A Semi Fictional Day

While this account is somewhat fictional, a mechanic will experience each of these things every day. From time to time, a day will include all of these situations. This story was submitted from another angry bike mechanic… somewhere far, far away.

Here we go, One Hell of a Day

Telephone rings…. “Hello. What time is packet pickup??”

Answer: “Between 4 and 6.”

“Okay. Thanks.” Click.

Customer walks through the door, has a tricycle from the 1960’s in her hand. I look at and am thinking deep down, “You’re not going to ask it.” I was proved wrong. “Do you still fix these? Can you get parts?”

Successfully ruining her day, “Nope. Sorry. All that stuff is so old you might find a collective of people hanging onto what you need on the internet.” We can’t fix everything.

Telephone rings…. “Hello. What time is packet pickup??”

Answer: “Between 4 and 6.”

“Okay. Where do we get the race t-shirt?”

“Packet pickup.”

“What kind of a race is this? Is it mountain or road?”

Everyone knows that there wasn’t even a dirt road on this course route, a route that wasn’t a race either. It was a century. Which means that you attract a bunch of recreational cyclists. Which means that you get a lot of seemingly stupid questions. “I’m sorry, what?”

“What kind of bike do I need?” As if to say, I am awesome, I have a mountain bike and a road bike, but I don’t know what either one is for…

“So it’s a road bike century. Bring your road bike.”

“Can I have someone bring my mountain bike for the road construction part, so I can switch??”

While the answer should have been “Certainly not” it was going to be hilarious for someone: “Yes, that’s fine but you’ll need to arrange it yourself. You still have to keep the course rules.”

Placated, “Thanks!!”

Customer pulls into the parking lot, and I swear this happens once a week, in a truck with a payload of junk bikes. Comes in the door, kind of distressed, “Hey man, you gotta help me out.” Not wanting to deal with it but reluctantly ask the question that feels like volunteering to test a shark bite suit, “What’s the matter?”

“I’ve got a couple of bikes with flat tires. They need fixin.”

“Bring em in..” exasperated.

“Can ya help me bring them in?”

“How many are there?”


“Well, shit man. You can’t just bring in 6 bikes at a time in the back of your truck!” is what every mechanic wants to say. But the problem is shop or no shop, tires need to be fixed and money needs to be made.

“So how much am I looking at here… fix all them flats?”

“On average, each bike will be 23 dollars in parts and labor..”

“Can’t ya just see which one’s need to be replaced??” Phone rings..

“Hang on, sir..”

Looking flustered he watches me answer the phone.. “Hello, You’re awesome local bike shop. What can I do for you?”

“What time is packet pickup?”

“Did you find it on the website?”

“Yes, but I wanted to make sure it hadn’t changed.”

“Nope, that’d be really weird if it had. Anything else?”

“What kind of nutrition will be on the event?” A seriously tough question that I, the awesome local bike shop mechanic, had no answer for because I was not part of the event, or the organization of the event.

“It’s going to the best food you’ve ever had on course.”



“What exactly?”

I had no idea how to handle these questions, looked back and hollered for Carol, the event coordinator. Told her I had a question on the line about the food for the century. She looked back, shrugged, “I don’t know.” I say, “Take the call.”

Carol: “Yes. Yes. Coke.”

The gentleman with the truck was patiently waiting.. “Sorry man, that’s something you should have done. We only charge minimum labor to replace tubes. We can’t go through and check 6 bikes to see if they’ll hold air. Either we replace all the tubes and you pick up the bikes tomorrow or we sell you some tubes and you do the job yourself… It’ll be 130 dollars.”

“What?!” shreiking a little.

“Six bikes sir.”

“Can ya give me a break?”

“If I give you a $45 break will that work?”

“Yeah man!”

Intolerant of swindlers: “Ok, then I can fix 4 of your 6 bikes.”

Telephone rings…. “Hello. What time is packet pickup??”

Answer: “Between 4 and 6.”

“Okay. Thanks. What should I wear?”


I glance at the guy with 12 flat tires.

“What?? I guess I’ll fix ’em.”

“12 tubes. Seventy-two dollars please.”

Thunder Mountain Trail

The Thunder Mountain Trail is a bit out of the way, and it’s ok

I haven’t ridden this trail as much as I should have. I grew up in Utah skiing and riding bikes. It makes sense that I should know all the trails here. But last fall was the first time I’d ridden Thunder Mountain in the Bryce Canyon area.

Zach cruising up the Bryce Canyon bike path looking for a certain Thunder Mountain Trailhead

The trail parallels Red Canyon which one generally has to pass through if headed to Bryce Canyon from Interstate 15. The only other route is to come from Escalante, Utah. Anyhow, this ride is totally sweet and worth a mission send. That being noted, Zach and I packed up right quick after work and made the 4 hour drive south from the Wasatch mountains.

Traffic southbound I-15 was light as we zoomed through the darkness with our rigs fastened to the back of the trusty automobile. With only one stop for stretching we made camp in less than 4 hours. It was 31 degrees farenheit… the night got colder but we slept in the relative comfort of winter sleeping bags.

Trail starts out in the red dirt and pine trees, iconic terrain of this part of the world

Morning time brought seriously cold air and we slept until about 9AM with our warm hats covering our eyes so they wouldn’t turn into ice balls.. Morning also brought a warm fire, coffee, and a cowboy breakfast. After all morning routines handled, we were ready to ride and hit the road. After a quick ride up the Bryce Canyon bike trail to the top of Red Canyon, we took a right on a Forest Road and through an equestrian campsite. The Thunder Mountain trail starts at the end of this road but is somehow called Coyote Hollow, so heads up.

Previous Year, Riding through hoodoos with my wife and friends

The trail quickly becomes your favorite trail. Whoever dug it had a vision. While I believe that it was initially a horse trail, and it shows in places, it’s a fantastic bike trail also. Rounding every punchy climb with a ridgeline, the hoodoos and red valleys come into view against the deep blue hue of a U2-esque desert sky.

It’s too fun of a trail to miss, you have to ride it. Or not. I’m completely fine with no one but a few riding this place. It is after all largely out of the way. If you’re headed to a major bike mecca, forget about heading here. There’s no bike shop that I can find.. So you’re on your own.

The trail sweeps up and down ridge-lines for the first 4 miles or so. Each turn brilliantly formed, off-camber straight-aways, rocky non-sense, some loose dirts; all for your riding pleasure. And every time you look up you see this kind of crap:

Karen riding up the ridge; just beautiful views, forever

Last year I rode Thunder mountain for a birthday party with my wife and friends. Yes, my wife has that SE grin that all of us mountain bikers know is absolutely contagious.

Zach surrendering to a photo op

Zach and I made less time for pictures. You could literally spend the whole day getting the best action shots in your portfolio on Thunder Mountain if you weren’t interested in maintaining the thrilling flow of two wheels down this remarkable trail.

We broke riding at the mid-trail horse camp. It has a little vista there while you eat a well earned date roll. The only thing that would have been better would have been to camp there. Bike packing is a serious possibility, even though the trail is really, really short.

After the horse camp the trail climbs and descends flowing down ridge-lines and through hoodoos all over. The descending here gets a little more rowdy. We dropped tire pressure because we are just that cool. As the trail descends there are two sections of tight switchbacks. This is usually where you’ll see the best crashes.

Crystal descending, happier than any other moment in her life

As the trail winds around and through some drainages, there’s a short climb which leads to a 1.4 mile straight-away descent back to the Red Canyon highway and bike path. We let gravity guide us back, using our huge tires to make up for not using brakes. Oh yes, we rode this trail on 27.5+ and 26 Fat hardtails.

Fox Float 36 Evol 160mm Suspension Fork

Today, I spent the early part of my day in a clinic put on by Fox Racing Shox, a California, US based company dealing in the arts of suspension for anything bike and then some. They have their fingers in suspension for aftermarket trucks, snow-mobiles, motor-cycles, you name it. They even have military contracts.

Fox is well known in the mountain bike community, at least in the United States. Other parts of the world? I don’t know. Haven’t looked into it. Unless you live in Taiwan, where Fox has a production and assembly facility for OE stuff. They notably known for their sweet downhill and trail forks, the 40 (pronounced ‘forty’) and the 36 (pronounced like it sounds).

The 36 has always been a favorite fork. I have had several Marzocchi’s for their feel. Then things went bad for Marzocchi when Fox started producing cool stuff. The Fox 36 series was an answer to all these folks who wanted a great fork that could handle downhill tracks. Every generation was successfully better than the former. So I rounded out my ownership of Fox by owning three of these. During that time I was trained by an outside Fox tech. He was thorough and created a pathway for me to have a successful career tuning and servicing Fox products. To date, there are only a few of us Techs in Utah that will overhaul your Fox RC2, RLC, CTD, whatever FiT damper.

The Fox Clinic:

Here’s the room at the Hampton Inn:

Learning some technical stuff at the Fox Clinic at an unnamed hotel in an unnamed city; room full of forks

One of the reasons I like these clinics is to get an update on the new gear that a company produces. It’s much more hands on than the stuff you see at Interbike or Outerbike, or on Pinkbike.com; I get to handle cutaways, play with oils, heft the coils and push on forks. By far the highlight today was depressing the 2018 36 Float Evol.

Fox 36 Float Evol Kashima 160mm 27.5″ tapered, RC2

It was buttery smooth and one could sense that this was the best trail fork that the company had ever produced. But hold on. What’s that, the first guy I met on this fork had some serious issues getting it set up? After several calls to the Fox service dept and sending it in for warranty evaluation the fork hadn’t improved.

Rider notes: the fork has an un-sprung dead spot at the top of the travel, making the fork feel like the front end was going to come apart. This was unnerving for a high-speed descent through the chunder.


The clinic left this question largely untouched. We approached a tech afterward explaining the situation. They explained what they thought had happened and that Fox had revised the air-spring in this fork do deal with this not-frequent occurrence.

The way the Evol air spring works involves the movement of the air spring seal head moving into the charged positive air chamber and passing a dimple in the stanchion that equalizes the negative air spring. The air instantly passes through this channel into the negative air chamber and if there is excess oil or grease in this zone the volume of air needed to equalize the spring doesn’t match up. This produces the exact issue that our guy was dealing with.

Sometimes you just have to pull a fork apart. This answered our question.

The rest of the clinic:

I felt like the other parts of the clinic were just addressing beginners in this category. Our shop as extensive experience with suspension and it is the most discussed topic in our day other than tire pressure. We did find out that Fox has introduced some new oils in the past 12 months that I hadn’t used: R3 and PTFE oils. Also they’ve introduced some new tools including seal drivers with a built in pilot shaft. For some reason this was revolutionary. Meanwhile, Marzocchi, now out of business, introduced their initial seal driver with pilot almost 2 decades ago. It never needed a revision.

Former generation Fox lower glide bushings

One more notable thing, the new bushings inside the fork’s lowers. The new bushings no longer have the slots. They are solid teflon bushing all the way around, just like in a RockShox forks lowers.

now the fox lower glide bushings look like this

If any of you have been inside a Rockshox and a Fox recently you must acknowledge the similarities of the working parts. Is there some kind of collaboration going on? Who knows. We know that pretty much Rockshox and Fox are both making very good products.

Now go ride your fancy suspenders.

Broken Bike Chain?

Yes, broken bike chain is a syndrome and no one is immune. It can happen to you with haste. And sometimes there is no explanation other than shoddy craftsmanship. Most of the time it’s a result of poor care.

With chains doing so much of the work, ie, taking you forward up hills and across the land, they get all of the brunt and no thanks. No one gets off their bike and says, “I am so happy about that chain! It’s allowed me to pedal my bike up to this ridge line. Damn it’s gorgeous up here!”

Usually it goes something more like this: “This is a damn fine bike.” They take a look around and move along with a high level of stoke. Life is good. The chain goes unthanked.

What about when the chain breaks? My breaks have been in places that are exclusively isolated and inconvenient. I have to say that at the moment I was not excited about my relationship with my chain.

Why they break:

You’re asking why this happens. So am I. But I know why. Let’s take a look:

  1. chain needed replacing a long time ago and is structurally unsound to operate
  2. really bad shifting (under load)
  3. Installed by an idiot (someone unqualified)
  4. Manufacturer Defect

1. Chain’s need to be replaced as they are a serious wear item. The chain is an assembly of small parts where metal on metal movement is part of life. As the chain twists and bends laterally and rolls over thousands of rpm’s per ride, it’s exposed to dirt and grime and bad shifts. The plates wear at their carrier pins and develop flex. At a certain point this starts to be measured as “chain stretch.” It’s because now the fittings of plates against pins is super sloppy.

broken chain example 1 & 2
fractured chain plates

Then one day under load you shift and then a plate fractures or peels away from the pin and you have a broken chain. End.

broken chain
example 3 & 4

2. When chains shift from cog to cog or chainring to chainring, the chain flexes in an abrupt way, much like when you’re about to miss an exit on the highway at 80 mph and you go for it. Something that is otherwise straight takes on a temporary sharp bend to go to the next gear. When this action happens under load or hard, fast pedaling (like we see done on e-bikes) the chain wears the pins at an accelerated rate. Now concepts from rule 1 apply.

breaking chain
example 5 – chain plate peeling away; chain are quite strong and for a bit this will actually feel like something is going on with shifting until one makes a solid chain inspection

3. When a chain is installed using a formerly pressed out pin, or if a new pin is improperly installed:

improperly installed chain pin
improperly installed chain pin leads to nearly immediate breakage – repaired by simply replacing the link with a master-link

Sometimes the pin installation isn’t right but seems so close that it requires a trained eye. But generally, using a previously pressed pin is the culprit here.

Each chain pin as little flanges at the end that essentially hold the outer chain plates in place. Once a pin is pressed back out it knocks this flange off one side and once pressed back in there is nothing to retain the outer plate on that side of the pin. Do yourself a favor and replace it with either a masterlink or a new chain pin, depending on what chain you have.

shimano chain pin
shimano chain pins, each for a different speed chain.
sram power link
SRAM master link or power link (black is for 10 speed)

4. Sometimes you’re the victim of poor manufacture. Get to your local shop and talk with them about it. Here’s one:

SRAM XX1 Eagle chain that appears to have had a defective pin, notice how the pin is broken in the middle and the ends are still within the outer plates?


Get a new chain. Sometimes you need new chainrings and cogs as well, depending on how worn things are.

Mountain Biking Vernal

Got up this morning with one thing in mind, “I need to ride my bike.” With household approval to take off for the next 30 hours I packed up kissed my lady and again I was off to adventure, much like my bike packing adventure.

The drive from Heber to Vernal in Utah is only 2 hours and on the way out along US Highway 40 I can watch Utah change back into what it mostly is. Good fortune has allotted that I live in a tourist driven area where folks come to take advantage of a largely unmined landscape. By this I mean, none of this:

oil derricks
All along highway 40 you see these things on the horizon

Yes, Utah is a lot of oil and gas drilling. I guess there’s money in it. While it’s not east Texas, it seems like oil is the name of the game out here.

The drive out was dreary until the clouds started to break apart. Then for hours on end there were some cool opportunities for amazing contrast shots. The ground was lit, being reds and yellows, it contrasted heavily against the deep gray clouds of the northern skies.

Around sunset, the contrasts between earth and sky were amazing
What happens when you want the picture but the clouds keep the sun in

The Riding:

What leads someone to consider mountain biking Vernal, Utah, you ask? Well this:

While these aren’t all the trails, I covered a few of them and they are stellar

McCoy Flats has always been spoken of as the riding in the Vernal area. There are plenty of other fantastic places to ride; however, this is simply off the highway on the way into town arriving from the rest of Utah.

It’s some of the best desert riding single-track around. When you go to Moab, the rock is nearly stiflingly awesome and there’s usually a lot of double track as many of the existing trails are mine road remnants. After some time on it you’re ready for dirt again, single-track dirt. The trails at McCoy Flats are full spectrum: easy to technically challenging. There is dirt here, not so much sand. Talk about refreshing desert riding!

While all seems ride-able, there are few obstacles that trick the eye. I got temporarily hung up on some of these. But oh such great riding. My new favorite line is called “Fire Sale” which branches off of “Retail Sale”. Ride it from West to East. It takes up all the available real estate on two hills.

A few of these trails are directional. It makes for a nice consistency. You can’t ride up certain rock drops. Also, you won’t find yourself riding up a skid. All the trails are well marked and circumnavigate the parking area. This added convenience is nice for a pit stop, snacks, and refreshments.

This is why folks pack their bike and head to Vernal.

Hydration, part 1

Drinking water looks like this:

russian site? do you look good doing it or do you have to look good already?

Apparently it’s always glamorous and sexy to drink water. In fact, do your hair and makeup. I can’t find a good picture that shows what it’s like to simply drink a few sips of water. Another picture of what drinking water looks like:

From globein, an article about drinking water

Drinking water is something you do as a team, apparently. I understood when people drink together it looked like this:

Drinks all around; apparently only if you’re a guy

Let’s try again:

Nope, drinking water doesn’t look like this.. this is an Evian branded shower.

All these images are linked to their respective sites. No matter how you cut it, if your hydrating it prolly isn’t glamorous, doesn’t make you look more interesting, and surely doesn’t take place of team drinking.

Daily Hydration

Hydration while being athletic, physically performing seems critical and obvious. What I’m talking about is when you’re at work as a bike mechanic. I sweat a lot. And hydration for me is a day maker or breaker. It’s also a challenge. I work between sleep and running or riding.

Hydration between rides keeps you going; recovery of tired muscles, dispersion of fresh glycogen, and clear head are all positive results of keeping water going through the system. As a mechanic, my hands are always busy so sometimes I simply forget to drink. This makes recovery between huge rides take much longer.

Anywhere from 60-70% of our bodies is water. So, all other things aside, that is the single most important ingredient in our daily nutrition.

I could build links to site referencing all the health benefits of staying properly hydrated. But for most of my readers that shouldn’t be in question. The question is, how do you get enough. Everybody needs a different amount, so throw that old saying that you need 4-8 glasses of water a day out the winder and stop letting the man insult your intelligence.

Focus, you need to drink water more than you need to do anything else in your day. Maybe it will make you look more glamorous, more fit, more healthy, happier, friendlier. But certainly, as studies show, it will make you healthier, since you are somewhere between 60 and 70% water.

DIY issue 1

So there’s a cool thing going around called DIY, or Do It Yourself. Bike D.I.Y. is also a thing. Let’s take an examination of things that folks think they can do themselves, generally.

  1. Washing the dishes. Loading the dishwasher is not how you wash dishes. That’s called punting. Here’s how you wash dishes by hand: https://youtu.be/woT1zf2Fke0
  2. Repair your trailer wheel bearings. Driving down the highway in front of me that guys wheel fell off his trailer. Trailer tipped and dragged. Sparks everywhere!
  3. Bike disc brakes: guy brings me his brake caliper in two halves, still drenched in hydraulic fluid. “I was replacing my brake pads!” This video from GCN: https://youtu.be/Lbi1HQMQIBo

There’s Youtube videos on all of this stuff. But DIY involves a serious amount of troubleshooting. Here’s a photo of what you can do sometimes:

Do you see a sheet metal screw in there? Yeah, this guy DIY’ed after losing his bleeder valve. This caliper is done.

Headset installation. Please tell me that looks correct.

I know I’ve posted this headset assembly picture before but man it’s a good one. Another example is the guy who came in with a 1.5″ tapered steer tube fork and wanted to install it on a bike with standard headtube. He’d read on the internet that all he needed was a “common bearing” from a bike shop to make it happen.

The bike is a $500 bike, with a straight headtube. The fork is a $600 unit with all the modern tech. Not only did he assume wrongly that I had the part he desired, which cannot say exits, he also thought he could simply adapt his 9mm standard QR axle to the new fork’s 15mm thru-axle system with end-caps. The axle of his hub is a threaded cup/cone assembly. Nothing about this idea was going to work.

The best part then was he returned two months later to accomplish the same task. It was like he’d forgotten. Another tech gave him the same information.

Just because you fixed your leaky sink doesn’t make you a true problem solver or bike mechanic. DIY all you want but don’t get upset when we have to put your stuff back together for hourly labor.

Day 3, Soapstone to Washington Lake

Morning light shone through the pine tree limbs in a warm orange tone. It was chilly. The temperature had dropped to 43 degrees by early morning and I was grateful to have a warmer sleeping bag. I laid there and tried to drift back off to sleep. It worked.

After a bit I got up and made coffee and breakfast, wrapped up camp and headed out by 8:30. Honestly, wasn’t thinking that breaking camp would take so long. But when you’re solo and all the gear has to get on the bike it takes more planning, arranging and time. Then you attach all that crap to your steed. Securing the load is part of the packing ordeal. Unlike backpacking, this is an extra effort.

I headed up the mirror lake highway early enough that traffic was still light, for a Sunday. It was still cool outside until the sunlight hit me. The road I was looking for was off to the left about 3 miles up canyon. It was called Spring Canyon. Aptly named and gorgeous, it is lightly trafficked and dispersed camping is here and there on primitive spots.

Climbing and climbing, the trail wouldn’t relent for 1600 vertical feet. The dirt road was rocky, loose, and dusty. It made for great riding, even with the gear. It was rowdy enough that it kept most vehicles out on the highway. For a laden fat bike it was easy work. My mind is still kinda blown, looking back and thinking there was no way that this guy with his fat tires was gonna clear the incline that looked like a rocky river bed. Surprised, I rode to the top of it. Not sure I understand the physics of how that all happened but it did.

From there it was all 4×4 road; I meandered through the forest seeing lakes and spur roads all over. I noted that this would be a great spot to explore by bike with good times to be had. It was beautiful. Haystack mountain was the backdrop for the entire area. So everything looked like it had to be amazing.

I found a few campers. But because of the nature of this road it was more like normal, with high clearance trucks and jeeps, and tents! Tents, friends. No tin shelters. It was great! And quiet. And soon the road became a graded thoroughfare with the appearance of more RVs. I was way past the point of disappointment in our society.

I was really close to finding my wife and hopefully some yummy snacks. I was approaching Washington lake, an upstream neighbor to Trial Lake. Lots of people. After the two days with relatively few people around I felt like I had shown up at a mall.

Filtering water out of Trial Lake and then taking a swim in the same I was ready for some relaxation. The car had been left with a hammock. I turned on the radio and laid in the hammock for hours. The radio was a hand radio. I was waiting for my wife’s sweet voice to come over the air and let me know where she was.

She radioed in at two miles away. She was surprised to hear my voice come back. I swung gently in the hammock, in the cool mid-day air of the mighty mountains of the Uintas. It was a good day.

Don’t Crash into Rabbits

This is a friend of mine. I have several friends. But not as many as the rest of you. A lot of them ride bikes. And two of these guys have had issues with animals on the road.

In a 140 mile event buddy no. 1 saw something fly onto the road. Much like the creature from Aliens that flies across the road to latch onto your face, this creature was only recognized after the accident. At 40 miles per hour this rabbit jumped into the front wheel, an 18 bladed spoked wheel. The animal died. Friend went to the ER.

Bike, well take a look:

The front and rear triangles were being held fast by the internal cables connecting the rear brake and derailleur. Once I snipped those the frame fell apart. There was blood all over. And it wasn’t buddy no. 1.

Don’t hit bunnies.

Headset Assembly (part 2)

A while back, and by that I mean back 5 years, I had the unfortunate task of working on a bike that couldn’t be built. This guy rolled in with a Time frame and wanted a build. After ordering some parts for the initial assembly, fork to frame (headset), we found a problem.

Calling Time we found that the frame had been a warranty concern and was supposed to have been field destroyed. The defect had something to do with the fork and frame interface. The weird proprietary headset interface had lost its tolerances and therefore couldn’t be preloaded to safety specifications.

I had the conversation with the idiot who brought me this frame. He stated that his “friend who owned a shop” gave him the frame saying there was nothing wrong… Not all shops have equal prowess in working on bikes. Just like not all mechanics are created equal.. The bike couldn’t be built. The “owner” of this auto-destructed frame wouldn’t understand it. He got a wrench to the face.

If you own a shop and want to give your dumb friends broken shit, at least tell them so they don’t look so ignorant when they show up at a real shop to get service.

As for Time, Here’s the proverbial wrench to the face. For you and your $5000 frame that only suckers buy, the CAD sketch Time emailed me (No, I am not making this up):

I draw shit every day. Mine looks like a 4th grader did it. Because I didn’t get past the 4th grade. CAD images look like (which is what I expected):

If you spend $5000 on a frame feel free to contact me before doing so. If you are going to spend that much money at least get a frame that any low-level mechanic can service. Oh, and get a frame that’s supported by at least some level of non-joker.

As a manner of a note: I’m calling out the industry here. If you ended up with one of these you just did it wrong. Benignly. You may have even been tricked.

To the Industry, stop making weird shit. Headsets need to simple.