Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Path Is Found To World Peace

Spring is Coming

Meanwhile, Back At the Bike Shop...

So the new freewheel arrived in due fashion. I picked it up at the LBS and immediately noticed that it was a no-name part and damned if the spacing on the gears didn't look...wide. The distance between each of the six cogs was noticeably wider than on the original. But I kept my happy face on and paid my new friend the Airplane Mechanic Turned Bike Guru for the part. In the waiting period I had done some research on the internet and on the dearly departed Sheldon Brown's excellent pages (courtesy of Harris Cyclery) I had found a pretty slick Shimano hyperglide freewheel that Harris was selling for $19.95. But I knew I had already ordered that other unit through the LBS so I decided to wait and see. Who knows,  maybe I would get lucky and the unit I was waiting for would be the same one.

But Of Course...

Yeah right. Instead, there I stood holding this clunky-looking thing with no name of any kind stamped anywhere on the part. Sigh. But I manfully hid my disappointment and pedaled on back to my secret lair to install the new part, tune the wheel and hopefully go for a ride.


Upon installation I saw right away that the damn thing was too wide and caused the chain to hang up on the rear derailleur. It wasn't going to work. I sat and fiddled with washers and spacers and beers until I found myself rapidly approaching a total destruction scenario and at last gave up. I dejectedly pedaled on home where I got back online and got serious about finding the part number for the freewheel hub Harris had listed. I looked at several sources for several hours, (approximately one pint of rum's worth of hours) and came up with all manner of part numbers for what was, as near as I could tell, the same part. Prices were all over the place, as well. Anywhere from six dollars to fifty. Why? Well, I don't know how things got this way, but as near as I can tell the various manufacturers keep things as obscure as possible and that is why if you want to ride a bicycle seriously ya gotta have a guru to show you the way. It is a frustrating situation and probably explains why thousands of perfectly repairable good old steel frame bicycles languish in basements, barns, and backyard sheds all over the country and, for that matter, the world.

The Voice Takes Over

So now, what to do? I took the crappy freewheel off the wheel. I called Walter (turned out the Homeless Janitor Bike Shaman had a name) at the LBS and told him what was going on and that I had found a Shimano part that would probably work and could I return the, uh, Other Thing and get credit and order the Shimano? Sure I could, Walter said. Did I have a part number? I was afraid he was going to ask that and I didn't have my list of part numbers from my rum-soaked night of searching the web, but miraculously The Voice took over and spoke through me: “Shimano Freewheel FHG 6.” Ron said hold on a minute let me check...oh yeah, OK, it's the same price as the other one so bring that one back in and we will swap it out. Should be here Friday.

I had very little confidence that this was going to come out OK. But what the hell? I was getting so accustomed to disappointment in the wacky world of bike repair that I was rapidly learning to lay back and let what was going to happen, happen. And a week went by.

And World Peace

Friday came and I pedaled on over to the good ol' LBS. There was good ol'; Ron, doing something to a really tiny tricycle he had in the stand. Did my freewheel come in? I asked. I could see a manilla shipping envelope on the bench that looked to be about the right size. Let's see, he said...oh, yeah, here it is, he said reaching for that very envelope. He opened it up and pulled out the part, looking at it briefly, turning it this way and that, then handing it to me. Wow. The difference in this fine piece of Japanese magic and that other...thing, was dramatic. The gears glistened. The spacing between cogs was tight and crisp and and the brand name and part number were stamped in clear lettering that said SHIMANO like they were proud of what they had made, as well they should be. All for the same price as that other part that looked like something made in some foreign prison out of old license plates! I vowed then and there never again to compromise on replacement parts for my bikes. I would decipher the codes of the inscrutable manufacturers and dealers, and I would create finely rebuilt classics that would brighten the lives of those who bought bicycles from me. I would Cure Cancer and bring about World Peace by using only quality parts from then on no matter what obstacles were thrown in my path. But most importantly, I would become a guru, I would BE the  LBS. Yes!

Whispering Pines Mobile Home Park and Bicycle Emporium

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