Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Telling Myself I Told You So

I'm a jack of most trades (master of none) and am willing to attempt just about anything. However, trying to play mechanic stretches my abilities to the limit. Everything looks as simple as bolting and unbolting a few things to fix but in reality, it ends up a half day event full of cussing, trying every combination of tools, a trip or two to a store, strained muscles in places I never knew had muscles and eventually a completed repair or hauling the parts to a real mechanic.

Case in point. Our daughters were off at my parents farm for a week so my wife and I decided to dust off the old bikes and go four our first ride in a loong time. Actually I had dusted them off a month earlier anticipating this event and had spent a couple weeks repairing them and getting the shifter cables adjusted properly. We hauled them down to the river and rode some trails there. It was beautiful scenery and we had a great time but I realized, I'm not as flexible as I used to be. In fact, by the time I got bent over to reach my handlebars, my lower back felt like a poker was being stuck on it and my hands went numb almost instantaneously. I suffered through a short five mile ride but vowed that I needed to fix things before attempting a second ride.

Looking at my bicycle, I realized that my handlebars were about three or four inches below the top of my seat. For a young, lithe eighteen year old that I once was, not a problem. For the much older, stiffened back, with a gut of a man that I am now, it looked like a stress position that might be used with great effect at Guantanamo.

Never having working on handlebars before, I had to do some research but learned that I had an unthreaded stem which basically means, unadjustable, short of getting a new front fork and cutting it to size. Just before giving up however, I found that magical pill that was supposed to cure just this disease called a stem extender. It promised to bolt on with just a few fasteners and allow me to raise my handlebars up a maximum of three and a half inches or nearly even with the top of my seat.

The day after it arrived, I removed my handlebars from the stem and put the stem extender in place. I started tightening things up and was about halfway there when something gave and suddenly I had a bolt that I couldn't tighten or loosen nor could I put my handlebars back on or take the loose stem extender off. Short of sawing off my front fork and starting over with a new one, I was at a loss for what to do. After much sweating, grunting, straining a muscle in my lower back and trying a dozen different methods, I succeeded in ripping the threaded part in the stem out of the bike in two pieces.

Long story short, I made the trip down to the local bike shop for what turns out to be called a stem star nut, followed by a trip to the local hardware store for a new bolt since I had destroyed the other, and finally a trip to the ice cream shop that I had used as a bribe to drag the girls along with me on such a hot day since I don't yet trust them to stay at home by themselves.

Half a day later, I finally got everything put back together and a dose of advil in me for the sore muscles but I think my fix is going to work. I took it out for a quick spin down the driveway and my back didn't feel as strained (other than the recent strain from fixing the bike) and my hands didn't feel like they had as much weight on them from being hunched over so far. My earlier today self is telling my current self, I told you so.

8 comments:

Bone said...

I'd like to get a good bike. Got rid of mine some years ago because I didn't have a good place to store it with apartment living. Your post has me realizing I probably need to consider the ergonomics of any future two-wheeled purchase.

Vince said...

If there's a hex nut in the crown of the original there's a good chance the unit down the neck will move. The way on my bike it works is the hex is pushed down through the head into the neck of the barrel. Where when the hex is tightened the piece it screws into is pulled up to the level of where you've set the handlebar. The bottom of the handlebar insert is cut at an angle which is matched by the unit down the neck. So the two don't so much tighten but wedge together when the hex is turned.
When I was refitting my bike that unit was ceased so needed a clout to free it. All in all I was going down your route to rise the handlebar until I discovered it was adjustable. Now I'll grant you not by much, but it gave me two inches. Anyway if it's the same with your one, you might get a bit more and lessen the angle on you back.

Vince said...

Seized even.

Ed said...

Bone - Most definitely. I think I'll get more use out of the bike now that it is more comfortable.

Vince - You have what is called a threaded stem and they are adjustable, somewhat. Most newer (adult) bikes these days have unthreaded stems so there are no alternatives after you cut the front fork post to size, unless it was cut large and some spacers were added above the handlebar for adjustability. It looks quite dorkish that way so I rarely see any bikes like that. If you google unthreaded bicycle stem, you will see what I mean much easier than me trying to explain it on here.

ErinFromIowa said...

Just reading that wore me out! LMAO
My favorite part was the ice cream store. ;)

Vince said...

My one isn't threaded on the outside, but it does have a goose neck curve. So I'd say the newer version wouldn't work at all. The new version seems to have two distinct parts. The insert, down into the throat and then the double collar to grip in and the handlebar.
But I do see just how far you got it.

warren said...

Car mechanicing is one of the most irritating things I have ever fooled with. As you said, often times you can see all the nuts and bolts and even know what to do but there is always that "gotcha" that makes it take all day ( or all week). I no longer do anything at all related to cars...it saves my sanity!

Ed said...

Erin - Without a doubt, it was my daughters favorite part too!

Warren - I remember my first car. I could step inside the engine bay and everything was mechanical. Now, there is nothing but a mass of wires going here and there and like you, I have nothing to do with it other than plug a computer into the OBD port and see if it is something I want to chance on replacing and seeing if that worked or take it somewhere. I've never had much luck with this method.