Monday, May 4

Track Stands and Headsets

Not to toot my own bike horn or whatever, but I'm pretty good at track standing. Usually the track stand is a method used by track racers to balance without significant forward motion by rocking the bike a couple of inches forward and back to maintain lateral balance. For road cyclists, it is a handy trick to avoid unclipping your feet at traffic lights. Through practice, I have come to be able to hold this position indefinitely. In fact, someone saw me doing this once at a traffic light and said "wow, you're a good bike handler!" Well, no, not really.

See, the track stand is really my only trick. In fact, while on a bike ride with my roommate, Lee, just a few weeks ago, I commented that I can't ride a bicycle with no hands. I don't know what it is, but the front wheel always flops to one side or the other as soon as I release my bike's handlebars. I need at least one finger on the handlebars. "Like this," he sat up straight and demonstrated. I tried but it didn't work, instead I nearly crashed immediately. Go figure--I can go an entire day without ever having my feet touch the ground, but I can't zip up my own vest.

On An Entirely Unrelated Note
The other day, last week, when I had that flat tire, I had flipped my bicycle upside-down to change the tube. I remember hearing the sound of pebbles inside the frame rolling around the bottom bracket-to-head tube area, and thinking to myself "hey, there's some pebbles in my head tube-to-bottom bracket area, I wonder how that happened--oh well." I had also just adjusted my stem and noticed that I hadn't properly re-installed it, there was a little bit of play in the steerer. So the next morning before I left the house, I screwed the adjusting bolt in a little tighter. Then it was too tight and the steerer felt gritty to turn. So I loosened it a touch. Then it was too loose, and it was too tight. What the heck is going on here??

Lee and I loosened the whole unit and dropped the fork out of the head tube of the bicycle. A couple tiny bearings fell out and vanished in to the carpet. A couple more were stuck in the grease inside the head tube. Losing bearings in the carpet is a rookie mistake, but it's even more alarming when you have a sealed headset--a sealed headset's bearings are, you know, sealed inside it. They shouldn't be falling anywhere. A couple more rings of scrap metal came out of the head tube after that. Basically, my headset was totally trashed, and had been so for some time. I had no idea. While I had the frame open, I figured I'd get those old pebbles out--of course it was just my headset's bearings rolling around inside the frame.
cane creek headset new hampshire bike parts and supplySo Lee runs down to Papa Wheelies to get a new headset. Of course they don't have it because, as a rule, they never have the part you need. So he runs to Bicycle Bob's and picks one up. While he's running around town, I'm stripping the crown race off the fork. It was stuck on there pretty bad, and the bearing and broken bearing cartridge had milled in to the fork. We had pry off the crown race and file down the shredded fork in order to get the new headset in place properly. And even then we had to use a hammer to pound the new crown race in to place.

Oh, just one thing. It wasn't the right headset. I don't know. There's Bob's for you. They will always have the part you're looking for, but it's a crapshoot if it's really the part you need. It was 1 1/8", and threadless. I don't know how headset conventions work. Anyway we ended up having to pry the new crown race off the steerer again. It's useable but not returnable. It got scratched pretty badly in the process. Lee eventually just got one from his work, Wheel Power and installed it himself there the next day. So I didn't have a bike for a couple days. What a fiasco. It's all fixed now though.

Oh, funny story--Suddenly I've regained my ability to ride no-handed. Hmm . . .

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