In the early 1970s, I bought a coaster-brake axle and some grease and disassembled the hub of my Sears Hawthorne bicycle.
I don’t remember having anything to do with wrenches before that. Instead, I was into woodworking. Specifically, modifying a narrow, triangular treehouse at my grandparents’ house outside Joplin, Missouri. Though built and rebuilt by a cousin and me over the years, the treehouse always fulfilled its design brief: not falling apart under a visitor’s weight.
Similarly, the hub repair met the basic goal of getting me back in the saddle.
This was a significant milestone in my repair journey. Maybe it was because bicycles move and treehouses do not (again, unless they are designed to fail). Bicycles move through the landscape; treehouses are just one part of that landscape.
I wanted to move.
Eventually I became a bicycle mechanic. In other words, I got paid to work on bicycles.
Today, I’m in bicycle sales, not in wrenching on them. But I continue to fiddle with my own bicycles. Those are the rules. You get paid to deal with bikes you don’t own so you can spend money dealing with bikes you do own.
Take this Giant Escape, for instance. I picked it up after someone backed over it with a car, maybe a tractor. The frame and fork were unharmed, but the wheels, saddle, handlebars and stem were trashed.
It doesn’t make economic sense to have someone fix an inexpensive bike this far gone. But if you’d been hoping for a platform to experiment with single-chainring drivetrains, well, it doesn’t make sense then, either.
Which is why, of course, I had to do it.
I bought a saddle, chainring, chain, cassette and, after experimenting with a modified Shimano bar-end shifter, SRAM Apex brifters.
But it wasn’t a total money pit.
Bushwhacker coworker RJ gave me the rear derailleur. Duncan gave me the crank arms. The wheels came from a Giant Cypress (broken frame). Tires, tubes, cables, pedals and other miscellanea were pulled from here and there in my basement.
Success: a gravel grinder I can call my own.
A third coworker, somebody who really knows bikes inside and out, paid me a huge compliment when he said, “You know, that almost looks like something.”
Yeah, Russ: something that moves.