Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bicycle Wheels for Dummies

fork blades
Where's the bolt, Charlie?
Back when people were just slightly smart-aleck with their co-workers instead of full-on obnoxious, you'd occasionally see a poster in someone's cubicle saying something like "Those of you who think they know everything are annoying to those of us who do." Yeah, sure: cute. You have to admit, though, that the freelancers who think they can come off knowing everything about everything tend to be annoying to people who actually do know a lot about something. Take, for instance, Charlie Gaston: she wrote a slew of articles for about bicycles, even though she quite clearly didn't know much about them – maybe hadn't ridden one since she got her driver's license. Take, for instance, "How to Attach a Bicycle Wheel"...

Gaston, as required by DMS¹, wrote a 75 to 100-word introduction and then at least three steps... what a waste of electrons! Her intro? you can read it here:
"Frequent cyclists know all too well the dangers that can occur when cycling over rocky or difficult terrain such as gravel roads. If you've ever been cycling and damaged your tires or have driven your bicycle so many miles it's now time to change your tires, you'll want to know how to remove your old wheels and attach new ones."
     "Damaged your tires"? "[R]emove your old wheels and attach new ones"? Could you write anything clumsier -- not to mention that the last sentence sounds like you're replacing the wheelset because you had a flat... idiot.

Gaston details an eight-step description of how to mount a wheel with a quick-release lever, though some of what she said makes it fairly clear she's not all that familiar with the process. For instance, things like
  1. Apply grease to the skewer rod. Sweep a layer of grease over the length of the rod without coating it heavily.
  2. Slide the axle of the wheel inside the fork blade bolts, which are attached to the two tubes that extend downward, to secure the wheel in place.
Our staff bike mechanic says that 1) you don't take the skewer out to change a tire (this instruction may have been lifted from an article on building wheels), and 2) WTF is a "fork blade bolt"? A quick google search reveals that Gaston's article is the ONLY PLACE on the internet where that phrase appears!

Oh, Charlie managed to explain how to use a quick-release lever, but she left out some pretty important parts of the procedure for mounting a wheel on a bicycle. For instance,
  • She never suggested turning the bike upside down, which makes accessing the wheels a lot easier...
  • Her instructions are only good for bicycles with quick-release levers, which leaves out a lot of kid's bikes that use nuts on the axles (and can be a little tricky).
  • Her instructions don't mention anything about getting the cassette into the chain on a rear wheel.  BIKE GUY'S HINT: shift the derailleur to the smallest cog before you take the wheel off, and use one hand to pull up on the derailleur cage to open up the chain loop when you reinstall the wheel.
  • Her instructions say nothing about squaring the wheel with the brakes to prevent rubbing as the wheel spins.
No, Gaston's "instructions" are well-nigh useless... and useless instructions like these are perhaps the most common reason that freelancers like Charlie end up with Dumbass of the Day trophies on their desks. For what it's worth, Gaston now has three of 'em (two about bicycles).       

¹ Demand Media Studios (now known as Leaf Group), parent of We prefer to use the initials, because you can't spell "dumbass" without "DMS"!
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