Monday, February 23, 2009

20 bikes for monday. Yoga, smoothies and (almost) camping.

As the buzz from Antigua was beginning to fade, and we started to settle back into the relaxed Guatemalan pace of life, Carlos threw us another big project- 10 bikes, ready to go monday morning. Okay, 2 bikes per person with the whole weekend to do it, not too bad.

But by friday afternoon 10 became 20. Fortunately a bunch were already done. Also fortunate was Carlos´disposition on the whole affair- almost good enough was good enough. So we spent the weekend churning out bikes almost good enough to sell.

Anneliese is checking out one of her manuals (it has a pretty cheesy looking ugy on the front we all like to laugh about). She definitely came in with a solid knowledge of bikes but has been steadily improving by leaps and bounds. I feel like she could answer just about any bike question i have at this point.

She and Elizabeth (Ivy) made a great team. They cranked out more bikes than the rest of us, they were definitely the powerhouse of the weekend.

Below is the bike i got to wrestle with. I picked up where a very sick Erin left off, with one wheel off and the rest still intact.

The first thing that i needed to do was to true (make straight) the wheel that had been popped off. It was a little wonky but not too bad. Carlos gave me a quick demo with his awesome home-made truing stand. Truing generally involves a lot of patient fine tuning, but not with Carlos, not today. He got it servicable and called it done. Next!

With my lesson in mind i went after the rear wheel. I put it up in the stand and began like Carlos showed me by tightening all of the spokes first, then going back to loosen them to true. I must have gotten a little too into the tightening because half way through my wheel was making a pretty S curve. Mmmm, not good. I asked Carlos to have a look and he gasped in amazement. What did you do? I turned it like you said, no, not like i said- this is garbage!

So i went back and took way too much time to correct my mistake (a good chance to learn). Slowly and surely i worked out the huge kinks i´d put in the wheel, then once i got those out i went after the ones that i wanted out in the first place.

The way the machine works is that you put the wheels axle into two retractable bolts. They hold it in place while you adjust the lower arm to line up with the edge of the wheel´s rim. On the lower arm are two smaller retractable bolts that you move back and forth to catch where the wheel is spinning off center. When the rim touches one side you tighten the opposite (and/or loosen that same side). The idea is to even out the tension on the wheel so that its perfectly, or almost good enoughly, centered and spinning true.

Sometimes though, you´ll have to loosen up one side too far to get it true, basura (trash) according to Carlos. Palo had a good way to fix this without affecting the true-ness too much. All the spokes, on this particular wheel, are paired up into crossing sets. If one of the pair is really loose and the other not then you can tighten the loose one and loosen the tight one the commensurately. It seemed to work out pretty well.

After an hour and a trip to the chaos of the parts room, the wheel was finito. Onto the rest.

The next part to work on was the front derailleur, which is the piece that changes gears on the chain rings attached to the pedals. It seemed to be shifting fine, not too loose or too tight, however the chain was rubbing on the derailleur. I raised it up some, which helped for shifting to the higher gear, but it still rubbed some when shifted to the lower gear. So i moved it slightly to one side, problem solved.

I noticed the bike was missing a rear derailleur though. Would it be almost good enough to leave it off? Or did that sucessfully fall short of our already lowered standards. Palo thought so.

He and Anneliese were kind enough to help me find a good one, Palo really had the eye for it- he knows bikes inside and out.

I got it hooked on, which invloved widening the bolt hole on the frame for the derailleur, and then fit the wheel on next. With those two in place i could get the chain on. Palo helped me figure out the proper length for the chain, it involved some eye balling i won´t go into. But with that on i could now adjust the shifting cable. With the chain on the highest rear gear (the smallest ring on the set) and the highest in the front (the biggest gear in the set) i set the rear shifter all the way down to the highest setting (the loosest it would possibly go). I then clamped the cable and shifted through the gears. All set there.

Next was to check the brakes, front was fine, back not so much. The thing kept sticking on one side and popping way off on the other. After a lot of fiddling it was clear that it would have to be replaced in order to function well, but instead i loosened the tension on the brake so that it wouldn´t rub on the right side. The left was way off, but it functioned. Done.

All of this doesn´t take too long to read, but for a novice it took a while to do. Especially all the mishaps. I´m really lucky to be surrounded by people who know a lot and like sharing their knowledge. Its a really good set up for learning.

You can´t tell, but Palo is doing a pretty sweet dance here. And below are all the bikes piled up and ready to go.

Despite the concerns that we would be too stressed out to make it all come together, we got everything done in a timely fashion and still had some time for morning yoga and two rounds of awesome, bike-blended, fruit smoothies. (Though we did have to cancel our planned trip to a macadamia nut farm and an overnight of campfires and songs at Carlos´ farm).

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