As I was digging through my small toolbox on my workbench today, I thought to myself, “what are a few of the tools in this box that are just… cool?” I picked out two of the tools that I really love, but for different reasons. One, because of the circumstances surrounding how I got it, and the other because of it saving my butt on a daily basis.
1. Shimano TL-CN31 Chain Tool
I came across this tool in 2005. In January of that year, I attended the USA Cycling Bill Woodul Mechanics Clinic at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. I wanted to get into working at professional races, and in order to do that, I needed a license. The clinic was the next step in my journey to doing so.
I learned a lot at the clinic. We had some great classes and instruction from great instructors like Calvin Jones (Head Mechanic – Park Tool), Ric Hjertberg (Wheelsmith, FSA, WheelFanatyk), TJ Grove and Andy Stone (Veteran Race Mechanics), and many other professionals in the industry. The wealth of knowledge I picked up in just a few days in snowy Colorado in 2005 has stuck with me ever since.
The last night we were at the clinic, all the students (including myself) decided to head out for a good time at a local bar across from the Olympic Training Center called “The Finish Line.” It was a real hole-in-the-wall joint, but it was within walking distance and… what the heck, why not? Some of us had a little TOO MUCH fun and ended up dancing with local cafeteria ladies and really making fools of ourselves, err… myself. I had a fun time, but got a little out of hand.
(NOTE: To this day, I still see guys from the Mechanics’ Clinic on the race circuit and all over that recall, “Hey… you’re the guy that got drunk and danced with that lunchroom lady at the Finish Line!” Yeah… I’m THAT guy.)
The next morning was not a good morning for me. I felt pretty horrible, and it showed. I showed up for the last day of class with my beanie pulled down, sunglasses on, and was completely dragging. At the clinic, several of the sponsors have product giveaways to the attendees, randomly. A few of the top prizes included a Park Tools workstand and the Shimano TL-CN31. I wanted the Shimano Chain Tool… badly. It had cherry handles and sold at most shops for $120. Not many people have a tool like that… I had to have it. What were the chances of me winning that drawing, especially after my escapades from the night before? Not good, I’d have guessed.
Chris Clinton, veteran mechanic and chief instructor at the clinic, was drawing names out of an envelope for the winners of the prizes. He looked at me and jokingly said, “You think just because you’re hungover, I should draw your name for this prize.” Of course, I shook my head… I wanted the tool! Chris reached down into the envelope and pulled out… my name!
I don’t know if I could go without my Shimano TL-CN31. It’s one of my favorite tools in my toolbox. It’s exotic, it’s a very cool tool, and I have a story to go along with it… even if I did have to dance with a cafeteria lady to get it.
I mentioned a second tool in the introduction… you’ll have to wait on that one for my next blog post.