Dutch Courage

Having retired hurt from any attempt to do any bike maintenance, I found myself in a bit of a quandary this afternoon as I had to be in Bigtown for the evening, it was dark, and my dynamo had decided to stop playing ball. Although the other half had got it all working again, it has never been quite the same since it fell off at speed the last time I attempted to do any maintenance. The dynamo itself is fine, but the catch and spring affair that holds the roller away from the wheel when you don’t need it and presses it against the wheel when you do, had gone from a status of ‘needing a bit of a shoogle to make it work’ to ‘not even swearing at it will make it work’. I had to ride into town on my emergency backup light which was reasonable at about 4:30 when there was still a bit of light in the sky, but I wasn’t really looking forward to the ride back as my backup light is no more than a little spotlight, compared to the floodlight provided by my dynamo. Fine for being seen, not so great at warning me about potholes, puddles or stray livestock (who thought all-black cows was a good idea?) on the road ahead.

Fortunately, I was meeting other bike-minded people, including an engineer, and with the meeting over – and it being December, this was the sort of meeting which comes with mince pies and mulled wine – we got the bike in to see if we could find the right combination of swear words to get the dynamo working again. We managed to disassemble the thing and work out how it ought to work, but once disassembled, we found we couldn’t get it back together again. This meant the dynamo roller was now pressing against the wheel all right, but we couldn’t deploy the catch to switch it off. I had decided that this was better than nothing – it would at least get me home with a decent light, and if nothing else I’d get some extra exercise – but, emboldened by my second glass of mulled wine, I thought I’d just have one last try to see if I couldn’t reassemble everything so at least the cover was back on. A bit of trial and error, much shoogling and some strategic swearing later, there was a satisfying click and lo and behold it was as good as new. Clearly, what I’ve been doing wrong up to now is not attempting to do bike maintenance so much as attempting to do it sober.

Of course, there’s an argument that if I was drunk enough to fix my bike I was probably too drunk to ride it home, but I rode it home anyway (the roads were deserted, even of stray livestock). And now all I have to do is work out how much booze I’ll need to tackle the job of fitting the ice tyres, just in case the the wintry apocalypse we’re being promised on Thursday ever arrives…

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7 Responses to Dutch Courage

  1. commuterjohn says:

    Hi,
    I am a great fan of dynamo lighting, always at the ready, can leave it bolted to the bike in the knowledge that it is very unlikely to get stolen when leaving the bike and as you say can give a good light.
    I have however moved up a gear and had a dynohub put on the bike now. It replaces the front hub with a new hub that generates your power. It needs to be built into an existing wheel so is a bike shop job but is trouble free thereafter with no external moving parts to go wrong.
    Have you told your other half what you would like for Christmas yet?

  2. Charles says:

    Alcohol is a very useful lubricant for machines. As is the concept of percussive maintenance, ie you hit it until it works. I use this on my PC and laptop and I phone, it’s very therapeutic. I did learn it on a diamond mine in Namibia but the principle is fine! I am a proper engineer after all….

  3. disgruntled says:

    @john – a dyno wheel is on my wish list, although I haven’t worked out how to combine it with swapping the wheels back and forth for the winter tyres. Obviously a whole new winter bike is needed
    @Charles – ah yes, we’re no stranger to percussive maintenance on this blog although I tend to leave that to the other half.

  4. The Paper Boy says:

    Last Monday, as is my current wont – I took my bike out for a ride – nothing too strenuous, just 12-15 miles in an hour around the country lanes around here.

    After around 3 or 4 miles, I passed a sign “hedge cutting in progress” – there was some hedge trimmings on the road but I avoided them all (so I thought… you can see where this is going).

    About 10 miles in (so I’m on my way home, just) – the tyres started to *sound* different – by 10.1 miles I was on the rim on the front. So into the nearest field gate, out with the puncture repair kit. Located & marked the holes (3) and was then distracted by the rear tyre being equally flat. Whipped it off and located & marked the hole. Out with the vulcanising solution…. bloody thing had dried out into a small snot-like lump. BP starting to climb.

    OK – sod it – I’ll try overinflating the tyres and see how far I get before I need to reinflate. Answer approximately 100 yards. Expending more effort pumping the tyres up than riding the bike.

    Nothing for it – walk home. BP reaching a steady simmer.

    After work, I popped along to the local (rural area – it’s 10 miles away) bike shop to get some more vulcanising solution (and a pair of new tyres & new tubes). Arrived at their door at 4.15pm. Closed. Checked the opening times notice in the window – they close at 5pm… BP reaches full boil.

    Because of course I live in a rural area, the next nearest emporium is 25 miles away (past home) – Halfrauds (don’t judge me, it was an emergency… Either that or another bikeless day) – which I try to avoid at all costs, but needs must… I checked that they had a pair of tyres (they often don’t after a weekend) – they did. So off I went,donning a disguise in case anyone I know might see me…

    Picked up the tyres, tubes & PRK and off to the till. Unrecognisably high total is quoted. Then a discussion on the reason – apparently if I reserved online, they’d honour the online price but unless I could produce a reservation number… No can do. So sale cancelled and I took the items back – stood at the front of the store, reserved online. Went and presented the reservation number to be told “you’ll have to wait while I pick the order” (despite me standing there with the order in my hand – including the only two examples of the tyre left in store). Eventually sorted it all out and left the store.

    Got home – fitted the new tubes (self-healing) & tyres – got the track pump out to inflate them. Pump, pump, pump, pump, pump, pump, pump, pump – “hmm – this is too easy” and it was… effing thing had internally self-destructed. So car foot pump to the fore (which squeaks just like you’re treading on mice – perhaps there are two mice in there? It is a twin cylinder pump…). Looks like I’ll be looking for a new inflation solution….

  5. The Paper Boy says:

    Indeed – and it continues… out on a 20-miler – gear cable shredded itself – so stuck in top gear. No major Alps to ascend here but plenty of up and down – more than enough for a man of lard like me to not enjoy it… thankfully it destroyed neither gear shifter nor derailleur in failing.

    New gear cable fitted – now for the adjustment.

  6. disgruntled says:

    You must have offended the Puncture Fairy and her attendant Bike Mechanicals in some way

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