A couple of days ago I noticed that the Reckless Mr. Bing Bong’s steering was kind of sluggish. At the time I thought maybe the reason for that was the heavy load of groceries I was carrying. All the weight was on my right side in a single pannier. I had no doubt that lop-sidedness threw off my steering.
The next day, my bike’s steering was even more stiff and I had no groceries to blame. “Damn, I do NOT like bike problems,” I reminded myself. I guess the main reason I don’t like bike problems is that I have almost no mechanical skills. I can work an Allen wrench, I can change an inner tube, I can lube a chain. That’s about it.
Normally when faced with something more complicated, I either bring the bike to a bike shop or to my famous brother/Park Tool executive.
This time, however, I decided to try some trouble-shooting on my own. I’ve heard that bike shops are backed up for weeks these days. I know my brother has things going on in his own life and I can’t expect him to come to the rescue at a moment’s notice. And “a moment’s notice” is what I needed. My mountain bike is dead and my roadie bike is worthless in snow, so I cannot afford to give up The Reckless Mr. Bing Bong for more than a day or two.
My first thought was to bring the bike into the house. My garage isn’t heated, so the bike is just really cold. I figured ice and snow had worked it’s way up into the fork and was freezing up the steering mechanisms. All it needed was to thaw out for a few hours. Yeah, that’s it.
Unfortunately, after four hours in the warmth of The Greg Room, the stiffness in the steering had not improved one iota. That’s when I decided to attempt something I never would have considered before: I disassembled the entire headset.
I admit I didn’t understand a lot of the terminology in that book and I didn’t have the recommended tools. But the important thing I learned was to take notes during the disassembly so you can reassemble all the parts in the correct order. Thank goodness I followed that advice.
I wiped some rusty-looking sludge off the fork post. Everything else looked pretty good. I put the stuff back together in order, tightened it all up, hoped for the best, and, I’LL BE A MONKEY”S UNCLE, THE STEERING WORKED AS GOOD AS NEW.
I was apprehensive this morning. Everything on the bike felt great and it LOOKED great too because I washed it thoroughly. Yet, I couldn’t get it out of my head: What if I screwed up my headset and the steering locked up and I ran straight into the path of a big truck because I couldn’t turn?
I continued to ride anyway because it was an unseasonably warm (30-degrees F) and sunny day. I had to take advantage and I took some pictures to share.
I rode uphill on 2nd Street from the historic downtown area and then took the bike path back downhill just for fun. It was snowy and icy and it really was fun. But I kept my right foot ready to prevent a fall at all times.
At this point, I must end Part One of today’s bike ride. That would be the “nice, pleasant, uneventful” part mentioned in the title. Things turned much more frightful at the end. MUCH more frightful. It was so awful that I just can’t bring myself to write about it today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to muster the courage.
How’s THAT for a cliffhanger ending? (But don’t worry, the scary part has nothing to do with a catastrophic steering failure.)