Keep the change

Yeah it looks like that now

This is the ‘after‘ photo of my friends’ Jason’s mountain bike. I don’t have a ‘before‘ shot, and even so the medium of photography couldn’t begin to convey the horror that wobbled and graunched into Matt’s garage accompanied by a mildly injured Jason. He’d stuck a knife into his foot for reasons far too complicated to explain here, although it just about holds as a metaphor for what he’d previously done to the bike.

It’d hold a whole lot better if he’s accidentallybeaten himself mostly to death with rocks and stumps before immersing his remains in five metres of gritty mud for a year or so. In Jason’s defence his small London flat is missing any kind of space for mechanical maintenance. It does however have a space, or to be more accurate a sort of sunken gimp hole, into which stuff can be carefully lowered and abandoned.

Which is exactly what happened after last years Alps trip. Jas broke himself rather impressively after a single handed attempt to remove an ancient stump with most of hisribs. Some days before – ON HIS FIRST RUN – the poor old Spesh made something between a cry for help and a suicide attempt once a buckled chain ring died tryingto saw through a tired frame. This was fixed with big bolts and the same hammer later applied to a burping tyre and a set of wobbly pivots.

Jason reckons he was entirely responsible for his accident. The rest of us genuinely believe the bike went a bit ‘Christine‘ to get even. I was amazed we didn’t find it on fire. What I’m telling you here is it was fairly knackered on the first day and lamentably fucked by the end of the week. At which point it became a forgottendeposit in the gimp hole- whence it stayed until last week. Do you think it might have somehow ‘fixed itself‘ while being down there? In an environment best thought of a cross between Alec Guiness in the Hotbox and Steve McQueen with his baseball glove.

No is the answer. Well it’s a partial answer. The real answer is somewhat more lengthy and goes something like this; everything that was meant to move, didn’t. Everything that should have been tight was loose. Anything normally filled with wet oil was dry. Almost everything else was sprayedwith the emulsified detritusfrom previously sealed units. It was beyond seized because that noun suggests a long lost time when some venerable and ancient sage remembered it working.

You want specifics? Right then; the cassette was laughably wobbly not because of a lack of tightness, no more a lack of thread in the hub which had been stripped by the elliptical rotation of the wheel. A total of 10 bearings were all removed through the kind of excessive percussion last seen at an Anthrax gig. When Matt fired up the blowtorch, I wasn’t sure if those bearings were getting the heat treatment, or the whole bike was being torched in a Viking Burial type of ceremony.

Three hours and a few beers went by before something emerged we could actually bolt some new bits too. Quite an extensive collection of ‘The Shiney‘ was waiting to go – an entirely pristine 2×10 drivetrain, big brakes with those new fangled working pistons, a right-on trend short stem and wide bar and the enduro-favourite dropper post*. Which proved to be a bit longer than Jason’s leg leaving Matt to scratch his stubble before working outthepossibly optional components to remove.

While all the clever stuff was going on, I stripped the remains of the broken stuff including a bottom bracket that, to absolutely no gasps of amazement, was seized solid, and a set of forks which -against conventional wisdom – had all the lubricating oil on the outside. By about 11:30, we’d scrawled a list of missing parts to be collected from the bike shop come morning, and an even longer list of jobs which – for me – had ‘go home, get another beer in‘ underlined as a priority.

The next morning – having triaged Jason’s bloodied toe – we motored back to Matt’s where he was happily fillingforks where oil had allegedly once been discovered. A quick damage report suggested the rear hub was toast, but everything else could be mostly hammered back into shape. Two further trips to the bike shop and the loan of a spare wheel had us pretty much at the photo up there. Eight hours work turned something totally, completely and entirely fucked into something super plush and bloody good fun to ride.

And here’s a thing; Jason’s bike was manufactured around 2007. It’s a beautifully engineered frame with 160mm of travel both ends, great geometry, decent angles and all the kit you need to go ride in the big mountains. My Mega is not beautifully engineered, but aside from that it’s pretty damn similar to a bike seven years its junior in almost everything including weight. Aside from the weight saving of carbon**boutique-ness, one could reasonably argue that progress hasbeen overstated by the marketing cock-wombles.

And so it proved when we took it for a ride. Everything worked, it climbed absolutely fine and descended with some alacrity. It missed not at all fat head tubes, tapered forks, funny sized wheels and all that other bollocks we’ve been mainlining on a yearly basis. And now it’s ready to go to the Alps in two weeks in the perfect configuration and without worries about things falling off. Except for Jason, but that’s pretty much normal behaviour.

Sadly when we return, it’ll be another long spell in the gimp hole. I have a feeling forcing it back down there might be similar to coaxing pit ponies into a sun-less coal mine after their two week holiday outside in the fields 😉

* Jason only bought this because of my intense lobbying. One ride in he couldn’t work out how he’d ridden so long without one. They really are the bollocks of the dog.

** I cannot ever think of the word ‘carbon‘ without thinking of the words ‘shards‘. I’ll stick to metal thanks.

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