Search My Infinite Universe

March 22nd, 2010 - The Incredible Wall of Shame!

I got such a deal on this air-conditioning equipment, it was like a Bananza! You know, spelled like it sounds, like salsa and taco. If you're my mom.

Many years and about 25 pounds ago, I raced bicycles. Road, Mountain, and Cyclo-cross.

To race regularly I had to of course keep my bicycles running.
This I did myself, either outdoors in our sunny backyard with the aid of my trusty Park Tool® shop-quality bicycle workstand, (long may she wave) or in our dank basement, with the vise-head off of my trusty Park Tool® shop-quality bicycle workstand, bolted to an ancient metal desk hitherto known as 'the workbench.'
I say hitherto, as since we are now moving, the old shop is, sadly (for some, not all), in the process of being de-commissioned.
Admittedly, bicycle racing puts a certain "strain" on bicycle components that "normal" use might not, (debatable) but there are times when, shall we say um, "design faults" and uh, "manufacturing defects" arise out of the pure "intended use" of bicycle parts and equipment.
Examples of these, ahem, FAILURES had a special place in my basement shop. After I had healed up enough to repair my bike after their FAILURE, I would nail what was left of the evidence (should there be any) to a large wooden beam holding up the kitchen floor, and heretofore known as "The Wall of Shame."
Of course, not all of the brilliant examples of mis-engineering or mechanical failure from "overuse" could be archived on 'the post' (some because I was so pissed that they broke that I immediately cursed them out profusely and chucked them forcefully into the 'trashcan' (actually, a big box for an Apple Mac II... coincidence...?)
However, as I was disassembling the shop recently, I mournfully laid out what was currently nailed to the post and thought I would present it to you, dear reader, in the hopes that YOU could avoid similar mishap.
So, as we draw back the curtain, I welcome you to that "Hall of Bicycle Horrors"; the Incredible Wall of Shame...!!!:

The current Wall of Shame, relocated to the current Top of the Washing Machine.

1. Though it looks strikingly like a coffee bean, this piece of crap metal is, or was supposed to be, a perfectly (well, within limits) round ball-bearing.
It was NOT supposed to 'crack in half' like a Spanish peanut exposing a SEAM AND CAVITY DOWN THE MIDDLE, and grind up the inside of my relatively expensive road bike wheel hub in doing so.
Whatever I did to make it fail was, I assure you, 'nothing major' (hit a Minnesota pothole or the like, I've done far worse). Epic FAIL.
Nowadays, most ball-bearings are sealed in their own races and sleeves already, so you don't get to choose them individually. Hopefully they now are of higher quality than some of the old 'loose' ones.

2. One would think that this bearing cone-race would have suffered it's chipped-off layer from the failure of the ball-bearing above, but no. Another blunt force trauma to the rear wheel resulted in, this time, the bearings staying round, (as they should) but the cone race they were riding on losing a large chunk of metal inside the hub and me going, "Why are my brakes rubbing...? Why is my rear wheel so wobbly all of a sudden...? Hey! My rear hub sounds like a cement mixer...!"
Not supposed to happen. And no, I don't run my bearings too tight or without lube. Don't even think about it. Another hub bites the dust. FAIL.

3. Submitted for your disapproval: tires with side lugs that tear off exposing the tire cords and lining beneath. I had not seen this from a bike tire before (I HAVE seen it from cheap, recapped car tires however).
I remember exactly where this happened during a MTB race: at Buck Hill, where there was an area that was previously covered with very close growing shrubs that had been cut back, and for some evil reason left as two inch long mini-stumps coming out of the ground.
As you rode through this section you could hear them pinging and popping off of your tires and rims, but usually you did your best to provide minimal contact so as not to lose speed to this nasty area nicknamed "The Minefield." Evidently, one ripped one of my lugs off at some point, exposing the cords under the surface of the tire. Miraculously, I finished the race without a flat, but had the constant thwap, thwap, thwap of loose rubber hitting my brakes for the last three laps. FAIL. The lugs work better if they stay on the tires.

4.Here is a nice graphic example of why manufacturers shouldn't use cheap cast aluminum for a part that you depend on frequently, say to stop the bicycle. The brake lever on the right side of the photo should be attached to the inside of the black metal hood on the left side of the photo, but it cannot because half of the hood is gone from striking an object and breaking into multiple pieces. FAIL. Machined aluminum will normally show some 'give' before it fails, this cheap cast shatters worse than Mick Jagger.
Well, you get what you pay for. Unfortunately, it happened on the first lap of the race and I had to finish with a front brake only, not a enviable position to be in during a mountain bike race. Eh, the adage is, "Good mountain-bikers never use their brakes anyway..."

5. Mountain bike chain. Chains are supposed to be nice and straight so that they stay on the cogs all nice and snuggly. Through the chronological evolution of bicycle's rear gear cassettes, with 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and now 10 cogs on them (!), the spacing between those cogs has continually decreased. Hence, the overall width and thickness of the chain and it's materials have also decreased. They are a little bit lighter, but they are a lot weaker. One missed shift under load and your chain attains "The Twizzler Effect".
This particular manifestation brought no end of grief to my race that day.
It was a slow, technical course, (Spirit Mountain) requiring a lot of shifting, which I was getting a lot of, though not on my own accord - my bent chain was shifting gears up and down on it's own like a automatic transmission from the Twilight Zone.
I finally had to stop, flip the bike upside down and perform some triage on it by sticking the only tool I had (an allen wrench) through the chain to try and 'unwind' the skew out of it. This helped, but the frustration continued until I was forced to stop again to take out a big chunk of chain and finish the race not being able to shift into larger gears because my chain was too short.
I hate stopping during races. It's so... antithetical.

6. The dreaded "tubular" tire. (Cross-section, with Presta valve shown)
It even looks like it's tongue-razzing you from the cross-section, like someone holding a birthday balloon. The construction is actually not far from a birthday balloon.
Bicycle purists we tell you, "tubular tires are the greatest!"
That is because they are on sponsored teams and don't have to change their own tires. IMHO, they suck. You have to GLUE THEM ON TO THE RIM with a glue resembling klister ski wax, which gets everywhere and makes you cry.
Then, unless the glue is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT (and even then sometimes) if you are going full out around a sharp corner in a crit or road race, it's a hot day and you've been using your brakes and additionally heating up your rim, the glue begins to get a little soft, a little sloppy. And just when you're about to put the pedal to the metal (or the cleat to the pedal) for the final sprint, it just so happens that your presta valve (shown above) is on the bottom of the wheel rotation when the wheel is tilted at a sharp angle because of the corner you are trying to cut sharper than anyone else so you can sprint to the finish and win $10, the glue starts to slip and the tire creeps off of the wheel and PIFF...!!! All of that 140 psi of air inside the tire rapidly disappears and you are quickly riding on the rim for a few feet as your bike veers wildly into the pack, off of the course and into a hay bale for a quick broken collarbone, as the rest of the riders you just knocked down begin taking turns pummelling you for ruining their race too. Yep, tubular tires are awesome.
I never want to see them again. Oh, but you CAN repair them, by cutting open the whole inside of the bead (removing the glue first) finding the hole in the paper-thin latex inner-tube, sealing it, and sewing the whole thing back together again, regluing it to the rim, letting it dry overnight, and praying.
Or you could pay $100 for a new one. Sorry, but you can't use a conventional clincher tire on your tubular rim either, it's not compatible. Too bad.
Purists be damned (in this case). The one good thing I have found about tubular tires though, is that they ride pretty well when completely flat if the glue holds. Which is a good thing, considering...

7. A not-so-distant cousin, the ultralight latex tube. Made for when you want lighten up your super-narrow time-trial tires for that super fast record-breaking run.
One problem. They too are PAPER THIN and the rubber is porous like a kid's balloon. What happens to a balloon after it's been taped on the fencepost all night after the party? It turns into a little wrinkled latex potato. Same here. They don't hold air for more than 24 hours. Not worth the headache or any 'mental advantage'.
Possibly the originator of the cycling phrase, "One run and yer done."

8. Beautifully machined, expensive name-brand, granny-gear aluminum chainring. Note the beefy inner spurs and sturdy construction for aggressive race-worthy action.
One problem. They used a lot of metal to stabilize the center of the ring, but not much on the teeth themselves, which actually bear the burden. So, as the arrow shows, they break off. Note how relatively new-looking the rest of the teeth are. That's because the part is only about a week old and has seen one race. Then you begrudgingly take off a bunch of parts to be able to even get to it to take it back off, and you nail it to "The Beam" so you can curse it repeatedly. Sweet.

9. Okay, last one and my rant is over. For now. This is actually more of a shame on me, and an example of how far a part can go and still work.
Derailleur pulley. Should have replaced it long ago. But, with winter riding in grime and slush, why put on good parts just to beat them up if they still work?
Note the teeth. They should look like the teeth on the chainring in the photo above (except for the broken one).
But they are so worn down, they can barely be called teeth anymore. This is actually termed "dorsalling" as they begin to resemble the bent-back dorsal fin of a shark at this point.
Everything wears together; the chain, the cogs, the chainrings, the derailleur pulleys, until entropy wins the race.
It is amazing that some parts can wear down this far and still function, yet I've had other derailleur pulleys that picked up a bit of gravel or grit, broke a tooth, and earned me a ride home in the back of a pickup full of chickens.
The mysteries of physics. The never cease to astound. Me, anyway.
The bicycle revolves around it's wheels...

No comments: