaluation of the problem confirmed that the rear derailleur was broken. I felt mildly vindicated because I had reached the same conclusion. (I still wonder how someone slipped in over night and damaged it!) As I also expected, the chain and cassette needed to be replaced. Faced with replacing most of the drive train I anticipated a large cost and lengthy down-time. Good fortune prevailed (no pressing repairs on the stands at that moment) and Paul (owner and mechanic) said he could have everything completed in less than an hour.

The High Sierra’s original chainrings are Biopace (For Sheldon Brown's discussion of Biopace visit I have never been able to notice a difference in effort, cadence, knee issues or anything else. So, changing to a standard circular chainring made no difference to me; a 38T, 110mm, Origin-8 cost $40. The rest of the parts; Shimano 6 speed Freewheel was $15; KMC chain $14 and Shimano Acera rear derailleur, $40.

Obviously, I did not choose the most costly parts and for, what I consider to be, obvious reasons. The Schwinn is an everyday bike, but it is not ever going to be subjected to the same amount of stress as the Novara. Any repair to the Novara will be an upgrade. The parts used by Bikes and More will work well and last a long time, in part because of the care I give them and mostly because of the ongoing maintenance provided by my FNBS.

It might be difficult for some people to understand spending “a hundred dollars to repair a bike!” To me it’s one of those “duh moments.” How much would it cost to repair the entire drive train on a car? It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

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