Thursday, January 28, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Iver Johnson BB

Iver Johnson bottom bracket, made in U.S.A. probably in the late 1920's. Solid steel with nickel (I think) plating. Iver Johnson's Arms and Cycles Fitchburg Mass U.S.A. also manufactured, as the name implies, guns. Which were also solid steel with (I think) nickel plating. Evidently they were adept at making steel tubes.
Iver Johnson famously sponsored the great American bicycle champion Major Taylor, whose is a remarkable story.

The fixing nut is left-hand threaded as is the cone locknut, which also serves as the extractor. Of the hundreds of tools, mostly metric, which litter my desk and walls and drawers and floor, not one would fit that loxtracter nut. I had to fabricate a one-inch flat spanner, which I might have to wait another thirty years to use.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


In case you haven't figured it out by now, half of what you read here is true, half is made-up and half is unsubstantiable hearsay. Naturally, there is some overlap.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Strange Life

There's an old saying, "The Lord protects the weak and the poor." And perhaps the stupid, too. But Lord or no, there is certainly some inexplicable force in the universe that comes into play at the most opportune times (or inopportune, depending on your perspective) to create the most astounding results. Coincidence is perhaps the strongest force in Nature.

Something motivated me to put a rubber band around my wallet for the ride home. I had NEVER before put a rubber band around my wallet, for any reason. When I arrived home, I discovered my wallet missing. I turned around, rode the whole way back to the shop along the same path but at twice the speed, eyes peeled and hyper-attentive, pulse 190, then turned around again and rode back home, again on the same path as before. No luck. Dejected, I put my bike away while plotting a strategy: call Visa and MC, call DMV, call police, call bank, etc. And when I walked into the house, my wife said, "Is this your wallet? Some guy just stopped by and said he had found it in the street." Not a dollar was missing. And there was the rubber band, which had prevented the wallet from exploding on impact.

When I was in college, the only snow day in four years was the Monday after I had pulled a 48-hour term paper session and still didn't have the damn thing finished. With my semester grade hanging in the balance, I went to bed at 3:00am for four hours of sleep, prepared to hand in a final draft with the endnotes still an incomprehensible mess. Woke up ten minutes after the class would have started to an ice storm and school cancelled. Can you possibly imagine my relief? Do you think I didn't cry?

More than a few times in my business I have incurred an expense which left me wondering, "How am I going to pay for this?" And then mere hours later I make the grand sale which covers it.

Many times at the end of the business day I have stopped myself from rushing out the door, thinking, "Stop, Wait, You have forgotten something." And just then the air conditioner kicks on.

Each summer for six years I have rebuilt two Campagnolo shifters. The second shifter comes in within a day or two of the first one. Why does it happen this way? Is there some sort of Moon phase, coincidental with a weekend event, preceded by a rain, on an odd date, with the wind from the south, on the day that I ride my Cuevas? With a rubber band around my wallet? What is going on here? The first time, it was like, "oh, great, another busted shifter." Year two I thought, "hmm, just like last summer." Year three was, "that's strange." Year four was, "well, I'll be damned! Just like before!" Now it doesn't surprise me at all. In fact, last summer I predicted it: said to Ed, "look here, our first Campy shifter overhaul. That means another is soon to arrive." Which in fact it did. I actually have a repaired shifter on my bench at this very moment, and I don't doubt that on the day the customer picks it up another one will arrive to take its place.

When I ride Cherry Creek I generally put my keys in one pocket, my wallet in another. But for some reason on this one ride out of hundreds I left my wallet in the car and put my keys in the seat bag WITH A SNAP-RING ON THE ZIPPER to hold it shut. I swear on the C.O.N.I. manual that I had never before in my life put a snap-ring on the zipper of my bike bag. But something made me do it...
There had been a lot of rain in the previous week, and the river was running four, five feet higher than usual, which of course also means that it was fifty feet wider as well. A lot of water running down the creekbed at a pretty high rate, in any case.
My counselor and his padawan were there, and we were on a section that has disappeared gradually over the years, caving-in due to erosion. Normally it doesn't present a problem, we just ride a little higher up the bank, but at this particular spot on this particular night in this particular weather, the trail was held in place by grass and shrubbery and was eroded underneath, all hidden by said shrubbery. It didn't, uh, look all that dangerous...
While passing through, I ducked under a branch, made a little hoopdy on a rock or something, went off balance, felt my rear wheel give a little, botched the recovery, clipped-out with my downhill-side foot to catch myself, and stepped right into...nothing.
Headfirst, upside-down, off my bike, underwater.
Flailing, kicking, paddling, searching for a handle. A root, some mud, grass, anything. A hundred thoughts simultaneously blazing through my mind in the seconds before I found my footing. I had executed a 180 with a half-gainer on the way in, and at least another 180 with a roll before I found the bottom and stood up with a snort, opened my eyes, and where am I? Facing...downriver! In water almost up to my armpits, and there goes my bike!
Cross bikes, by the way, float upside down with their tires just breaking the surface.
I waded the ten yards downriver, grabbed my bike, dragged it back and then handed it six feet up to my buddies, who then pulled me up. They were speechless. Awed. Dumbstruck. They had missed the show.
And I, laughing my you-know-what off, adrenaline-shot, out of my mind with excitement and glory and victory, gave my bike a shake, straightened my glasses, remounted, and shot off like nothing had happened.
"WAIT!" they shouted.
"HURRY UP!" I replied.
And thanks to that little snap-ring there was no further trouble.