* Mountainbike Militiamen Movement *


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The Adventures of Pennsylvania Jeff

Episode 1: Raiders of the Lost Parts

It’s a fact of life; anything that can be made, can, and will be broken. Even ancient rock is slowly worn away by wind and water. So why are we surprised when our puny machines of tin and plastic let us down? Words and phrases like "unbreakable", "more durable", and "lifetime guarantee" pop into our heads from that over-hyped purchase in a bike shop not-so-long ago. Like I said, it’s a fact of life that bikes break, not a question of if, just a question of when. Be prepared or be prepared to walk, and sometimes, you’ve got improvise too. Reptar and me we know, because we ride long and sometimes we ride hard, and sometimes we (mostly Reptar) break stuff. Yet, we almost always ride back.

Once we were riding along Roaring Brook to do a ride past Scary-Ass-Bridge to the tunnel where the Mutant-Albino-Fish lives. About halfway to the bridge Reptar’s seatpost started to slide down. Now you can ride a bike with the seatpost down, I even heard of a guy who has no seat or seatpost at all, and another one with just a seatpost (but we don’t do that kind of material here). Like I said, you can ride with the seatpost down, but it’s not fun and our ride was in jeopardy. We stopped at least three times to tighten the clamp but the post kept sliding. That’s the karma he gets for buying cheap mail-order parts. We were underneath Scary-Ass-Bridge when the bolt finally snapped; now it was time to improvise (a lot). There are plenty of places to swipe a bolt for your seatpost clamp. Bar ends (who needs those stupid things anyway) or the preload bolt from a threadless headset (that’s the bolt on top you tighten before you tighten the stem) are easy places to get one. We stole the preload bolt, but the original problem still remained, the seatpost was too thin where it needed to be clamped (a manufacturer defect). Luckily we live in an area where there is never a shortage of empty beer cans. Using a knife we made a shim out of one of the many we had to choose from and with a little work installed it and all seemed well. That was when the threads stripped out of the clamp, the rear tire popped and a frightening cackle followed. Now remember that we’re making our repair underneath the bridge & it turned out that the whole time this weird guy perched on an access ledge with a six-pack was watching us from 30 feet up. After a quick "howyadoin" exchange with the guy we figured we better get Reptar up and riding because this guy was probably armed and his sixer was almost empty. Reptar set to fixing the flat (wasn’t that weird?) while I cannibalized my folding allen wrench tool for a nut (yep, it’s the right size). Our stolen replacement bolt had enough threads sticking out to put the nut on, so we thanked the guy for the beer can, didn’t get shot and finished our ride (couldn’t find the Mutant-Albino-Fish though).

Another time we were riding with the Woodsman when we realized he’d forgotten his helmet (even mountainbike crackpots need to protect what’s left of their brains). He just plain old rode off and forgot it. Then he made an even worse mistake, he started to ride carefully, and in the middle of a rock garden he crumpled over (not enough speed to "float" over the rocks) and snapped his rear derailleur clean off. Not having a spare (shame on us) we resorted to the old Convert-it-to-Single-Speed trick. Sometimes this trick works well, other times it’s finicky as all hell. You pick a single gear combo with a straight chain line (usually the middle chainring and a middle cog) and shorten the chain to bypass the rear derailleur. Then you cross your fingers and walk up the steep stuff (unless you're Captain Big Ring). It gave him trouble a couple of times but the Woodsman just shut up and rode and we made it to the falls and back again. If you bring anything at all with you, always bring a chain tool.

Stuff like that happens to us all the time. We patched a sidewall gash with moleskin from a first aid kit, secured a loose water bottle & cage with police caution tape, straightened chainrings with rocks, and willed many wheels back into roundness (well, maybe ovalness). We’ve fixed more than a couple lights on night rides by cutting out the switches and fuses (most bike lights work best with just a bulb wired to a battery-screw the rest). Do you know that you can use the sleeves from a t-shirt with your former employer’s name on it as toilet paper? You know what happens, so you’d better be ready.

Stuff to fix your bike:

Allen Wrench Tool
Brake Cable
Brake Pads
Chain Links
Chain Tool
Duct Tape
Patch Kit
Plier Folding Tool
Shift Cable
Spoke Wrench
Tire Levers

In the future all tools wil by cybernetically interactive.

This is good stuff.

Click here for Episode 2: PA Jeff Screams Too


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