Is it new bike day if only the frame has changed and if the new frame is the same as the old frame? I don’t know. I guess it feels like a new bike and it pisses me off on so many levels.
I suppose I should tell the story of how we got here, first.
A few months ago I was looking at getting a new saddle. A Brooks. Not that that really matters, but it is the set up. Anyway, I was researching the Brooks saddles and found that I would likely have to adjust my seat height to accommodate a new saddle. Makes sense, right?
Out to the garage I go to adjust my seat. Actually, I had been thinking about changing the height for a while — making it just a touch higher. Out comes the Allen key to loosen the seat collar. Seat collar loose, hands on saddle to give a nice easy twist and raise and… Nothing.
The post won’t budge. This is late August.
The last time I know I adjusted the seat post was in December. My family bought me a new saddle for Xmas so I had to adjust for it.
I also know that, when I originally put in the post, I greased it liberally.
However, here’s my error: When I adjusted it in December I didn’t re-grease it. Nor did I re-grease it at any point between December and now. The spring was — as springs are here — wet and dirty. Months of road salt and grime being thrown up on to the seat post and soaking down between the post and the tube. Steel and aluminum. Salt and water and air. A nice warm, dry, summer. A wet fall.
I can’t say that I’m surprised by the galvanic corrosion. I’d like to, but I’m not. It makes perfect sense.
I talked to a couple of mechanics, consulted the interwebs, and in the end tried just about everything.
- WD-40 bath morning and night — the post just laughed at me.
- Deep Creep — my favorite penetrating lubricant and a dang fine engine starter — Nothing.
- Soaking the seat tube and post in cleaning vinegar — Nada.
- Beating the post downward with a big freaking hammer — Yeah, that worked… Not.
There’s the Drano method where you fill the post and seat tube with Drano or something similar to dissolve the aluminum post while leaving the seat tube untouched. I’m a bit scared of chemicals, so I decided to avoid that one. And I’m cheap and wanted to try to salvage the $100 post.
Looking back I should have just sacrificed it.
The final option was to place the post in a bench vice and use the frame as leverage to try to break it free. I don’t have a bench vice so I used Vice Grips with steel tube for added leverage and my wife helping to hold the frame in place. It seemed to be working.
But let me back up a bit.
After I’d tried most methods to get this thing unstuck, I kind of resigned myself to just leaving it and knowing that I’d just not be able to change seats. Then, when it was time to upgrade, I’d just hang it on the wall as a reminder of what not to do.
For some reason the wife talked me into giving it another try with the Vice idea. And it seemed to work. I clearly got some movement in the post. So I doubled my effort and started cranking on the post in the opposite direction.
Can you guess where this is going? Yup. Pop. The post snapped like a rice crispy diving into the worlds largest bowl of milk.
Well, now that the post is gone, I guess it is time to start cutting. And chiseling. And grinding. And prying. And cursing.
I spend a good two hours the first night working away at the stub of the post, getting it down to about an inch inside the seat tube. The next day I continued to work on it for another three or four hours, I don’t remember now, and got it down another two or so inches.
Now it’s Sunday and I’ve got a hangover. I go to work on the bike. Working slowly and carefully. Because I have a hangover and because I don’t want to hurt the frame. I work and I work and I seem to be getting nowhere.
Then I chisel away for a bit and the chisel (really, a long ass screwdriver) seems to pop through something. My first thought is “Fu– I just put a hole in the seat tube.”
I look. No hole. Must be to the bottom of the seat post. The chisel is stuck, though, so I put the Vice Grip on it and twist; trying to get it out like I had done so many times before.
Then it happened. Of course it did. The second great break. The seat tube rips and there sits the screwdriver poking out.
So, long story short, I call every bike shop that was open on Monday. No frames. One of the local valley shops has one, but it is a size large instead of extra large and they’re closed on Mondays.
I scour Craigslist looking for possible bikes, but I really can’t see buying someone else’s over-priced used bike that has a crap mix of components. I come close to pulling the trigger on a couple, but in the end decide that no, I’ll just get a new frame and use the parts I have. I’ve spent a bit of money on some good parts, some of which can’t be used on anything but a fat bike.
Tuesday, I get the frame and build it up, noticing a few things. First, my headset is fubar. The bottom bearing is missing a few balls and is distinctly red instead of bright stainless steel color. Second, the front derailleur cage is broken.
No biggie. I can live with these things in the short term. I just need to get my rig back in order so I can get my booty to work. I build it up, adjust what needs adjusting, and then end up heading up to Hatcher’s Pass to take her on her maiden voyage. Gold Mint Trail. A nice, rocky climb. A challenging out and back ride. Hard on machines and people.
Or it can be, anyway.
Helpful hint number one: Do not try to ride anything where you might need traction with a bald ass Knard tire.
After much futzing on the first part of the ride getting stuff dialed in, I end up making it to about 4.5 miles up the valley before I have to turn around to head back to my meeting with the wife and kids in the parking lot. The bike is feeling right for the most part. The difference in frame size isn’t noticeable other than I don’t feel as stretched out. I’m feeling good, like this my bike.
And I let it rip a bit on downhill sections. I clear a few rocky climbs I’ve not in the past. I’m feeling it.
Then, blam. Lights almost out. A section of the trail is quite muddy. I know this from the trip up. There’s a small dry line next to a VW Beetle sized boulder. I shoot that line. What happened next I’m not sure. I just remember thinking that it’s going to hurt. What I think happened is that the back end slipped out on the mud and the front, as I tried to overcorrect, caught the edge of the trough and sent me flying.
All I know is that I have a nice constellation circling my head, my neck feels a bit catawampus, and my leg is screaming at me.
I lie there on the crowberry bushes, yell a few choice expletives once I regain my breath, and slowly start the process of evaluating the damage. I can still feel my feet and hands, so that’s good. I slowly begin to move; first arms, then legs, then sit up, and, finally, stand. I’m bleeding. I’m bruised. The bike’s taken some damage — the handlebars are 90 degrees from where they should be, but overall things are looking good. I’m not too badly hurt and the bike is ride-able, thanks to having my multi-tool with me.
In the end I made it back to the parking lot and everything was fine.
I do have to wonder just what I did to deserve such a rash of bad luck with the bike. Hopefully my karma bank is balanced out now. I’m not sure I can take much more.
Read more from Phil B. on his blog, Multimodal Alaska Adventures.