requiem for a bicycle

Well, I guess I was supposed to post my sob story a whole week ago, but I was using all my slacker-breaks at work to research framesets. So if I was keeping any of you in suspense, I'm sorry... here it is...


Since 2001, I have ridden a huge, ugly-ass yellow Caloi road bike. It weighs almost 26 pounds, and all of its components are Shimano Sora. Its front derailleur doesn't work. Its chain falls off when I shift onto the granny ring, and it grinds and crunches for a good 20 seconds before shifting when I try to go onto the big ring. So I effectively only have the middle ring available to me, a 42. A 42 in front and only eight cogs in back. The brake clearance, even when dialed in as far as it will go, is so wide that I can take the wheels off without flipping the lock-flipper-thing up. It creaks when I stand up out of the saddle. It is too long for me. The headset works itself loose about once a month, and is the kind without a top cap so I can't even adjust it myself, so half the time my handlebar is pointing in a different direction than the front wheel. I have been dropped in races going DOWNHILL because I couldn't get into the big ring.

However, I can coast faster than anybody on the planet on that bike. I can coast faster than some people can pedal.

Anyway, the time had come to move on and retire the yellow bike, except that my bank account was not fat enough to even consider a new bike. The amount I had available to throw around wouldn't get me anything much better than the yellow bike, and why spend $800 to still be dealing with most of the same issues? So no new bike.

Long story short, I dusted off my eBay account and in mid-May the FedEx guy brought me this:

That is the eBay picture. I haven't even gotten my new-bike photos from May developed yet.

The Freewheel guys were impressed as hell with the deal I'd gotten - the headset alone was worth $130. And a couple people I rode with were impressed with how well the bike fit, especially considering I'd bought it sight-unseen, no professional fitting. The best part, though, was how much I felt like a rocket when I got on the thing. I could keep up with the men on Wednesday nights! I could zip up the high bridge at 3mph faster than before, with the exact same effort! Best yet, I could spank my friends on hills, whereas on the yellow bike it was always me that got spanked. It was a pretty warm fuzzy feeling to discover that I was not, in fact, the worst cyclist in the entire metro area, it was just my bike.

I settled in for a long, happy relationship with the GT. I bought it blue bottle cages to match its paint, and a new cyclocomputer, and started looking through catalogs for exactly the right carbon-fiber seatpost to absorb some of the road vibration presently being eaten by my lower back. I was going to get blue tires, too. And then we were going to take over the world, my GT and I. It was going to be my ticket out of "pack-fill" status, and it would be beautiful.


As the weeks went by, though, I became aware of this obnoxious little irregular ticking noise that could MAYBE be interpreted as a "creak." After each ride I started inspecting the bike, pushing it around to try and replicate the noise so that I could figure out where it was coming from. I never could, and Nate usually got fed up and went inside after a while. About two weeks after I started this, I found that I could make a creak by putting all my weight on the saddle and rocking it back and forth. Solution: grease the seatpost. This shut the bike up for exactly two days, both of which were group rides and therefore pretty noisy on their own. On my next ride the creak was back.

During one of the earlier post-ride inspections, I did find a two-millimeter hairline crack at the top of my head tube. This couldn't be it, though. Something that small couldn't possibly make that much noise, right?

About a month later the creak was constant and a lot louder. My head had to come out of the sand, if only because the consequences of my head tube suddenly breaking in half during a rough descent would presumably be more expensive than a new frame. Think of the front half of the bike suddenly ceasing to exist at 40mph. Now whip out your medical dictionary and look up "maxillofacial reconstruction."


After the race in Iowa, I dropped it off at Freewheel for dissection and diagnosis. The guy that did the work for me, Jim, gave me the bad news: yeah, it was the crack making the noise. I had been secretly hoping he would say "What, that? That's nothing. All you needed to do was tighten this bolt." Ha! If only! However, the good news ("good" news like it feels "good" when you stop beating your head against the wall repeatedly) was that the crack didn't actually go through the metal yet, and wasn't the type of crack that would cause "catastrophic frame failure." If it grew, it would do so gradually, and my head tube would never actually disintegrate all at once, rough descent or no. It would probably go through the metal eventually, but for the time being it would be safe to ride while I started shopping for a new frame. A new frame! I just got that one! Two goddamn months!

Turns out the guy I bought it from was a class-A moron, which I had more or less figured out when I emailed him (after the bike arrived) to see how many miles were on the chain, so I would know when to replace it. He informed me that the way to tell when you need a new chain is when you're going up a hill and the bike shifts on its own. That was a red flag, since what that actually means is that you needed a new chain LAST YEAR. But I figured the bike was little-used enough that a lack of routine maintenance wouldn't hurt much, and I replaced the brake cables, and all was well. However, on top of neglecting routine maintenance, he seems to have removed the stock headset WITH A SCREWDRIVER before putting in the Chris King that I now have. A screwdriver! You know how much it costs to have a headset swapped out at a shop by people that know what they're doing? Twenty bucks! If you can afford a Chris King headset, you can afford to have it installed with an actual headset tool. In the immortal words of Napoleon Dynamite:


Even if the warranty applied to second owners, the screwdriver stunt would have voided it. On the bright side, all the parts are still good, so I don't need a whole new bike. Just a frameset. Which is a little bit like "Well, gee, my house burned down, but I still have some furniture!" but does allow me to look at new frames on closeout rather than used frames, which is a path I will never go down again. I was kicking myself for buying sight-unseen when Nate pointed out that even if I had gotten to inspect it before buying, there wasn't anything stopping the guy from painting over the crack, in which case I wouldn't have seen it at all. Gives you faith in humanity, doesn't it? So no more used bikes for me.

I have a couple leads. Stay tuned to this channel to follow the riveting saga, but my birthday is coming up, and if anybody wants to hold a bake sale and buy me the bike I really want, it's unfortunately not available as frameset-only and therefore not an option this time around. Maybe in a couple years.

Now excuse me while I go back to beating my head against that wall.


Anonymous suthsc said...

You need this one as shown in Vellonews.com's Tech Talk.

7/18/2005 1:10 PM  
Blogger annie said...

har de har har! I do need that one, but who's gonna buy it for me? Besides, I think I might need to be faster than I am before I deserve something that light!

7/18/2005 1:48 PM  
Anonymous suthsc said...

Perhaps more importantly, you would have to find someone who would SELL you one as that's next years prototype.. ;)

7/18/2005 5:57 PM  
Blogger annie said...

oh, nice. I'd be the only girl on the block that had one, though! Maybe I could be like those people that get paid to have ads painted on their car. Specialized could give me the bike so that I could create "buzz." Since I'm the center of attention at all the local races and all.

7/18/2005 9:01 PM  
Blogger Sascha said...

Na. All you need to do is try and get a boyfriend on the bike team it's destined for. Barring that, you could just offer to sleep with one of them for their bike :D

7/19/2005 9:15 PM  

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