Plugs of three
Ask Uncle Dave

Plugs of 3? Let it be...

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Aug 28, 2018

"Plugs of 3, let it be" could very well be the coda of the mechanical engineer. I think I may have just made this up, but it sounds like something somebody important may have once said and it feels like something that should have been taught to me before I graduated. After all, I became a mechanical engineer because the thought of ohms and amps and all that other shit you can't see felt like witchcraft and I wanted no part of it. I like bikes because I can see all of the things, right there, in front of me. It's remarkably honest.

My kettle at work is pretty much the opposite. It's opaque and secretive. And when my kettle - my precious kettle of 10+ years - stopped working, I felt sadness. We'd brewed a great many cups of tea together. We participated in too many bowls of bad ramen. We'd seen a multitude of workplaces and numerous bosses. Good times. Bad times. Worse times. A pot of tea was often the answer. The question? Unclear. But now? Press button, no work. The witchcraft was faulty.

I even went so far as to buy a new one.  Stainless steel (you don't know what that plastic does to your junk, kids)... bright red (20 bucks cheaper than the silver one!)...splashed with the logo of the ultimate yuppied-up kitchen lifestyle brand. She glistened! She gleamed! She cost 50 bucks more than she should have! If I was going to commit to another 10 year kettle relationship, I was going to take things seriously, and this was the kettle that was going to come along on that journey with me.

But it was wrong. All kinds of wrong. The old girl had been there for me on Friday. The cleaners roughed her up a bit on the weekend and that was it. Dead kettle. But how much damage could they really have done? What would it take to bring her back to life? Was I really going to give up on her so easily? I mean...I've shared beers with a few electricians over the years. If those guys can manage to work on industrial equipment every day and not kill themselves, how hard could it be to crack open a kettle to have a look?

The first challenge is, of course, the tamper proof screws. Not one type, but two! Damn you, Cuisinart! What sorcery are you hiding? Why is it only appliance companies and prisons that work so vigorously towards keeping you out? But onwards, we go. I'm a champion boxer, circling my opponent. One! My dremel tool screw makeover leaves me feeling vigorous and potent. Two! My flathead screwdriver mocks their now feeble secrets. Ba-bam! Things come apart. I prod a bit. I figure out what attaches to what, and what went where. I hook up my multi-meter and spin the dial a few times. And I put it back together because I have no idea what is wrong. And it works!

Mechanical engineering triumphs! Those electrical guys think they know what's best, but pull it apart and it's just a bunch of wires connected to some fancy bits and an LED. It's amazing what happens with a bit of poking, a little bit of cleaning, and a thorough re-assembly. I'm glad I slept through all those Electrical Engineering for dummies classes they made us take in second year. I'm thrilled that I didn't waste my time giving that crap any more attention. I spent the rest of the evening taking apart other small appliances in my kitchen.

The reason that this could come to pass was all down to a mindset. A "damn the torpedoes, we're scaling this racetrack" way of looking at the problem. I already had a replacement. If I couldn't fix it, the thing was already junk. Even if I ended up hurling it out the window and running it over with my car, the situation could be no worse and could only get better. The fear was gone. As long as I remember to pull the plug from the wall, there was nothing left to lose. Probably.

And think about how many bike parts you haven't worked on primarily because they scare the shit out of you? You don't want to open up that fancy hub because you envision springs and ball bearings and crap flying all over the place. You wouldn't dare touch your new fork because you can't even get the top caps off without marring that nice, anodized surface, and there's probably some bladders or springs or toxic gas in there that will trip you up and poison you if you if your dare to even look at things in the wrong order. Like a bright red, poisonous tree frog covered in spines, these crazy, complicated, expensive bike parts scream "do not touch and get the hell out of my jungle!"  And we abide.

This is why I loooove repairing test bikes. I mean, worst case I just fire off a passive-aggressive e-mail, scold them for sending me shit, and demand that they put a new part in the mail. Best case, I miraculously fix the piece of crap and I learn a thing or two about what is going on inside. Double best case, they've already mailed the part and I've got a new spare shock to play with. But we can't all be so lucky.

But think of all that shit you've replaced on your bike without bothering to actually figure out what's wrong. Do you really trust that pimple-faced kid behind the counter that insists you need a new one? What's he ever done to prove his honesty and devotion? Could you not put your ride off for one more day, and spend an evening with a six-pack and your once-loved part, figuring out how it works and whether or not you can make it do so again? Every cast-off, broken, shitty part that you've written off for dead could be a massive learning experience. That end-of-life bike with a fork that barely moves that you're going to pawn off on some unsuspecting sucker on Craigslist might become a turning point in your life. "Freshly tuned" is what you'll say once you're done. You will learn something and you will feel better. Worst case, you make it especially broken and hurl it into the woods in frustration (before quietly retrieving it and recycling it via the proper methods). Best case, you take it apart, poke a few gizmos, learn a thing or two, slap it back together and it magically springs to life. And who's the sorcerer now?

Probably the guy that you'll pay to fix your pile of disassembled rubble. But whatever. At least you now know that it's really broken.

Sorry,

Uncle Dave


Uncle Dave's Music Club

I remember somebody saying to me once "But... Kurt Cobain can't sing."  I don't remember how we entered into this conversation, but even now, years later, this comes across as a gigantically stupid thing to say. I mean, maybe his voice wasn't the best. Maybe there's prettier singers out there that can hold a better tune. "But...Kurt Cobain can't sing."  Jesus Christ.

Another person who can't sing is Jeff Rosenstock. He's rough and all over the place and, I will admit, it took me a couple of months to really get into him. His songs drift all over the place, and surprise you with moments of weird and moments of sublime. It makes me think that maybe one of the keys to making interesting music is an inability to sing. See Mac Demarco for further proof.

Your starting point should be "Yr Throat". It has a bottom end that absolutely tears, and when it transitions into the happy little clap along it totally blows my mind. "It's not like any other job I know. If you're a piece of shit they don't let you go."  Damn.


Next up, "USA". You should probably just read the lyrics and the story behind the song in the sidebar here.


Apparently Uncle Dave wants you to step up with better questions, those worthy of his attention. If you do there could be a sweet prize in your future. 

Trending on NSMB

Comments

jt
+2 Perry Schebel Cam McRae
JT  - Aug. 28, 2018, 7:52 a.m.

Word. There are so many examples of this on bikes. Bent derailleur cages can be replaced. Crappy working shifters can be overhauled. Some brakes have ALL their parts available for repair. It's even easier to dive into these repairs and tweaks with the advent of video platforms. 

We can bemoan planned obsolescence, but it doesn't mean we have to be active participants in it.

Reply

Jimothy.benson
0
Jimothy.benson  - Aug. 28, 2018, 1:54 p.m.

I was told just a couple weeks back by my LBS that an NX derailleur cage is not a part that can be ordered on its own. The bastards better not have been pulling the wool over my eyes, though the joke may be on them - I ended up ordering Surly bits from another LBS to singlespeed the thing instead....

That said, is there some clearing house other than LBSs that sells cages on their own? I would love to try my hand at reviving the thing in case the SS thing isn't my cup of tea.

Bent cage

Reply

nouseforaname
+1 Jimothy.benson
Nouseforaname  - Aug. 28, 2018, 2:27 p.m.

Google > SRAM exploded diagrams > enter PN into Google. Hey presto. 

Many of the small parts exist but are not carried by the (by global standards) small Canadian distributors. SRAM won't ship to Canada, so when your bike shop finds the PN and calls SRAM to get it they will be told tough luck.

Reply

Jimothy.benson
0
Jimothy.benson  - Aug. 28, 2018, 2:44 p.m.

So I found at page 48 of https://www.sram.com/sites/default/files/techdocs/sram_spc_revd_0.pdf that my LBS was honest - the inner cage can be ordered, but it is my outer cage that is bent, and that can't be ordered on it's own. Fkakery.

Good info for next time though, much appreciate.

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Greg_M
0
Greg_M  - Aug. 28, 2018, 6:06 p.m.

I tried this the other day, turns out you can't buy SRAM Guide lever bodies on their own, have to buy the whole thing including lever and piston etc when you crash and warp the handlebar mounting surface. Bearing kits, lever blades and all the bits you put in the body can be ordered separately though.

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jt
0
JT  - Aug. 29, 2018, 6:47 a.m.

I'd bet one of the higher end versions would fit perfectly since they have (relatively speaking) the same geo due to their job duties. Not speaking from experience on SRAM, but it's helped me out on Shimano more than a couple times.

Reply

extraspecialandbitter
0
ExtraSpecialandBitter  - Aug. 30, 2018, 9:52 a.m.

Yes!  Single Speed!

Also, if you're interested.  I made a chain length calculator.  It can be helpful if you don't have a proper tensioner (or if you want to minimize chainstay length).  I used a Blackspire Stinger and it works pretty well.  https://goo.gl/forms/RfM8Wf3z6Cf3i8x72

Edit:  Here's a new and improved one with all possible gear ratios in a table: https://goo.gl/forms/ZbtFHYVk8b232mqF3

Reply

Cheez1ts
0
Garrett Thibault  - Aug. 28, 2018, 8:01 a.m.

I had an opposite experience recently. Just pay someone to fix your avid brakes, or sell them to someone you don’t like. 

Repair kit wasn’t free and it took a day to make them still not work. 

Took 30 minutes to steal the brakes off another bike.

Reply

jt
+3 goose8 Garrett Thibault Niels
JT  - Aug. 29, 2018, 7:37 a.m.

Hydro's generally can have 3 functional issues  (i.e. not related to pad or fluid contamination) and if no leaks are present: Bad bleed, ruptured brake line, or blown master cylinder piston. 

It's easy to test for all 3 in one go. Hook up an overflow bottle (syringe without a plunger will suffice) to the master cylinder with the MC in the bleed position. Insert a pad spacer/bleed block at the caliper, slowly pull the lever. Watch the fluid rise up into the overflow as how it behaves tells you what you need to know. If the level spikes up consistently with no engagement, likely a MC piston. If the height that it rises decreases with each lever pull, likely a brake line issue. In both of those instances, the lever will travel to the bar as long as it's pulled slowly. It may begin to engage if you pump it fast. For the final scenario, if minimal to no fluid rises up but the brake engages then it's likely a bad bleed. If you want more info, PM me and I'll be happy to break down the why's of it.

Reply

Cheez1ts
0
Garrett Thibault  - Aug. 29, 2018, 10:03 p.m.

That’s great info, thanks! 

Fixing the brakes became I winter project now, but I’ll save your notes.

Reply

niels@nsmb.com
+3 JT ZigaK Cam McRae
Niels  - Aug. 28, 2018, 8:04 a.m.

Last week I spent a couple of hours rebuilding my mangled GX derailleur with parts harvested from another broken one that the bike shop had in their parts bin and gave to me for free. It's like new again! Felt like a small triumph.

Reply

xy9ine
0
Perry Schebel  - Aug. 28, 2018, 11:28 a.m.

i love victories like this. so many instances (in everyday life, not just bikes) that, with a bit of work + bodging skills (or a quick google search if outside your current skill set), you can save significant $$, and/or keep perfectly serviceable product out of the landfill. so satisfying.

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IslandLife
+1 Cam McRae
IslandLife  - Aug. 28, 2018, 9:39 a.m.

Opened up my Rockshox Yari to add a longer air shaft in order to cheaply and (hopefully) easily gain some travel.  In this day and age of youtube videos, it was actually much easier than I had been envisioning.  Then moved on to adding some spacers to my shock... even easier!!

Think I might just build my own custom suspension next... just need some raw materials, milling machine, forge, welding stuff (?)... maybe an anvil?  I'll let you know how it goes...

Reply

skooks
-1 Mammal
Skooks  - Aug. 28, 2018, 10:53 a.m.

Sorry, I don't get it. It's a bicycle, not rocket science. The only really complicated components are shock/fork dampers, and even those  aren't too difficult to work on if you have the right tools. If you can't/don't want to repair your broken parts, I will happily take them off your hands!

Reply

davetolnai
+1 Zapp
Dave Tolnai  - Aug. 28, 2018, 5:02 p.m.

So you've never, in your entire life, come across a broken bike part where the repair seemed beyond you?  And you don't know anybody (or can't fathom that they exist) that has repair skills that aren't quite at your level?  What about things that aren't bikes?  You've never, in your life, thrown something out that you could have attempted a repair on?

Reply

skooks
-2 Zapp Mammal
Skooks  - Aug. 29, 2018, 12:05 p.m.

I am the type of person who can build or repair just about anything, just lucky that way I guess. Bikes are pretty simple machines, and I don't recall not being able to fix anything on them. I could build one from scratch if I wanted to. Of course I understand that not everyone can/wants to fix their own stuff, but I would think that a mechanical engineer would be able to figure out how to deal with anything bike related.

Reply

davetolnai
+3 Cooper Quinn Zapp Mammal
Dave Tolnai  - Aug. 30, 2018, 7:54 a.m.

This is an article about an experience in the non bike world where I stepped a tiny bit out of my comfort zone to make a repair, using that as an example to encourage people who might not normally work on their bikes to do the same, or pushing people to take on that repair that scares them a bit.  It's not an admittance that I don't know how to fix my bike.

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skooks
0
Skooks  - Aug. 31, 2018, 10:48 p.m.

Ah, right.  I re-read your article, and I couldn't agree more. It's just a bike, don't be scared to work on it. If you don't have the skills/knowledge, find some one who can help, take a course, or consult the interwebs. You will definitely learn something, and you might even fix your bike!

Reply

kekoa
+1 Mammal
kekoa  - Aug. 28, 2018, 8:07 p.m.

Ummmm....never had to take apart a sticky rapid fire shifter? Pawls for days.

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martyz
0
Marty Zaleski  - Aug. 28, 2018, 12:34 p.m.

Sure, but then you get cocky, muck around with the brakes on your car, and get your offspring and innocent bystanders killed.

Reply

mammal
0
Mammal  - Aug. 28, 2018, 12:40 p.m.

Most brake jobs can be adequately tested before getting into trouble on the daily drive... It should still be suggested to do your research and have a decent head on your shoulders prior to embarking in DIY's.

Reply

xy9ine
0
Perry Schebel  - Aug. 28, 2018, 1:17 p.m.

for sure. basic auto brake maintenance (ie, pad & rotor replacement) is pretty quick & painless work. easier to have amazon drop pads at my front door, and toss them in myself, than have to deal with taking the car to a shop.

Reply

mammal
0
Mammal  - Aug. 30, 2018, 8:05 a.m.

I did full rotors and calipers/pads this year, and there are practical ways to test pretty much every aspect of functionality (solid bleed, no leaks, pads not dragging, ABS still functioning, etc...). 

The golden rule for me is spend a tonne of time researching prior, if you're unfamiliar, and take way more time than you think you need while doing the job.

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davetolnai
+2 Mammal JT
Dave Tolnai  - Aug. 28, 2018, 5:04 p.m.

Remind me to drive next time we go riding.

Reply

xy9ine
+1 Cooper Quinn
Perry Schebel  - Aug. 30, 2018, 7:39 a.m.

i have candy.

Reply

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - Aug. 30, 2018, 10:27 a.m.

Do they still allow you near schools?

Reply

alexdi
-3 Mammal Zapp Velocipedestrian
Alex D  - Aug. 28, 2018, 4:56 p.m.

Most components aren't worth repairing if you value your time, or even if you don't. Every tiny part is $15 and $8 shipping. Service manuals aren't public and the new parts frequently diverge from the old ones internally. You need special, expensive, narrow-purpose tools that won't work on other brands, or some mystical proprietary $30 lubricant that you'll never finish because you're only doing a one-off. By the time the thing needs service, there's probably something better to replace it, and you don't want to deflate whatever residual value the old one has by screwing it up even more. Or maybe it's a set of brakes where a trial-and-error bodge has a fair chance of running you into a tree.

Reply

zigak
+3 Zapp Mammal Niels
ZigaK  - Aug. 29, 2018, 3:30 a.m.

Sure it will cost more if I repair it myself, and it will take more time to do it. But it will be done in the evening and next day I could be riding again. 

It's not about the value of labour and parts you put in, for me it's the value of time spent not riding, waiting for the shop to repair your bike.

Reply

alexdi
0
Alex D  - Oct. 12, 2018, 5:44 p.m.

Fair point. This is one reason I do my own maintenance.

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jt
+5 Alex D ExtraSpecialandBitter Zapp ZigaK Niels
JT  - Aug. 29, 2018, 7:24 a.m.

Depends on your definition of worth. I find it worth it as I enjoy tinkering, enjoy learning how an item functions, and arguably I'm a bit frugal. I find worth in the learning experience, and if I can help someone out later on all the better. Kinda surprising how a bit of knowledge can get someone back to the trail head.

Reply

mammal
+2 Zapp Niels
Mammal  - Aug. 30, 2018, 8:10 a.m.

Additionally to these replies, the next time you do the same job, it's likely going to take half as long. If you do it 3 times, you might even have fashioned some device that helps and it'll take you the same time as the store.

Edit: "Most components aren't worth repairing if you value your time, or even if you don't".  My 8 years of continued riding while going through college/uni beg to differ.  If you shred on an ultra tight budget, you NEED to be able to fix things or you just don't ride.

Reply

Endur-Bro
0
Endur-Bro  - Aug. 28, 2018, 9:18 p.m.

My guess for the kettle was either Bodum or Le Crueset.

Reply

lev
+1 Mammal
Lev  - Aug. 29, 2018, 11:28 a.m.

I changed the (drum) brake pads in my VW beetle about thirty years ago, just before driving 300 miles to London to see Prince (RIP you purple poet), only to get about ten miles from in to the journey and find they didn't work; I clipped a car and rolled down the middle of the road trying to stop, passing a police car in the queue of traffic.  Police didn't care, nor did the other driver (quite chilled in Cornwall).  Carried on to London.  Just looked a long way ahead.  Use that same skill on my bike now.

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Zapp
0
Zapp  - Aug. 29, 2018, 11:33 a.m.

Electronics is fun! I spent most of the last year of my Mech. E. degree building the wiring harness for my capstone group ROV. Then again I also took Electricity and Magnetism for fun, so my brain might be damaged.

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Thunderbear
+1 Niels
Thunderbear  - Sept. 1, 2018, 10:08 a.m.

Word! There's nothing quite as satisfying as pulling apart a broken or poorly functioning component, cleaning, adjusting, putting it back together having it work again.

It's not even about saving money. For the vast majority of us, biking is a hobby and per definition a waste of time and money... It's about learning, and the sense of accomplishment!

Reply

RAHrider
0
Reed Holden  - Sept. 2, 2018, 10:30 p.m.

> If you shred on an ultra tight budget, you NEED to be able to fix things or you just don't ride.

So not true, just keep downgrading. That is how I ended up on a fully rigid bike for my 8 years of medical training. this being said, if you don't mind buggering up your 1200 dollar shock, have at it. I think the encouragement to tinker is great but in reality, many people have limited time. I can leave my bike with the mechanic while I work then go riding when I have spare time. It's great! If I had kids, I think my time would be even better spent with them than watching some guy on YouTube try to reach me how to overhaul my bike. I used to manage a bike shop, I know how to bleed brakes and build wheels but as I get older, time is more precious than a couple of bucks. I'm glad you didn't take the "all riders should know how to fix their bikes angle" but in all honesty, tinkering in uncharted waters with my bike is not worth my time these days as I am sure it isn't for anyone who works too much or has kids.

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