Battle of Bay Pointe September 25, 2009

I had a classic nightmare last night that was set in the bike shop. A customer came in with a 25 year old Huffy "Bay Pointe" 3-speed and asked us to fix it up for his friend's birthday. It needed the usual tires tubes and brake work that all of these basement bikes need when they see the light of day after sitting unused for several semesters. "She'll love it", he said appealing to my soft underbelly. "Can you do it now?"

Early 80's Huffy Bay Pointe

With the 600 colleges and universities in Providence, September is always our busiest month here at Legend. Over Labor Day weekend, Brook Street goes from a shaded, summer trickle to a swollen torrent of cars and trolleys - and yes bikes - which thankfully fills the store with customers and repairs that stand in line to wait their turn. We are currently 2 weeks out on tune ups. Tires and tubes we can usually do within a day, but old bikes like this always give pause because of the potential for rusty disaster. I checked it over skeptically, but this one didn't look too bad. "I'll do my best. Can you come back around closing time?"

I was just finishing up with a repair when he returned at 7:30 so I put the old Bay Pointe in the stand and asked Gary to give me a hand peeling off the crusty tires. The store was quiet and all went pretty smoothly. After about 45 minutes, the bike had new tires, tubes, rim strips, brake pads, brake cables and we installed a Wald Basket on the front.  I was pleased that we were able to get the bike done for this guy's friend and  smiling as I imagined how happy this guy and the world would be with such a finely rejuvenated machine.  Just before I freed the bike from the repair stand to hand to my new friend and get paid for our expert work, I checked everything over and noticed that the front brake was a bit out of balance and was ever so slightly rubbing on the rim.   I wanted to make it better. Grabbing my open-ended 10mm, I reached behind the fork crown to loosen the brake bolt as I had done a thousand times before and without so much as a grunt, instantly sheared the head of the bolt off in my hand. Shit.

this is how the brake looked at 8:15

It was as if the rust that is usually distributed all around a 25 year old bike that has been stored in basements, left out in the rain, abandoned, found, abandoned and found again was concentrated at the crown of the fork where the lifeless nut and part of the brake bolt used to be. I tried to punch the bolt out through the front of the fork crown. Nothing. I tried to twist the brake to break the rusty bond.  no luck.  I tried rust buster. I tried the punch again. I took the brake caliper apart. I grabbed it with vise grips. I pulled out the drill and tried that for a bit. Nothing. The guy was so quiet in our waiting area that I completely forgot that he was there. I started to clean up my bench of all of the tools that had been pulled out. I had to regroup. If this nut had broken at the beginning of the repair rather than the end I would have called off the whole show and handed the birthday bike back and cued the trombone; but everything else was done: the tires, the brakes, the basket, the birthday cake and now it was personal. I banged away on that thing until I finally freed the bugger with the same punch and hammer I had pulled out at the beginning. Victory.

The brake at 9:00

The victory was made sweeter when none of the new brakes I had would reach the rim.   I took off my shirt and pulled out the salvage bin. Our boneyard of salvaged parts is pretty good and times like this remind me how important the whole waste not want not philosophy can be.  As I pieced together a set of calipers that would ultimately work better than the original brake on this department store special, I felt like Rambo in First Blood putting the needle in his arm to stitch up that nasty knife wound. As soon as the needle pricked my skin, however, I woke up in a pool sweat and the faint smell of rust buster.  Too bad it was only a dream.