Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Obscure tools...

Here's my column from the Red Dirt Pedaler's newsletter "Wheel Issues".

There are many obscure tools for bicycles. For instance, I've used a Kingsbridge tool to remove stubborn bottom bracket cups once or twice. It's a brute force tool that can damage a weakened frame, but if you can't get the cup out, the frame is worthless anyway. When I've been really frustrated, I've been tempted to use the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. It can reduce the house to rubble, so I use it sparingly.

Hole water is indispensable, too. Don't confuse this with holy water. It's one of the best ways to remove seat posts, stems, or any component frozen in place by time and corrosion. It gets its name from the phrase, "What ***hole tightened this thing in the first place?" Liberal application of hole water once helped me and another mechanic remove an over-tightened stem that had bulged out the steerer tube.

Get a language converter mask. It changes the nasty blue language we use after smacking our thumbs with a hammer. Minor cursing converts to sports talk. "How's about them Cowboys?" for example, while major curses become political statements. "My fellow Americans!" is routinely heard in my own garage, and once, I even had the converter singing hymns. It burned out while we tried to remove that stem up above.

Anyone with a teenage son should have an attitude adjustment wrench. My favorite is a Campy 'peanut butter' wrench because it has a wide, flat handle. I use this most frequently for routine adjustments on my sixteen-year-old. Merely hold the wrench by the business end with the handle extending from your fist, and apply the flat side to the buttocks with a loud whack. This works wonders at adjusting the attitude of an unmotivated teenager, and often assists in getting that pesky lawnmower started.

Recently, I installed an "I brake for animals" bumper, complete with bumper sticker. This cleverly disguised device is the most effective dog-repelling gadget I've found. It's an aluminum 'bumper' that attaches to the back of a bicycle. The whole thing is insulated from the bicycle frame, and it uses a simple pickup from a van DeGraff generator to apply a huge static charge to the metal plate! When an errant dog tries to run up behind the bicycle, he encounters a startling arc of electricity! In the right atmospheric conditions, the range can be several feet. Please, do not use one of these while riding in a group.

A garage time tool - while not bicycle-specific - can provide more time in the garage. It's a virtual tool not unlike those software tools for your computer. Simply use your cellular phone and call your spouse. When she answers, ask her to bring you a beer. If you need extra garage time, call her by some other woman's name.

Gray-haired, experienced riders consult their Precision Approximation Instrument (PAI) whenever a newbie asks, "How long is this hill?" or "How far is the next rest stop?" The PAI inspects the newbie's apparent fitness, level of exhaustion, and gullibility index, and gives the experienced rider a precise estimate of the remaining distance. If the newbie is about to blow up on a long hill, the PAI will say that the summit is just around the next bend, when in fact it's so much farther he'll need oxygen before he reaches the top. A rest stop may be in the next time zone, but the PAI will tell him it's only a mile or two. I use my own PAI whenever possible, and I love the company motto: Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill!

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