Training the Kids Right

I love my girls.  They’re so cool to hang out with and I enjoy watching them grow up.  So… what should I do so I can watch them more often?  Teach them how to work on bikes.  That’s right… I’m training my girls to be r0ck-star bike mechanics.  Here’s proof:

I love those two little girls.

Cane Creek Headset Fit Finder

On VeloReviews Podcast #2, I answered a question regarding the number of standard sizes for internal/integrated headsets and how to find which one is right for your bike.  I advised to contact the manufacturer of the bike, via their website, or to use FSA’s Headset Gauge to find out for sure (as seen below).
In my constant search for technical innovations in cycling, I have stumbled across a new tool that has come into existence. Cane Creek Cycling Components, makers of the 110 Headset platform (which has a 110 Year Warranty – it’ll outlast YOU), has created a seemingly foolproof database of most major manufacturers and models and their headset standards.  It’s easy… you type in the brand, model, and year of your bike, and… voila!  It tells you exactly which Cane Creek Headset(s) will work with your bike.  A screenshot is found below:
You can find this handy tool online at  Enjoy!!!

(Cross-posted at

My Favorite Tools, Part 2

In 2007, I worked for the Aaron’s Pro Women’s Cycling Team on the road, in conjunction with my job at the bike shop.  It was a hectic schedule;  I had a 6 month old child at the time, and a full-time job at  a very successful bike shop.  It only made sense to go on the road with a pro team, right?  In most situations, I’d fly in for a race, transport the vehicles to a temporary home, then fly back home.  The next week, I’d fly back to the vehicle and drive to the next race.  All my days off at the bike shop were working days for the team.  Let’s just say it was an interesting year…

The team director, Carmen D’Aluisio, was a very experienced cyclist during her racing career, and passed down a lot of wisdom to me throughout the year on the road.   One thing she also helped bring to the team was a pretty sweet sponsorship deal with Specialized Bicycles.   At the time, the girls were being equipped with S-Works bikes with SRAM Force (top-of-the-line, at the time) components.  The bikes were some of the lightest in the women’s peloton, and I’m sure some of them were below any legal limit being enforced by the UCI.

Ritchey TorqKey

On the opening day of team training camp, Carmen handed me a tool and said, “Don’t lose this.”  It was the Ritchey TorqKey, a 5nm mini-torque wrench with a 4mm bit, that fit in the palm of my hand.  “All these parts have to be torqued to the proper specifications,” she said.  She was so adamant about torque on the S-Works bikes that she gave each one of the girls on the team their own TorqKey to use when they assemble their bikes after travel.  I was aware that torque was a big deal, but until that point, I hadn’t utilized a torque wrench very often.

Since that point, I’ve used the Ritchey TorqKey ALMOST EVERY DAY.  It’s a really small tool that fits easily in any toolbox/collection and is a necessity if you’re working on anything carbon.  I’m extremely excited about the Ritchey Torque Wrench (manufactured and licensed by Effetto Mariposa) that I just got in for review (via  If it’s anything like the TorqKey, I’m sure it’s a tool that I won’t be able to live without.

My Favorite Tools, Part 1

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.

The Ol’ Switcheroo

After three days of laying on the couch with an ear and tonsil infection, I decided enough was enough.  My fever was down (thanks to some good drugs), and I was feeling good enough to get back to work.


I walked in around noon, and much to my surprise, the workbench area looked like a BOMB WENT OFF!  Tools were everywhere, the tool board was naked (and painted a new color), and things were not in their “normal” places.  I guess the guys decided to make a change.  I hate missing days of work.  I love being in on executive decisions BEFORE they happen… I’m a control freak.  That’s just me.

The board didn’t look bad.  Instead of the normal “peg board brown,” it had been painted a flat black… adds more contrast to the white walls, keeping the yin and yang of the shop area intact… I can dig it.  My tools and all my gizmos, gadgets, and personal pictures and memorabilia had all been pulled down, too, in order to paint and reorganize the wall.   To a certain extent, I didn’t mind that, either.  At least it was done with some care.

Here’s where it kind of got a little weird:  during the rearranging process, the “good tools” were moved away from my bench and closer to the middle left of the bench… effectively phasing out my bench area’s immediate reach of the “good tools.”  “My” bench area seemed like a back-up apprentice bench at best… I felt sad.  I missed my easy reach of the tools already.

There’s a good reason for it.  I told the owner of the shop, Kevin, that I was going to spend more time out on the floor and in the front of the store… that is where my strong points are – people.  I’m a good salesman and some of our mechanics don’t like to mess with people.  Recently, we’ve been getting lots of 2010 orders and new product in, so my presence at “my bench” has been sparse while getting those sorted and merchandised.

Fortunately, I still like to wrench on things in my spare time… even at home.  Now that I’ve got some “bench mojo” and some personal tools that need a new place to live, I’m getting started on a new garage workbench project very soon.  I drew up some technical drawings tonight for the new workbench that I plan to start on next week.  I’m going to document the construction and plans on coming up shortly.

As much as I try to resist change, it will still happen.  I struggle with change because I have control issues. I just need to get over myself and those issues. On the really bright side, as I move closer to another, somewhat less greasy area of shop life, it gives me an opportunity to create and build something new at home to satisfy my urge to wrench on things… which makes me happy.

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