Torqued

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A long time ago I was pretty expert at lowering and raising my seat post. There was a little Campy bolt and you cranked the crap out of it until it snapped and then you went into Freewheeling and Uncle Phil sold you another Campy bolt for $5 and you never did that again.

After I switched over to full carbon bikes that were 100% carbon and made of full carbon, though, I was taught not to ever tighten anything on my bike because I wouldn’t snap the bolt. The bolt would be fine. What I would snap is the 100% pure carbon and instead of having to shit-facedly go into Freewheeling and shell out $5 to Uncle Phil I’d have to get my credit run, apply for a loan, and make payments for six years on the new frame to replace the one I’d irreparably cracked by over-twisting the seatpost bolt.

Over the years that wasn’t a problem, leaving it to the trained professionals, because every time I bought a bike they would set the seat post and off I would ride. Sometimes the seat was a tad high and sometimes it was a tad low but I didn’t care. The one curse I have always had when it comes to cycling is being comfortable no matter what. No neck pains, back pains, hip pains, wrist pains, nothing, no matter how the bike is set up.

In fact one time I got a pre-fessional bike fit and the gal who fit me said, before she fit me, “So where do you have pain?”

“Nowhere,” I said.

She laughed. “Right. But where do you have pain?”

“When I ride?”

“Yes.”

“Nowhere.”

“Nowhere?”

“Nowhere. That’s how come I like to ride.”

“Well, you’re a pretty old fellow and you’ve had a bunch of bicycle falling off incidents and you’ve been doing this more years than an old redwood has rings, so I’m not buying it. Can you touch your toes?”

“Nope,” I said.

She checked my flexibility. “You have the flexibility of a rusted ingot.”

“That’s how come I don’t do yogurt.”

“Yoga.”

“Whatever. But after all these years, once I get draped over a bike I fit perfectly.”

“Not perfectly, actually.”

“What I mean is, no matter how I’m draped, it doesn’t hurt.”

What all this meant is that from bike to bike the “fit” kind of changed and then when I got my all black Cannondale Super 6 Black Evo Black, they forgot to put that special bubble gum on the seat post and after a while it sank down pretty low so that it looked like this.

img_2234

That’s right, even with my leg fully extended at the bottom of the stroke my knee is bent worse than the centerfold in an arthritis magazine.

So it was brought to my attention indirectly that perhaps my saddle was too low, because even though I won two races with my knees scraping my chin, “You look like a dork,” I was advised by People Who Know.

Back home after the race, then, I was confronted with a significant problem. Take the bike to Boozy P. and have him adjust my seat which was so low I had only won two races with it, or do it myself with the torque wrench set that Smasher had given me somewhat passive-aggressively, knowing that one day I would use it and crack every tube on my bike because in my hands no tool went unabused.

I had to consider the problem from various angles.

  1. What is a torque wrench?
  2. What is a torque?
  3. Am I really too lazy to take the bike to Boozy P., ace mechanic?

Answer key:

  1. I have no idea.
  2. I have less idea.
  3. Yes.

I briefly considered a YouTube tutorial but remembered when I had tried to use one of those to adjust my brakes and wound up buying a new front derailleur. And brakes.

But instead of simply calling up Boozy P. and asking him what to do, I made a list of the three people who would know: Boozy P., Fireman, and EA Sports, Inc.

Each offered a different vantage point. Boozy P. would be speaking from the experience of having done it a billion times, and the toolset that Smasher had given me was the same Super Pro China Torque Spin-Doctor set for $4.99 that Boozy P. used.

EA Sports, Inc., would be able to advise me from the vantage point of an electrical engineer who had also built his home with his bare hands and knew all about tools and stuff. He would be able to provide me deep technical insight into this admittedly complex project.

Fireman would come at the problem viewing me as a complete idiot and having grave doubts that I could hold any tool in my hand without dropping it except perhaps the one I was born with.

I rang up Boozy P. “Hey, man, quick technical question.”

“Sure, Wanky. What’s up?”

“What is a torque wrench?”

“Got a problem with the bike?”

“I was thinking about raising the seat.”

“Hmmm. Why don’t you bring it down to the shop? Won’t cost you anything and it might save you having to get a new frame.”

“Nah, I got this. I think.”

“Right. Well, set the torque to 5 newton-meters and tighten it just like you would with an Allen wrench and when it clicks, stop tightening.”

“What’s a newton-meter?”

“It’s a … you sure you don’t want me to do this for you?”

Next I called up EA Sports, Inc. “Hey, man, I need to raise my seat post but don’t know how to use a torque wrench or even what it is.”

“No worries. What’s the recommended torque for the seat post?”

“Huh?”

“How many newton-meters is it supposed to be torqued down to?”

“Huh?”

“Hang on, buddy. Let me check the Cannondale web site for you. What model do you have?”

“Of what?”

“Of bike.”

“Carbon. Full carbon. It’s the carbon one.”

There was a pause. “What’s the name on the fork?”

“Cannondale.”

He was getting frustrated, I could tell. “No, the model name. Isn’t there a sticker on there?”

“Oh, you mean this one? The one that says ‘Wanky’?”

More pausing. “That’s probably a decal you put on. Does it say EVO Super 6, something like that?”

“Oh, wow! Yeah! How’d you know?”

“Lucky guess.” He browsed for a minute. “Hmmm. Here where it gives you the torque it just says ‘Take your bike to an official Cannondale dealer and have it worked on only by a certified technician.'”

“So how many newton-meter thingies is that? Fifty?”

“Oh, here it is. It says 5. So set your wrench to 5 nm’s, twist the wrench until it clicks, and then stop twisting.”

“Can I give it an extra good ol’ twist to grow on?”

“No.”

“Okay. Thanks, man!”

Finally I called Fireman. “Hey, man, can you help me use a torque wrench to raise my seat post?”

“Sure. Piece of cake.”

“Okay. What do I do?”

“First, take out a regular hand tool and snug the bolt down.”

“How much?”

“As much as you need to so that it’s tight but not too tight.”

“Okay,” I said. “Then what?”

“Then take the torque wrench and throw it in the dumpster. You’re gonna ruin something a lot more valuable than a bicycle if you go around trying to use that thing. You have more thumbs than the floor of a sawmill.”

“But what if it’s not tight enough?”

“Then your post will slip back down and you’ll look like a dork again and win a couple more races.”

I thought about that for a minute.

He had a pretty good point.

END

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