Monday, June 1, 2009

Our Toil's Obscure...

So it's definitely been one of those weeks. I haven't got much work done, that's for sure. On Friday family and friends gathered to farewell my old boss Roland at a great service full of laughs, tears, poetry, and even a wee dram.

I was privileged to speak, and I hope no one minds me posting my words...
Hi, my names Oli. I worked with Roland at the famed Bicycle Village through the early to mid '80s.

It seems funny standing here eulogising Roland - it's the sort of thing he'd probably have heckled me for. As we all know he was never one to shy from taking someone down a peg or two...

To my great regret it's been way too long a time since I had a chance to catch up with him, so I really don't know if he'd mellowed much - it's honestly hard to imagine. When I think of Roland it's his combative nature that first springs to mind. Being around him was sometimes bloody hard work, but also could be incredibly rewarding.

Roland was the first man to give me a full-time job and was a major influence on the beginnings of my life in cycling, but he was also the first man I ever yelled "I quit!" to, and the first man to ever make me cry. On one of my first big rides with him I was way past my abilities and ready to give up, and I was moaning and bleating until he looked me in the eye in that way he did and said, "Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING?" Well if I wasn't before I was now! "Get on your bike and RIDE!" I finished off that ride, and use that story to this day to motivate (and amuse) my kids...

Another thing I took away from Roland was his egalitarian nature - he could relate to almost anybody, so long as they could handle his testing out banter. I also marvelled at the way he came up with scheme after plan after plot - not all of them worked, of course, but lots of them did and many of his ideas were visionary. The enthusiasm with which he'd pursue these plans was infectious and exciting to be around.

But the most important thing I remember about Roland was his great sense of humour. I think about his quick wit and big laugh, and also how well he took it when the tables were turned on him. He managed a chuckle when I superglued his pipe and matches to his desk, and even when Henry fired the fire extinguisher under the toilet door. He wasn't quite so keen when I put explosives in his pipe and burned his brand-new shirt though!

Anyway, like all of us who knew Roland I benefitted in many ways from his friendship, and I will always be grateful for it...

Roland, you're an offy man.

But before all this, my work week (and most of the preceding one!) had already been severely curtailed by a nasty cold that swept the family. Due to the up and down nature of the lurg I wasn't really able to take any bookings, but I still had to spend a few hours in the shop over the week just waiting around for couriers, bike drop-offs and pick-ups. While there I did my best to make myself useful, so I coughed and wheezed and knocked out a few bits and pieces...

First I fitted a new rim to Jonty's White Industries "ENO" hub.

I didn't really have to do anything to this Diamondback V-Link, but seeing as it was in the shop I gave it a quick check over anyway. Retro-fully cool.

In the days when the Tip Track was briefly regarded as a downhill, this machine was hurtled down there at rapid speeds. One of the challenges of riding this rough rutted track was keeping the chain on the cogs; here is a classic example of one of the favoured chain retention devices of the era, fitted onto a classic mid-90s XT drivetrain.

As bike shop guys/fetishists know, the best way to keep in touch with your passion and your head in the game when you're unable to ride is by swapping parts between bikes to create another one entirely, or to just alter an existing one imperceptibly. Going with both options at once I decided I would tweak my Bianchi road bike a smidgen, while also building up an entirely new bike for myself.

I did this by completely stripping my Hillbrick down and building up my spare Bianchi frame which was sitting there collecting dust in the unlikely event I ever cracked my first one. As I only ride it about three times a year I figured this is probably unlikely, and the spare frame is better off being ridden the twelve times a year my Hillbrick gets the idea of owning a brace of lovely steel Bianchis appealed.

As I didn't have a long window I decided I would use this job as a bit of a test for seeing how fast I could do a full frame swap, imagining I might have to do this for an athlete on a race one day. Please note that I wouldn't dare rush a client's bike like this, but I completely stripped down the Hillbrick in about 12 minutes...

...and I had my new Bianchi built up 78 minutes later including new gear cables and pulling a derailleur off my original Bianchi, making a total of 90 minutes - if this was at a race the hotel bar would still be open, YUSS!

As I said, I had pulled the derailleur off my old Bianchi. This was because for a long time I've been feeling that the carbon Record one just didn't gel with the look of the rest of the bike, so on went it's old 1995 Chorus one giving my "retro Bianchi" a more authentic Gewiss-period appearance.

Now I has TWO of them!

All this Italian bike frottage had me in the perfect mood for the job I have been looking forward to for weeks. While I've worked on a few Campagnolo 11 speed bikes I haven't had the chance to build one from the ground up yet, so when Mark asked me to build up his Colnago C50 a few weeks ago I jumped at the chance and rushed out and bought the chain tool especially!

When he dropped off the goods, it turned out he remembered me from the Bicycle Village and he'd bought his first real road bike (a Klein) off Roland! I don't know what the odds are on this total coincidence, but it seemed oddly apt and very right in light of where I'd be the next day.

After a good chat about days gone by Mark left me a large pile of droolworthy carbon and aluminium fruit...

...which I s l o w l y and carefully assembled one piece at a time. Usually Colnagos are a bit of a nightmare of frame prep but the C50 was very well prepped already, making my work much easier.

I pulled out my tool.

To connect the chain around the eleven beautifully machined cogs.

The new lever shape is growing on me over time, and it's definitely a better fit ergonomically.

If anything, the new 11 speed Campagnolo was easier to set up than any of the 9 or 10 speed gruppos I've worked on from all of the manufacturers - certainly when brand new the precision of the shift was the most positive and accurate I've ever felt. I guess time will tell whether it's finickety to keep tuned, although that's definitely not been a Campag trait in the past.

One more shot of the drivetrain.....mmmmmmmmmmmmm.....

When I had to finish up on Thursday we were still waiting for the handlebar tape to arrive from Auckland, so I took a shot as is.

After suicidally standing around for hours on the sidelines of my kid's soccer fields on the coldest Saturday morning in recorded memory (it snowed to sea level in Wellington this weekend!) I rendezvoused with a similarly afflicted Mark to add the handlebar tape and finish off his gorgeous Colnago.

Done. Cheers Mark, and may you get many, many kilometres of enjoyment out of this very cool Colnago!

Hopefully this week I'll be able to find some more fun stuff to show you. Until then, thanks for reading, Oli


Ben Kepes said...

Funny - I never knew where the "titus grips" name came from

Now I do....

Ride on..


Anonymous said...

please pull out your tool again

Oli Brooke-White said...

You love it, don't you you naughty Poet?