The mountain bike, goes by the name Humble Horse these days, has had some minor issues with the front suspension fork recently. It slowly loses air pressure. It’s not that big a deal so I’ve been reluctant to take it in to the shop – don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. I’ve been able to ride it still and the suspension still works but on the last ride it felt a little weird. And once your brain starts thinking something is weird there’s no stopping thinking about it and you’re just sure there’s a major problem that needs to be addressed even if when you get back from a mountain ride there’s still about 80% pressure in the shock.
My favorite bike shop in town is called Open Road. I like it because it’s a total disaster of a shop. Dan the Man and I call it Tornado Bike Shop because it always (for several years) looks like a tornado has just whipped through there and rearranged everything onto the floor in random groupings. That’s part of its allure, though – you feel like you’re in some bike nut’s garage – which you basically are. Steve, the owner, is pure bike nut in the best possible way. Once you get used to having your worldview shaken each time you enter his shop, and once you start to like it, even, you’ll be hooked, like me. It’s a one man, one store show. So I like to go there to shop super local.
That being said, I really hate going to bike shops to do anything but snoop around. I’ve only ever taken two bikes in for repairs in tens of thousands of miles. I like to tinker and adjust and fix things myself. But suspension I have no idea where to begin. I used to think that about adjusting the shifting, too, but now I’m pretty good at that so maybe there’s hope in the future for doing my own suspension work but for now my hand is forced.
So I went to Steve’s Tornado Shop. Within about 10 seconds he’d assessed my bicycle and my needs and told me he couldn’t help me and where I should go. Not where I could go! Not like, you can go to hell! But another local shop that he believed had the right tools for the job. He seems more geared up toward the world of road bikes. And that’s great and fine and I really knew that before I even went in but still wanted to give him first dibs. Anyway, a fine, sharp, trustworthy man and that’s why I go there and that why I like him.
I didn’t take his suggestion of the other shop but rode to one that’s more convenient to my regular haunts. The kid (25?) in there said they don’t work on shocks there anymore because they’re incapable – actually he left that last part out. They send the whole dang fork into RockShox (or wherever your fork was made) and they fix it there and send it back. That seems pretty lame. And it’s like $100 minimum and could be $200 depending. To this shop kids credit, he seemed to get my reluctance to not disassemble my mountain bike! and send it across the country (the globe?). Just as I was spinning my bike around to head out of the shop and pursue other options he stopped me and said he had an idea that might work – a quick fix. Now that’s the kind of kid I like! He grabbed a tool off the rack that looked like a little screwdriver – it was a valve-adjusting tool. I told him which valve was losing air and he spun it around a couple times and that was it. He said sometimes they just wriggle lose. Maybe that would help. Like I said though, it was a slow leak to begin with so I’m still not sure if that worked but it did convince my brain of success. It immediately felt and looked! better! I know, it’s impossible, but that’s brains for ya.
So, in the meantime, while we wait to find out if this simple, quick fix worked or not (and why wouldn’t he just have done that first, because I was just about to do the send it out thing) I’ve got another little piece of tweaker news about Humble Horse:
Something on the bike’s front end has been creaking for the duration of our time together – 4 years? Maybe 3? I’d pretty well narrowed it down to either the suspension fork or the stem. The stem has this fancy looking carbon window along either side. With all the talk of carbon fracturing and causing accidents it’s been a little unnerving to ride this stem around. But it does look really cool so I keep riding it. On the way home from the second bike shop today I was looking at the stem and the handlebars and thinking that maybe they’re a little too high. (I haven’t mentioned it here yet but I’ve pretty much lowered every single one of my bikes’ handlebars over the last few weeks. It’s part of my strict allegiance to the tenets of constant change.) So I flipped the stem over, upside down if you will, so that its angle was flat rather that skyward, lowering the bar an inch or so.
Besides making the bike look super hot and racy, it also gave me the opportunity to look inside the stem and investigate that creak. Why I’ve never done this I have no idea. That fancy little carbon fiber window doesn’t even go through to the inside of the stem. Its aluminum structure is uninterrupted along the inside of the tube. Okay, fine. Great. But also, printed inside the tube is the number 26.0. It’s a fucking road stem! MTB bars are 25.4 so the stem is too big for the bars and it’s been creaking all this time because it doesn’t quite fit right. Probably – still no test runs or anything but we’ll see soon enough. So, I happen to have had a little scrap of copper sheeting lying around for the past, oh I don’t know, 25 years! I think it’s left over from some grease monkey project I had going with some friend’s car back in high school. I cut out a stem-wide section of copper sheeting and installed in between the stem and the bar as a shim and hopefully that will solve another one of this bike’s longstanding dilemmas. There’s also a window on the front piece of this stem with no carbon, just an open hole so you can now see through to the copper, I think it looks pretty rad that way and will be a nice reminder of this project.
I’m not sure of the longevity of any of these fixes but at least Humble Horse didn’t yet have to spend the night away in anyone else’s stables.