Monday, July 9, 2012

From The Bottom of My Bracket

This is a one-piece crank in all its glory, with a side of caged bearings. 
 Last night we learned bottom brackets. Which, FYI, rather scare the everloving crap out of me for some reason but now that I've disassembled and reassembled two (two!!) of them, they only scare some of the everloving crap outta me.

Side note: I walked into work, saw Elspeth (who like most people finds much of this terminology to be about as understandable as ancient Aramaic), and I was so excited to tell her about my latest disassembly of her bike.
Me, bursting with pride: "I totally took off your bottom bracket last night!"
Her: "Shouldn't you, like, buy me dinner first?"

Anyway, back to the class of scary bottom brackets. Why are they scary? I guess because they usually require a lot of force to get off, and you're levering all your weight in very close proximity to the sharp teeth of the chain ring. (Which, you'll note, looks not unlike a buzz saw.) Also, the bottom bracket, like the headset, has a lot of pieces and not all of them are intuitive and I worry about putting it all back together the wrong way and causing Massive Damage in the long run. Or even in the short run. But it's also a bit nerve-wracking because there just seems to be a lot of variety in the bottom bracket community - species and sub-species, and oodles of tools to match - so I felt like I was doing a lot of guessing and hoping I was right. I was, generally speaking. (Yay!) But still, I won't feel remotely confident until I do it like 10 more times.

So there were 3 bottom bracket types that we went over - I don't know that there are only 3 types, but they do seem to be the most common and we had examples of each in the class. The first was the easiest and, frankly, most boring: the cartridge. Once you pull the crank arms off (crank arms are the metal sticks on the ends of which are your pedals), you just reach in and voila: there's a cartridge. It's all sealed up inside a cylinder-ish thing, nothing to see really, and if it's damaged then all you can do is throw it away and slide in a new one. (See? Boring.) This is the more modern kind of bottom bracket and it seems to be pretty standard anymore.

The second type was more interesting, complicated, and a pain in the patootie: the adjustable bottom bracket. And hey, I don't know why it's called that, I can't for the life of me remember anything that you could really adjust in there. Anyway, it's got all these stupidly complicated bits holding it together, so you have to use all these fussy tools to get in there. And when you finally do, there are ball bearings and a spindle (a.k.a. axle) to take out, inspect, clean, pack with grease, etc. Since my bike doesn't have this kind of bottom bracket, I pulled apart a Jamis Commuter that was just hanging around the shop. Even though it was recently fixed up and all freshly greased, it was still pretty damn time-consuming. Stupid lockring wrench thingie. Stupid pin spanner. WHATEVER.

Then we come to the third kind of bottom bracket, which is the kind on Elspeth's bike: the one-piece. It is what is pictured above and, as you can see, it is aptly named. It is all one piece. Which makes it fun to wiggle  through the hole in the bottom of the bike, but it's generally pretty simple. I have to say that I am a fan of the one-piece. I know it's a low-quality component, but I am all in favor of any bike part that does not require special tools. I just grabbed a big adjustable wrench and that was it. Like the headset, there was nothing but the dried up residual memory of grease, so I slathered it all over.

It's a very satisfying business, packing bearings with grease and smearing it on threads and whatnot. But it's also what makes last night's class the messiest by far. I mean, look at my hands - and this is after three washings!

The horror! THE HORROR!
Good thing I'm not all about my manicure or anything. Especially since I rather enjoy getting my hands literally dirty. It's just a sign that good honest work has been done. Or so we tell our white-collar selves.

In other bike-work news, I've decided I have to get new grips on Olivia. I think the handlebars are low enough, because my forearms aren't all tensed up and fighting anymore - but my hands are so damn sore after riding and I realized that at least part of the problem (if not all) is the grips. I can't imagine that anyone could be okay with the hard, cutting, plastic grips that come stock on the Pashley, they're such uncomfortable crap. Ya hear me, Pashley? Shabby job, old boy. Shape it up.

So I think I'll buy some cork grips. Cork is cheap and softer and has a little give to it, so it's worth a shot. I could take it to the shop and have them put it on, but after my bottom bracket adventure I am flush with  confidence, so replacing handlebar grips seems downright piss-ant. Of COURSE I can do it myself, pshaw! Nothing easier.

And with those famous last words, I will go browse cork grips in various online shops. Fun!


Megan said...

Ergon now makes cork grips, if you're looking for something that's both elegant and more, well, ergonomic.

Beth said...

Well, those look not-cheap. ;-) But they do look awfully comfy...

Anonymous said...

Just thought I would write a note to say HEY!!!! PLEASE don't stop your blog anytime soon. I love reading it and look forward to every update (I check it twice a day!) I don't know if you can see how many people access/read your blogs everyday, but rest assured...I DO! They say that people read books and watch TV so they can (try to) experience life through somebody else's eyes. I read yours simply because they are FUNNY AS HELL!!!

I am seeing a chiropractor and we are working on a therapeutic plan that will get my back into shape to do a century ride with you (my normal DR said "NO"). He says we may be 6 to 9 months away from that, but that's OK; it gives me a goal! So, reading this is also good study material for me :)

- Dan

Beth said...

Woo hoo! I think 6-9 months is just fine - it would let you get on a bike at the start of spring training, to see how well your body reacts to it. I know that for me and my (very minor, by comparison) back problems, the constant pumping of my legs has been very good. Like it keeps the muscles loosened up, and strong. More than a few days off the bike and I can feel my back starting to twinge. So I have my fingers crossed for you. We'll talk this weekend!

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