Wednesday, March 18, 2009
So I picked up a new road bike recently. Due to its low price I overruled many of its mechanical shortfalls figuring I could fix, swap, or modify its existing parts to get it back on the road. These maladies include a broken front brake lever/shifter, a slightly bent crankarm, and two wheels way out of true. The Campy shifter I intend to swap out for either equivalent Shimano parts or convert to downtube shifters (its 8spd Chorus which I hear is difficult to come by or outrageously expensive on Ebay). The crankarm I bent right back into line with an adjustable wrench. The wheels, however, required both skills and equipment that I yet possess.
Despite the poor condition of the wheels (being out of true is a bit of an understatement, perhaps absolutely false would be a more sufficient term, particularly for the rear wheel) they did not deter my enthusiasm to remedy the situation on my own accord. Regardless of the fact that I simply do not have the funds to have the job done professionally, I gain a certain amount of pride from maintaining and fixing my bicycles myself. I have a friend who owns a truing stand, and armed with a bit of internet-gained knowledge and a basic knack for the mechanical I set out last week to straighten up the new rims. A little overexcited about taking a hack at this new skill I foolishly brought just the wheels over to said friend's place and left the bike at home. After about a half hour of tinkering I had the front wheel spinning straight and true, success! I felt confident about the whole process and enthusiastically set the rear wheel in the stand to straighten it up. It was clear that this next step would be nothing like fixing the front wheel! The wheel looked more like a pretzel than something you'd place on your bike and the rim deviated left to right as much as a centimeter in each direction! After about an hour of cursing, sweating, twisting, and turning, I got the wheel spinning reasonably straight (good enough for my purposes at least). I took my wheels home feeling confident that I would have the bike rolling in no time.
Wrong. Turns out that while the wheels where true they were not dished correctly. The front wheel rubbed on the brake pads, slowing as they passed, while the rear wheel wouldn't even set into the dropouts due to its rubbing against the chainstays. I would have to attempt the whole process again.
Today was the day for my reattempt and I set out wheels in hand and (this time) bike on shoulder as I walked the several blocks to my buddy's place. This time I started with the troublesome rear wheel working on it for about an hour to bring the dish into line and re-true it. I set it in the frame which it dropped into cleanly and I felt I had done it! A slight wobble concerned me so I took the wheel back out and set it back in the stand to clean up my work a bit. Twisting and turning I worked through the spokes tightening and loosening to bring the wheel into line. One spot, however, alluded the perfection I was looking for. I kept alternating between loosening and tightening without success, I was beginning to get frustrated. Ready to leave well enough alone I turned one more spoke to finish up when... POP!!
I couldn't believe it. It wasn't really happening. I looked down and indeed it had. I had broken one of the troublesome spokes that I could not leave alone. Perhaps I had bottomed out the spoke and was beginning to spin it rather than tighten it, perhaps it was just too tight or the pressure not balanced well enough. Regardless, my hours of work are wasted, and the wheel was in far worse shape than before.
Not to be defeated I picked up the front wheel and set to fixing it. No more than two minutes had it dished and spinning clean, no problems.
So now what? Part of me doesn't want to be defeated while another just wants the thing fixed. A part wants to finish what I started while another doubts I possess the skill to get this wheel (I like to think maybe just this particularly disheveled wheel) back into true. Do I simply fix the spoke or start from scratch and rebuilt it with new parts, do I have a shop do this for me? Oh tortuous decisions!! What shame and disappointment! How dramatic that I feel this about a bike, though im sure im not alone here. Regardless, there will be no riding of that bike for some time to come. Very sad.