Thursday, 3 March 2022

Bike woes

 I’ve been successfully working on my fitness for a few weeks now, and a major part of this has been going for bike rides round the town a couple of times a week.

Normally I leave on my ride just as it’s getting light, which at the moment  means just before seven, which both avoids the commuter traffic to Wodonga and Wangarratta,  and lets me enjoy the early morning cool.

And it’s been pretty pleasant. No wildlife, other than the odd rabbit, but it’s a genuinely peaceful thing to whoosh down a hill or ride past horses and cows gently steaming in a paddock.

But a couple of days ago I had a rude interruption.

I’d just whooshed down the hill over the bridge and turned into Mellish street, when I began to feel some movement in my nether regions.

I tried adjusting my shorts, but no, the movement was still there and getting more noticeable. I was halfway along the bike path when suddenly my seat gave way – the bolt holding the saddle to the seat post had sheared, scattering bits of metal along the bike path.

Fortunately, nowhere in Beechworth is that far away, so it was only a twenty minute walk home pushing my bike.

As it was only the saddle clamp that had gone the simple fix would have been a new saddle clamp, or even just a replacement bolt, an easy enough to fix, especially as if you ride bikes a lot you have to be your own bike mechanic, especially out in the country.

Now, as you may remember I actually have two bikes, my Marin trail bike and my old Kuwahara that used to be my everyday commuting bike.

A long time ago, I’d had a similar problem on the Kuwahara where the curved bit at the top of the seat post had cracked. As I was using it for commuting, I pinched the seat post and saddle off my Marin, and then bought a replacement seat post, which went on the Marin.

(I’d always meant to swap the seat posts back but never had).

Now living rurally means having to order spares from one of the big online stores and having to wait for around a week to get the replacement part.

I didn’t want to stop riding for a week, so I decided to grab the seat post and saddle from the Kuwahara and put it on the Marin. Apart from the usual grunting at a seized bolt this went pretty smoothly. Ten minutes to swap and a five minute ride round the block to check position etc.

All that was left to do was order a new saddle clamp and put the other seat post on the Kuwahara.

Getting a clamp was fairly straightforward. Fitting the other seat post wasn’t.

Most trail bike seat posts (and most mountain bikes) are nominally 27mm diameter, and certainly both of the posts were stamped 27mm.

Unfortunately the seat post I was trying to put in the Kuwahara was snug. More than snug in fact. It didn’t slide in as it should, and I made the mistake of giving it a gentle tap or two with a rubber hammer, which caused it to jam.

Tapping it with the rubber hammer in the opposite direction didn’t free it and I had to resort to a lump hammer to free it, which really isn’t what you should do with alloy seat posts.

In an ideal world I would then have whipped out my micrometer and checked the actual diameters of the posts. Unfortunately I didn’t have a micrometer, so it was a bit of masking tape to measure the circumference and high school geometry to work out the diameter. This wasn’t quite accurate enough to do anything other than prove that they were both approximately 27mm.

Be that as it may, it didn’t bloody fit.

However, I discovered after a bit of online searching, that you can get 26.8 mm seat posts, so rather than fight with the now slightly battered oversize 27mm seat post I decided to take the risk and order a slightly under nominal diameter specification seat post from a vendor I’d never used before.

At the same time, I bought myself a $10 digital micrometer from ebay, justifying the purchase to myself by saying it’ll be useful for the documentation project. Possibly.

Anyway, the first thing I did when the micrometer arrived was measure the Marin’s seatpost – guess what 26.8 – and the now battered one – guess what – 26.9, which explains everything.

So, all I had to do was wait for the replacement 26.8mm diameter post

It eventually arrived after over a week in transit having had a tour of various mail centres.

It was stamped 26.8 and when I checked it with my $10 micrometer it was pretty close, certainly less than the 26.9 of the one that didn’t fit.

So the next thing was to fit it to the Kuwahara.

It was tight, as it should be, but it did fit.

After the usual struggle reassembling the seat clamp with a saddle in place, we were done. Problem solved.

So I now have two bikes. The Kuwahara needs new brake pads and new gear changers to be usable, but that’s another exercise in DIY bike mechanics for another day …

[update 16/03/2022]

Fortunately the replacement seatpost had come with a saddle clamp - otherwise I would have been stuck as Australia Post managed to lose the replacement clamp  I'd ordered before I realised I needed a replacement seatpost as well.

Australia Post did email me to say they seemed to have trouble delivering the clamp, so I duly filled in the online form to say it was missing, and how it had cost me the grand sum of $14, never expecting to hear anything about it ever again.

But this time amazingly they found it wherever in the bowels of some mail centre it had got lost in and sent it on to me express post, something which is quite amazing and miles better than their usual handling of lost items ...

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