"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Arrrrrr! I'm not a real Captain...

Well, no mechanic anyways.

I stayed in last night, rather than go a second ride that day, to clean my bikes. That morning I joined a couple teammates from xXx for a ride. Like I've said, I've got a lot of work to do on my threshold (maximum sustained endurance) and these guys really dragged my ass up up and down the lake. Back up, anyways. We had the wind to our backs on the way down, but even then we were hitting some good speed, and I was feeling the burn. We got down to the golf course where South Shore BLVD starts around 75th street, took a quick turn around breather and then started north into the wind. It's pretty amazing what just a couple mph difference can make into a stiff headwind, even when you're in a rotating paceline. Just this past Sunday, I did 35 miles from Milwaukee to Kenosha into a headwind the whole way, but was able to keep it a recovery ride coming out of my race the day before by keeping below 16mph. Yesterday, we kept it chugging all the way back to Soldier Field at around 17 - 18 and pretty much immediately my tongue was in danger of getting tangled up in my crank. My biggest problem was coming off the pull (leading the paceline) and getting immediately back in the draft. If you're not quick you can get immediately gapped and blow yourself out trying to catch back on. This happened every rotation and it was killing me.

It's the little things that can make or break you energy-wise.

I had been planning on hitting the Chicago Cycling Club's first Wednesday night training ride of the year, which leaves at 6:30 from the Dunkin' Donuts at Lincoln and California. It's about 25 miles, usually done in an hour and change. But, it can be a bit of a Dick-Measuring contest, and I was feeling a little fatigued, still from the weekend, the weights on Monday, and definitely the ride that morning. Don't tell Rudy (he'd wanted to rehearse), but, I stayed in to clean bikes and hit the sack early.

On my older steel bikes I get a little lazy beyond a quick wipedown of the chain and frame. I'd taken my chain and crank off of my Nishiki fixed gear:

which had been soaking in gasoline since the night before. The chain was still good, but the grit in there wasn't coming off any other way. I know you're actually not supposed to soak your chain in solvents, as it can remove the factory installed lubricant between the links, but, when that much grit gets in there, you need to get it out if the chain is still good, and just be careful to lube it properly afterwards. My dad used to race amateur in the mid-80s and he removed all his components once a week for a gasoline bath.

My Cilo was another story. That chain was shot, but the rest of the drivetrain was still good, at least, but embarrassingly filthy. It took me a good 15 minutes of spraying degreaser and working a rag back and forth between each of the cogs. Big molded chunks of a mixture of salt, oil, dirt and God-knows-what-else kept falling out.

Then in order to get at all the same stuff on the chain-rings, I decided to get that crank off as well. Pulling a crank off the spindle involves using a tool called, oddly enough, a Crank Puller, and is an exercise in patience. This is a crank-puller:

It's pretty simple. A smaller piece inside a bigger one, you just thread it into the hole on the crank's axis, nice and snugly, mind you, and be careful not to cross-thread. Once it's in, start turning the smaller piece so it threads in, and begins pushing the crank off of the spindle.

It takes a while to get it threaded right, that's where you need the patience. You never want to cross-thread, especially on your crank (they're expensive). After several failed attempts to get the tool to seat properly, it finally started to go in smoothly. I hand-tightened it until it went as far as it could, then I got my crescent wrench...and started to pull the crank. BIG mistake.

I should have continued to tighten the puller into the crank with the wrench, first. I don't know what I was thinking, except that I'm really paranoid about fucking up my crank. So I start torquing the hell out of this wrench, slowly, at small angles, like they taught me at West Town Bikes, which begins to press the inner part of the puller tool up against the spindle the crank is attached to. It barely moves at first. Then I start to make some ground, so I think. I continue to turn the puller, feeling the crank coming off, and I hear a metallic-y splintering sound, and the crank puller falls out of my wrench and onto the floor.

I don't know exactly what I 'm looking at, at first, or why there's a growing sinking feeling in my stomach, which culminates in a muffled little squeak of despair as I then see the destroyed threads of my crank poking out of the hole like silver little pubic hairs. The crank itself hadn't moved at all. But destroyed threads = destroyed crank. It will have to come off, probably with the aid of a blow torch and a hammer, not to mention the at expense of my bottom bracket, as well.

I replaced the tightening screw and dust-cap and just decided right there to leave it where it was until the end of the season, since the crank was still tight against the spindle. I finished cleaning it, put the new chain on, aligned the dérailleur and felt bad for my poor little crank. The thing had probably never been removed since it was installed in 1988 or whatever. Who's to say the thing isn't completely rusted on there and a qualified mechanic wouldn't have done the same thing? We'll never know will we? since I didn't tighten the tool like I should have.

So there you go. You are more than welcome to borrow my tools, but please think before you ask me to work on your bike.


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