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Friday, October 28, 2011

forking update

So, let’s see, where did we leave off with the story about “Humble Horse’s” issue with the front suspension fork. Ah yes, it was September 30th. I know this because they (the bike shop) gave me a claim check for the fork and work with a date on it. They really shouldn’t date those things unless they’re going to be prompt and complete with their work because without that date I wouldn’t know/remember exactly how long they’d been dragging their feet, doing nothing. That was a Friday. They said they’d take a look at the fork. Maybe they could fix it or maybe they’d have to send it to the factory to get it fixed. The fork was slowly leaking air and had a sticky, uncooperative lockout switch.

The next day they left me a message telling me they couldn’t fix it and wanted to have me deal with getting in touch with the factory. When I called back they had come to their senses and offered to contact the company on my behalf and that they would send it in for repair and get back to me in a couple weeks when it was ready for pickup.

This isn’t a rush job of the utmost importance so I didn’t want to be calling in all the time and checking up on my fork. So I just let it go for a while hoping that they’d sent it in and it was being taken care of. Since they didn’t contact me that they weren’t going ahead with the plan it seemed reasonable to assume such was taking place.

A little side note here: This is not some unusual request to have a suspension fork serviced. In fact, it’s recommended that one services their fork once a year or so or after a certain number of miles. Probably too often as it’s rather expensive but, at any rate, something that all those MTB freaks out there must be doing on occasion.

So, three weeks later (more than a couple – I’m too nice) I called to inquire about the status of my fork. “Oh yeah, uh, the factory won’t take it ‘cause it’s out of warranty. We can’t fix the lockout but we can replace the seals. That might help with the air leak but really I’d suggest you invest in something newer.”

Me: “Okay, I’ll think about that, but in the meantime, replace the seals.”

Them: “Oh, well, we didn’t order your seals, so it will take another week to get them.”

Me: “Okay, fine.”

An hour later, I get another call back, from someone else at the bike store, “Yeah, we can’t do anything with your fork. I’ve got a telephone number for some guy out in Valencia, I think, that works on old stuff like this…” (just a reminder here, the fork is from 2004… seven years old.

So I went and picked up my fork. Thanks for nothing. I went to another bike shop because I figured, well, maybe there’s someone somewhere that is actually willing to turn a wrench. The second shop was much better. They still couldn’t/wouldn’t fix it and let me know that the factory couldn’t/wouldn’t either, but at least they told me this within a matter of a few hours rather than a few weeks. They also gave me the web address for a place in Idaho that fixes suspension forks. At least this referral was to an actual business as opposed to that “guy” and his garage – no offense to the guy, but it just seemed a little weird for a professional bike shop to be recommending some guy that likes to tinker on old shit in his garage.

The factory, Rock Shox, only works on forks that are less than three years old. That’s not cool. Especially since the bike shops can’t seem to do it either. I guess they just want you do get a new fork/bike every three years. Too much. I really don’t like the way this is going.

The business in Idaho seems reputable and I might send it in there. I’ve been thinking about this air leak for a while now, though, studying it in my head and I’m sorta convinced that the seals are semi-workable. I think it’s the valve that is leaking. I was thinking about how you can seal a tire from the inside with that green slime stuff. Maybe there’s a way to do that with the shock. Seal the seals and the valve from the inside.

The thing is, the fork’s been leaking for years. It’s only recently been losing air pressure more rapidly. And the lockout has never worked and yet I’ve enjoyed riding the bike. So if I could just get it like 20% better than it is it would probably be fine. I don’t need the whole thing overhauled or replaced. I just don’t want it too leak air. It can leak a little oil here and there – that’s okay. And as for the lockout I couldn’t really care, it’s fine.

So, thinking along the lines of slime, I filled the valve with oil – not even shock oil, but just whatever I had around, some Pedro’s chain oil – and then pumped it into the fork. I did this a few times. And it’s not leaking anymore. Fricking amazing, I say. Fricking amazing. This probably won’t last very long but at least it’s something worth test riding. Not everything has to be repaired to showroom quality spec’s, you know? FYI, bike shop people, sometimes we just want a minimalist quick fix that doesn’t involve buying a new 12 million dollar bike.

The fork is now holding 140 psi in positive and negative air chambers for days on end. One month wasted. + or - seventeen drops of oil. “Humble Horse” is reassembled and ready to test/ride.


John Romeo Alpha said...

The planned obsolescence of bike parts through the model year "upgrade" cycle disheartens me, too, mainly since these things could last for years if spare parts were available, and if they didn't keep changing the tools required to service them. If I ever buy a brand new bike with the latest/greatest stuff on it again, although I don't know if I ever will, I will also pick up a set of parts and tools to put on the shelf to keep it going. And/or make sure I buy it from a shop that will service it in five years.

mindful mule said...

Thanks, JRA. Maybe we need to start our own movement to champion anti-planned-obsolescence. Occupy Bike Stand, or something…