Hit this, broke that.

Pace 405 , originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

Before the furniture police banned any personalisation of your “hotdesking workspace”, two fading truisms were taped to almost every desk. The first sets out the chair based human capital appliance – or employee as we old timers like to call ourselves – work ethic: “I can complete one task every day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow isn’t looking good either“. The other astutely observed “When you’re arse deep in hungry alligators, it’s sometimes hard to remember your plan was to clean up the swamp

It is the second to which we must turn the eye of angst to, but not before staking my claim as the Olympic representative for the single minded pursuit of but one task per day. On a good day that is. Assuming there is nothing interesting happening outside the window.

I would have happily tossed* myself in the alligator’s maw at exactly 8:03PM last night. Surrounded by broken tools, cast off spare parts and a mixed collection of sizable hammers, my frazzlement sparked a sweary outburst ending in “why the f*** do I f***ing bother with this f**king s**t?”

A good question yet some distance away from the aura of tranquility and peace in which the build began. But things went wrong right from the start; the curious design of this fine Yorkshire frame sees the rear brake hose seemingly routing via Harrogate. A visit to a bike shop promised a swift solution, but delivered only lies and outrageously expensive options. Then the cranks didn’t fit because some copy monkey failed to notice the difference between the numbers 68 and 73.

Easy mistake to make I suppose. Especially when compared to forging an wheel dropout that was about 2mm narrower that the axle that was supposed to drop in. Undeterred I harvested the big file and – under strict instructions to ensure an adult was present – handed it over to Carol. Who filed away with a technique and patience that couldn’t be further than my only contribution: “for God’s sake woman, watch what you’re doing with that and don’t file my new bloody frame

Flushed with success, we swiftly moved onto the scary proposition of lopping a few inches off the steerer tube. For those of you uninitiated in the dark arts of bicycle maintenance, this involves a pipe cutter, a£300 box fresh fork and a very deep breath. Fifteen minutes later, I’d broken the cutter, the record for a sentence with the most occurrences of the work bollocks, and a hacksaw blade.

The steerer remained resolutely uncut although badly mutilated. A good lawyer might have got me off with ABH but it took a bad Al to complete the job, somewhat lengthened by having to remove the stem with that well known Zen technique of twatting it with the biggest hammer.

When I say I completed the job, Carol returned from dealing with abandoned children, ignored my whining, took control of the cutting tools and lopped off the right length pretty close to square. How that woman didn’t then take the same approach to my testicles, as my whinging ratcheted up to near hysteria, shall form one of the many tenets of her future Cannonisation.

The tools were then gently prized from my bloodied hands, as further spannering was suspended for fear of an Al being denonated in an uncontrolled explosion. There is still much to do in terms of general tweakery, cable installation – featuring the frustrated tears of indexing hell – and complex suspension jiggery-pokery. I fully expect this to be completed in the same mixture of inner peace and outer accomplishment that has defined the build so far.

Alligator steaks all round then.

* Steady.

20 thoughts on “Hit this, broke that.

  1. DanLees

    You really do seem to struggle with building bikes don’t you.
    I use the gaffer tape wrapped round the steerer as a vague guide and hacksaw technique for steerers.

  2. Alex

    I think struggle is a good word. As in “suffering for my art”. But they do get done and in a way that rarely threaten catastrophic failure.

    This is a huge improvement to days gone by 😉

  3. MarkJ

    So is it finished or lying in a mangled heap of aluminium chaff and spare skin on the floor?

    >forging an wheel dropout that was about 2mm narrower that the axle that was supposed to drop in

    Shonky yorkshire tat.

    Does look like it will do what it’s supposed to do quite well though 🙂

    (PS found out why the rohloff freewheeled like going through treacle – I had the chain a nadge too short and the tensioner was taking it’s job description a mite too far)

  4. Alex

    Mark – I’m getting you a hair shirt. It’s madness I tell you that contraption you’ve built!

    It’s nearly finished. It needs the longer brake hose to come back from a proper mechanic and it seems the fork spring is too soft for my “proper” weight. But the Pike manual starts talking about 24mm sockets and small mallets. It’d be a disaster!

    Going to lop off an arm instead.

  5. dave

    Hang on,,, you let the wifey get involved with chopping bits and filing others? What are you a man or a mouse?

    Actually don’t answer that.

    Looks like it might ride nice once completed!

  6. DaveB

    3 months tops. Winter is round the corner and we’ll get the return to singlespeeding article again.

  7. Andy

    LOL! This is the funniest thing I’ve heard all week (not exactly difficult I grant you!). Carol really had to intervene whilst you through a strop (and probably barely resisted throwing tools and bike parts!). That woman is a saint! Not content with you disappearing for hours on end to perform a two-wheel expedition in cabbageland, she even helps you build the exploration vehicle! Fantastic! (Have you checked if she’s taken out extra life insurance on you!?!?!?) 🙂

  8. dave

    return to singlespeeding? did he get rid of that one too? Blimey – really must keep up with this bike ownership mlarkey more.

    In fact we need a a full update of bike ownership pls!

    talking of which bike purchase is going through work at the moment (vat free scheme thing). Comment from guy running it was
    ‘Did i read right – it’s a singlespeed? What do you do on hills?’
    response: ‘Yup – pedal harder’

  9. Ian

    Al’s been dissuading me from building up a SSer.. wish I’d realised I wanted one a while ago, I could have got one from Albay..

    I think he’s going to have this one for about 12 months.. until he realises he still only rides his cove 😉

  10. Alex

    Ahem. Mind if I butt in here? Your mockery may well be based on *some* history but – ladies and gentlemen – you are looking at the far end of a funnel marked “Bike Acquisition Strategy”

    That’s the thin end of the funnel in case you were in any way confused. Anyway it wasn’t a strop, it was merely a slight hiatus while I tried to eat the pipe cutter. Perfectly acceptable behaviour for a man of 40. Soon to be 41 🙁

    Only have Pace, Cove, Roadrat, a bit of a trailstar and some horrid old commuter left. And enough spare parts to build a whole new bike. Except it wouldn’t have any gears. Could be a plan forming there.

  11. nickc

    So, in reality, this is built by Carol then?

    Don’t take up SS again Al, you’ll give us all a bad name. :¬)

  12. Alex

    Whatever vestige of dignity remaining to me shall not be lost by joining a bunch of beardy, sandled, niche mungers such as Singlespeeders.

    Even I can see that’s wrong 😉

  13. dave


    waiting on delivery of SS – through tax avoidance scheme. The bloke managing it said ‘noticed it was a SS, first one of them going through. What do you do on hills?’

    pedal harder of course… 😉

  14. Huey

    Changed my spring last week and I think you might just manage it (reading around the blog for signs of competence ;o) ). Oil leaks a bit though so don’t do it in the “house”!

    I got eXtra firm (as a shade under 14st plus clobber) and the best price I could find was at Bonthrone’s.

    You may want to try out someones firm first though, in case you like the “ripping throught the first half of travel on molehills” kinda “plush” they all talk about ;o)

  15. Alex

    Spring was fine. And anyway my numptiness with all things mechanical is sure to ruin it should I even wave a spanner in the vicinity of the fork.

    The correct way to ascend any incline on a SS is to get off and push it. Assuming throwing it into teh bushes isn’t your first option. As it should be.

    Bruce – you need to clean your car more 😉

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