Workshop tales #001

All metal is not created equal – catastrophic metal failure, designed obsolescence and the importance of getting a service…

To people who take interest in the physical world this title might slightly cruelly get the response “well duh?!”. But you don’t have to be an engineer, metallurgist or particularly nerdy bike enthusiast to start figuring out what the properties, strengths and weaknesses of the things you use everyday are. In an era of mind boggingly short sighted designed obsolescence it serves all of us to think about how, who and what things are made of, by , with and how to look after them. It will save you money and maybe a nasty crash.

Elliot brought his hitherto reliable fix gear bike into the workshop looking rather sad. It’s stem broken like a downed deer, drop bars like antlers hanging at an angle that makes me wince thinking about how it happened. Elliot described the incident: whilst moving on way to work, up out of the sadal, giving it some welly, putting his weight down on the left side when…. he holds up his finger, bloodied and gnarled. The stem had snapped. The kind of catastrophic failure of equipment that is too instant to correct for. He was down and on the road in a blink of an eye. He saved me the rest of the story rubbing his knotted shoulders.  His blood remained on the brake lever.

He’s ok, it could have been much worse. Not least the jagged bit of stem remaining in the steerer tube sticking out like a punji trap could have stuck him on the way down to the unforgiving tarmac. I sent him on his way whilst I investigated the fix. Now it’s clearly a working bike and like any working well used thing it bares the lines of regular use like your favourite worn in jeans. Except when your favourite jeans finally fail the worst that happens is …. well… you might expose yourself. Which could be bad, depends where you are. At home, walking to shops, not so bad. Outside school waiting to pick up kids, not so cool. They aren’t going to throw you into the road at high speed and stab you on the way down. 

That was the short story long. Long story short. Your bike needs servicing or you will. The bike is cheaper and easier to fix.