Riding the Wind of Change

I took a brief hiatus from writing on my blog, not because I didn’ t have anything to say, but because I simply haven’t had time to cram another thing into my schedule.  Looking back, I see my last post was before Cyclocross Worlds in February, so I’ve got some catching up to do.  Here’s a few highlights:

  • Sickness – Everyone in my family (with the exception of my amazing wife) got some form of a flu or stomach bug AT LEAST a few times.  Niki had some debilitating migraine issues, rather frequently, which required some added responsibility on my part after work.
  • School – Had one class during the first half of the semester, and one during the second half (which ended May 10).  I did okay during the first class, but the second, I tanked.  The class wasn’t interesting to me, and I didn’t put in the time needed to make the grades happen.  I feel really guilty about it, but sometimes those things happen.
  • Shop Closed – The shop job that I landed in September came to a halt in mid-April.  Free-Flite Bicycles bought a multisport store in Sandy Springs, Cadence Multisport, forcing our store location to close.  It was a great financial move on the owner’s part, and will work well for the company, but a shame for the Canton community.  Half of the staff decided to transfer to the main store in Marietta, and half of us opted for other things.  I didn’t know what I would do at the time, but I knew I could get some jobs in the interim, in order to make it work.
  • We’re Moving! – With all the melee going on with my job, Niki and I decided that it was time for a change.  We informed our landlord that at the end of May, we would be vacating our current residence.  The plan was to head to Jacksonville, FL, to spend the summer with Niki’s parents.  It would give the kids some quality “grandparent time,” and give us a break to regroup and figure out what our next step would be.


Those were the difficulty-riddled bullet points.  The following are some great things that came along, filled in the gaps, and offered the silver lining to my aforementioned dark clouds:

  • UCI Paracycling Open (Greenville, SC) – I was asked to round up a crew of mechanics to provide neutral support for an international paracycling race near my hometown.  I was happy to oblige, mainly because it was a win-win; I had the opportunity to work on some exquisite machines, meet some absolutely unbelievable athletes, and my kids got to spend some quality time with their grandparents.  The field was filled with World Champions in their individual disciplines (at one point, there were FIVE World Champs in the TT start house at one time!), and other local athletes, who had never competed in road events before.  It was an incredible experience, that I will post about later.  I want to thank my neutral support crew for all their help:  Neal Herring (Sunshine Cycle Shop – Greenville, SC), Tim Wellborn (Cycle Center – Columbia, SC), and Derrick O’Shields (Grady’s Great Outdoors Bike Shop – Anderson, SC).  Honorable mention goes to my wife, Niki, who helped me at the TT start and ran a lot of errands for things we needed during the weekend.
  • Athens Twilight/Roswell Criterium –  Since my bike shop had closed, I had some free time on my hands, so I picked up a job with a pro team, Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis.  I had followed them for a while, and had worked for some of their riders when they were on other teams in the past.  They had a split team, meaning half their team was racing in Arkansas at the Joe Martin Stage race, and the other half were racing the USACRITS Speed Week criteriums in the Southeast.  I provided mechanical support for them over the course of the weekend, and they managed to be one of the strongest teams in the field, putting several riders in the Top 10 each day.  More to come on those events, as well.
  • Amgen Tour of California w/CTS – I’m currently in California, on my way to work at the Tour of California, once again working with Carmichael Training Systems.  I worked California, Utah, and USPRO Challenge in Colorado with them last year, and had a really good time.  I am looking forward to the next nine days of work.  Although there are extremely long, hard days of work ahead, I really am in my element when working like this.
  • Race Across America (RAAM) – A week or so ago, I accepted a position as mechanic for a RAAM team from Bristol Myers Squibb.  These men are trying to raise money to bring about a greater awareness, and hopefully a cure, for melanoma.  After Tour of California, I will be home for three days, then flying up to Princeton, NJ, for a camp with the team.  On June 12th, I’ll fly back out to California and follow Team Melanoma Exposed across the United States, on their mission to spread awareness of this terrible form of cancer.
  • GOT A NEW JOB! – When visiting my parents in SC last weekend, I visited a friend in Greenville, SC, who is regional manager for a chain of stores called BikeStreet USA.  He was in need of a Service Manager at his largest store, and asked if I was interested.  After several discussions and a really great visit to the shop, I have accepted that position, and will start very shortly.  The plan is to spend a week in Greenville after my Tour of California and RAAM Team Camp trips, but before RAAM.  After RAAM is finished, I will fly back down to Greenville and be there full-time from that point on.  This will mean a big move for our family, but we’ve discussed it and feel it will be a good move for us, on several levels.   I am going to try and take some traveling mechanic positions in the future, and it seems by the way the regional manager and I were talking, that scheduling adjustments and vacation days can allow some of that to be possible.

Lots of change is happening, and on some fronts, I’m very nervous and anxious.  I can’t help thinking that when things stop changing, we stop living.  We become stagnant at that point, and fall into a really bad spot that nobody wants to be in.  I’m glad things are changing for us, and I can’t wait to move on to the next several chapters of our lives.  We’ll be leaving a lot of good friends in Georgia, but we’re close enough to make occasional visits, and there’s always Facebook

We’re currently halfway finished with our move, but will be transitioning over the next two months.  If you need to contact me, e-mail me at probikewrench@gmail.com.  Thanks for your friendship and support.


Tools I Must Have – Post 1 in a Series

I’ve been drooling over several new tools lately, so I’ve decided to start a list of which tools/items are striking my fancy.  Here’s the first of many:

Abbey Bike Works Dual Sided Crombie SL

This gem is a sweet new tool from Abbey Bike Works, called the Crombie.  The Crombie does the obvious job of removing a cassette lockring.  There are a few different models of the Crombie, including a single-sided model with a Campagnolo or Shimano head , a dual-sided model with Campagnolo AND Shimano heads, and a dual-sided SL model with both heads and a hollow handle.  The hollow-handled SL model is made with the traveling mechanic in mind, understanding that for those mechanics, like myself, who utilize air travel from time-to-time, there are weight restrictions on toolboxes that we must meet, in order to spare extra fees.

It’s a pretty handy tool with these functions alone, but one additional function of the Crombie makes it stand head and shoulders above the rest.  The Crombie fits over the quick release nut, enabling the mechanic to swap cassettes without removing the QR skewer.  This is a HUGE plus for anyone having to make a cassette swap in a hurry.  Sure it doesn’t take THAT much longer to remove the skewer, but every second counts in a race mechanic’s day… why not make it easier on yourself?

The fact that I can carry a handled multi-use tool, and eliminate two small bits and a wrench, makes this a tool that I must have.  Several mechanic friends already have the tool, and are really enjoying it.  Abbey Bike Works is also beginning production on a chain whip that the Crombie will slide into, making a very lightweight and compact two-tool combo.  Both tools are on my shopping list, and will be purchased soon.

Oh, yeah… for an extra $10, you can get your name engraved on it, making it a truly custom piece.  Yes, I’m a nerd.  Yes, I’ll probably pop for the custom tool.

For more information on Abbey Bike Works and their line of tools, visit http://www.abbeybiketools.com/

“Parts Hangers” vs. “Bike Mechanics”

Working on Nice Stuff is Easy.
Working on Nice Stuff is Easy.

There is a difference between “Parts Hangers” and “Bike Mechanics.”

A Parts Hanger can resemble a Bike Mechanic, and knows their way around a bike, but doesn’t like working on bikes unless they’re installing new, high-end parts.  You can tell a Parts Hanger by the way they check in a repair.  If, when checking in a repair for service, the “mechanic” (and I use that term loosely in this situation) starts tallying up a list of new parts without properly checking over the bike, you may have a Parts Hanger on your hands.  Inside the bike shop, a Parts Hanger “cherry-picks” the repairs they work on, leaving less expensive bikes or repairs that require actual work, for another mechanic to handle.

A real Bike Mechanic can actually fix bikes.  It doesn’t matter what brand or style of bike, or what shape it is in… the real Bike Mechanic can make the bike function properly.  Sure, there are instances where bikes are too far gone to repair, but in most cases, the real Bike Mechanic will do their best to repair the bike to the best functioning order it is capable of.  Real Bike Mechanics are fluent in all bicycle styles, and you do not usually see them turn up their nose at a challenging repair.

Don’t get me wrong… real Bike Mechanics like working on nice things.  It is extremely fun to piece together a custom build for a good customer, but that is not the only part of a Bike Mechanic’s job.  It’s easy to work on nice stuff… it’s engineered to work flawlessly.  The mark of a true Bike Mechanic is whether or not they can make the crappy stuff work.  Real Bike Mechanics do not cut corners, and they get the job done right – the first time.

And Bicycle Race Mechanics take it exponentially farther…

Fox Racing Shox Service Intervals and Upgrades

A few weeks back, I went to the Park Tool Tech Summit, here in Atlanta.  Several major manufacturers were in attendance, offering tech clinics to mechanics, to educate them on their products and show them all the new goodies for 2012.  Some of those manufacturers included: Park Tool, Cane Creek, FSA, Shimano, Mavic, Campagnolo, SRAM, and Fox Racing Shox.

Of the manufacturers in attendance, one of the most informative and most hands-on, was the clinic by Fox Racing Shox.  Mechanics had the opportunity to disassemble a TALAS fork, learn to service the fork, and re-assemble it.  All that information was great, but it wasn’t the MOST important information that was passed down to us.  The most important thing we were taught was toINFORM OUR CUSTOMERS ABOUT THE MANUFACTURER’S SERVICE INTERVALS FOR THEIR PRODUCTS.

With Fox Racing Shox introducing their Evolution series of forks, and more manufacturers switching back to Fox for their 2012 bike spec, it becomes extremely important that the user services their fork properly.  The schedule listed below is Fox’s service intervals for their air sprung forks.  Pay special attention to the RED column, for service that is required after EACH RIDE/RACE:

Air Spring Forks (All 32, 36: F-SERIES, FLOAT & TALAS)

service procedure item


each ride/race

every 30 hours

every 100 hours or annually

set sag



set damping adjustments



clean exterior of fork with mild soap and water only; wipe dry with soft towel




inspect dropout thickness (9 mm)




inspect bushings




change oil in lower legs

Visit the FOXHelp service site for service procedures information.




change FLOAT fluid in air chamber 




service damper: 32 FIT36 FIT,Terralogic® 



service air spring: 32 TALAS36 TALAS



Another great bit of knowledge is the Fox Upgrade Area on their website.  If you visit http://www.foxracingshox.com/upgrades.php?m=bike&ref=topnav, and type in the model and year of your fork, a list of possible upgrade parts and their part numbers are listed for you.  For example, if you’ve got a Float 80 fork from 2009, and your new wheels require a 15mm through-axle, you would find two 15QR lowers, black or white options, for you to choose from.  They also have a FIT cartridge upgrade for that fork, as well. For that particular fork, the page would look something like this:

These are very important things to know.  If you properly maintain your fork/shock according to Fox’s service intervals, your fork will last much longer than if you neglect it.  With the upgrade list, you can take your Fox fork and use it on a new bike with new technology, and not necessarily have to replace the entire fork.  For more information on Fox Racing Shox, their products, service intervals, or upgrades, contact me or visit http://www.foxracingshox.com

Motorized Doping – Both Sides of the Story

It’s the buzz right now in cycling… did Fabian Cancellara use “motorized doping” to win Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders this year?  Since this is PROBIKEWRENCH.COM… let’s discuss this interesting piece of technological buzz.  First things first…  let’s explain what we mean when we use the term “motorized doping.”

The phrase “motorized doping” refers to the a bike racer’s use of a bicycle with an internal electric-assist motor to gain an advantage over the competition.  There’s a video on YouTube with over 1.5 million views that shows how a motorized system (in this case, the Gruber Assist) works and, in a roundabout way, shows “video proof” of strange hand movements and their accompanied accelerations by Fabian Cancellara during his two Classics’ wins this year.  It doesn’t outright say that Cancellara used the system, but it does an amazing job of creating that assumption.  Here’s the video:

You’ve seen the “evidence,” now take a look at this great read by freelance cycling journalist Jered Gruber in regards to his photo documentation and personal handling of Cancellara’s bike during his reporting following the Spring Classics.  He does a great job explaining what he observed, and also why the mechanical assist system would not technically work in Fabian Cancellara’s race-winning Specialized Roubaix.  Here’s the link to the article:


It’s a pretty convincing read, but the video can be persuasive, as well.  It really depends on who you pull for in this certain situation.  If you’re a Cancellara fan, you have to wish that this had never been brought up and you believe what you’ve seen… including his many amazing time trial performances and winning a TdF stage solo from a 1k attack while in the Maillot Jaune.  If you’re a conspiracy theorist, and you still think there was a second gunman on the grassy knoll, then you may believe the Italian-produced YouTube clip in its entirety.

As of right now, the UCI is not pursuing Cancellara for any charges or accusations related to motorized doping, however… they do see this as a possible form of sporting fraud and are taking measures to address the fact that this technology be found in competition bikes.  Roundtable meetings with all of the major manufacturers representatives are being scheduled, as we speak, to figure out how to check bikes for this and hopefully squash this form of cheating before it becomes rampant.

I have a sneaking suspicion that, due to lack of testing and UCI/USA Cycling rules being checked for in domestic races, “motorized doping” will make its way to the US domestic and amateur scene before long.  People will do whatever they can to sneak in under the radar and get a win.  Mark my words… someone will get caught trying to slip this one by race officials soon.

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