Well, this is the first official Greasewipe. It’s Saturday morning, it might be cold out, heads may hurt, legs may hurt more, but nothing hurts worse than trying to climb a beer-pyramid-steep hill in your big ring when the sum of your wattage is coming from a smoldering lump of beer calories and your wife’s last rice cake. If you have a road bike with a gimpy front shifter, then this may be for you. If not, it’s time for pancakes and Tumblr.
This morning’s letter is complements of Joe. Joe has a problem with his bike, and I have too much to say. Let’s do work.
Hi, snakehawk. I used to ride a lot, up to 20 hours per week. I used to weigh 163 pounds. Now, I ride 8-10 hours per week and weigh 20 pounds more. I have a Scott CR1 Pro SL from 2010. It was a frame replacement so the components are Ultegra from the 2006 Scott CR1 Pro which died. The left shifter is getting wonky. Sometimes, it won’t go from the big ring to the small ring sometimes so I have to give it a whack. Then it goes back to work. The right shifter is fine. I love the bike aside from that. I’m not a “shine the components” kind of guy and I don’t care about snob appeal. I ride alone, for fun and for my sanity. Would you replace the left shifter, or would you wait for it to totally crap out? Would you replace both at the same time? Would you go with Ultegra? Would it be weird to switch to something else as the rest of the bike is Ultegra? I love Ultegra but it seems like SRAM is doing really well. Even in peak form, I know I’m a middle of the line component guy. I like getting 80% of the performance at half the price. Since I’m 20 pounds heavier than I am in form, a couple of grams here and there is a joke.
Thanks for your counsel.
First of all, Joe, if you want to talk about battling the fork, write Jonny. You and me — today we talk bikes. Much love. That said, your bike difficulty presents the perfect opportunity to talk about the DC way of mechanical maintenance. I came up in a pre-recession school of repair that believes firmly in resuscitation and resurrection, and your shifter MAY have a chance. When you say you’re not a “shine the components” kind of guy, you make me feel comfortable in letting you in on a trade standard: Shining is for the area immediately surrounding the zip code of the part you just pulled from the warranty bin and installed on your bike so you can ride the fucking thing. For example, you finally scored an aluminum non-driveside BB cup to replace your plastic one, so knock the cytobooger off your BB shell before you throw the cranks back on. That is a pretty clean bike. Now let’s talk shifters. Giving your shifter a whack would have been my first pointer, had you not mentioned it yourself. En Saddle bikewhacks are what keep me alive during my 4 mile Randonneur training rides.
There are a couple things you should try before reaching for the wallet:
- Get some lube, not lithium or waxyish. For what you need to do, spray lube is pref, but whatever. Hit the pivots on your ft. derailleur, as they tend to corrode, especially if your sweating as much as most dudes pushing 2 bills on the scale. In fact, deer probably break into your garage to lick your downtube while you’re sleeping. Give the pivots a night to drink the love. The next morning, kick the beer cans out of the way, take your chain off the rings and manually work the derailleur to make sure it’s moving along its trajectory freely and completely. This probably won’t do a whole lot for you, but it’s old school, and a great way to pinch the church out of your fingernail, thereby upping this repair’s beer allowance.
- Next we’re going to work the shifter over. Flip up the brake release on the caliper, or just take the damned front wheel out so you can get a handful of ft brake lever – you need max access to the guts part of the lever. The real VIP bits are housed in little plastic Mattel Toy panels, so hose it down like a job-killing Occupy Protester. Think American Civil War military tactics – dig a hole under the whole city and try to blow the whole thing up. It may fail, killing thousands of men, but you are the General, and this will look great to your superiors. You should probably have a rag or two on the floor so you don’t jank up your girl’s Pier 1 slave labor rug. It takes forever to pick one of those bastards out. Now, go ride your other bike and hope that the lame shifter’s pawls and teeth and Malaysian fingernails all get kind of re-aligned and cleanish while you’re gone. When you get back, shoo the deer away from your crankset, and if you have an air hose, try to half-throttle-compressor-hose the excess lube out of the shifter. You may want to try the Tony Soprano approach, where you wrap the nozzle opening up in a rag which also wraps around the guts of the shifter. That way when you crack the air lever, you don’t sneeze lube all over your candles and brass elephants and crap.
That’s about all you can do, and if it works, it won’t last forever. What I would suggest for a champion working man rider like you would be absolutely nothing more expensive than an Ultegra replacement. I’d even go 105—it’s got longer road life, it’s cheaper, and it has a slightly more positive actuation. Save the 50 bucks you’d spend on Ultegra and get your girl a new rug. Any reputable shop has a vendor that can get you just one shifter. Dude, even the RX100-whatevers are solid; they just feel and work a little bit differently. The key may be to just get one quickly, since Shimano’s sensible and friction-free cable routing has gone the way of tech-tarded. In other words, it may be hard to find one with the same shape and the same reliable design as 2006-era shifters. You’ll end up riding with two different hoods on your handlepipes, which will feel weird like a motel pillow. Gross.
As for other brands, SRAM’s new road sets are pretty hot, but that’s an all-at-once full group upgrade. Part by part ain’t going to slide. Basically, I’d say keep it in the Shimano family. Don’t ever go higher than 2nd from the top, and if you do, you’d better not be paying for it. Chi-Chi parts are for racers, shop employees whose wives have real jobs, or shop employees that only work when they’re not at their real jobs.
Joe, thanks for the good question. If none of this shit works, I’m neither surprised nor responsible. When in doubt, apathy is the best approach, and when I say that I mean that it’s really just kind of whatever.