Thursday, January 22, 2009

Like kids in a candy shop

Yesterday was the first full day of real hands-on excitement. It began in the morning with the liquidora (oh how i wish i had pictures).

The liquidora, or blender, was what brought me here in the first place. I was flipping through MPs website, growing increasingly excited and then i saw the bicycle-blender and practically cried. So you can imagine the pure joy i experienced sitting in the warm sunlit shop blending local naranjas, bananas and piƱa into smoothies for all to enjoy. As i was pedalling i could barely contain my happiness, a huge grin appeared on my face and i thought to myself "i will remember this moment for the rest of my life."

After serving smoothies to a very appreciate audience of busy technicians i joined in with Anna Lisa to learn about what she was doing. She was trying to adjust the derailluer, the part that shifts the chain between gears. The problem being that chain would skip one gear when downshifting. She showed me the areas where one could adjust the range of motion of the derailer, but after sometime none of it seemed to work.

Next i shadowed Josh, who seems to know a great deal about bikes. He is an excellent teacher, very patient and thorough. Plus he seems to really enjoy sharing the knowledge he has. He showed me how to remove the cranks from the axel (the arms that hold the pedals), clean them, switch the pedals -which are put on backwards for packing purposes- and put them back on. Next was oiling all of the places that need regular oiling: the pivot points, the cables and the chain. I took copius notes and drew myself plenty of diagrams, which definitely seem to help with retaining the knowledge (thanks for the idea and the notebook mom!).

As the day wound down i was going to move on next to truing the back wheel of Josh´s bike (basically, making sure that it is straight and balanced, i.e. true) But i got pulled off of that to jump into a welding lesson from Carlos. Everyone seems pretty excited about welding, so there was lots of spontaneous participation. Part of a bike had been chopped off, specifically where it houses the axel, to be attached to a square metal frame made of angle iron. This will eventually turn into a bicimaquina called a mollino (i think) which grinds grain, de-kernels corn and can do other things. The previous day i had ground off all of the paint around where the welds would be, mostly to avoid releasing very tocxic chemicals into the air. Carlos very patiently showed us how to operate the welder and stuck the axel onto the frame. Of course he made it look very easy.

With all of the collective excitement around welding, we decided that we would practice while constructing something useful. (And the way the shop works is that, as long as we arent in Carlos´way, we can pretty much do whatever we want.) So we found some old bike parts not being used and excitedly envisioned what our contraption might be. I suggested we take a walk through the spaces to see where it could fit and what it might serve. We went to the kitchen and Nina had a great idea- our gross rags for dishes get/stay gross in part because there´s nowhere to hang them, and voila, we had a plan.

So we took the bike tubes, a triangular piece that would house one of the wheels, and split it into two. We then ground down the paint to prepare for the weld, meanwhile long bolts were being welded end to end to form our bars. Though the welds were ugly, and somehow in the process one of the two end pieces got reversed, we built a very strong, totally over-engineered, rag rack. We could hardly contain our glee. Especially when we did the honors and put it into place. It was a very special moment at Maya Pedal.

Our masterpiece!

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