Dream Bike:Part 2
Start to Build…March Break 2021: the Build Begins (a.k.a. Ravin works, I bring beer)
It is a typical Lower Mainland, BC end of winter day: low hanging corpse grey skies, a brisk wind that pushes the teeming cloud taps into a thirty degree angle deluge and I am heading to Ravin’s to begin the dream bike build. I am excited, but the weather is absolute crap. I hate the rain and even though I know soon the skies will turn to clear, and the cloudless hot summers are just around the corner, I am cold and wet by the time I pull the boxes of the parts out of the trunk and cross the quiet neighbourhood street to Ravin’s open garage door. I’ve walked maybe seventy-five feet. Soaked.
“Let me help you with that” Ravin says as he grabs at the awkward cluster of drenched cardboard from my hands. “Oh what’s this? This is heavy.” He gives one of the boxes a bounce after spying the requisite cans of local craft brewery I brought along as a humble thanks for what I predict will be a long detailed and strenuous process.
We are both in our pandemic dress code, masks in place and with creased smile lines make eye contact, bump elbows. We’ve agreed to keep the garage door open to encourage lots of air circulating. I glance around the small garage where I’d only quickly visited once before, and am instantly reminded of Ravin’s bike world: six, seven frames line the walls, some in full build, carbon road frames, a gravel bike, a gorgeous pristine steel framed vintage Marinoni decked out in Campagnolo, an aero frame, a Zwift/Wahoo bike setup on the floor for those lovely January rains when indoor cycling is the only sane option, shelves lined with an assortment of bars, saddles, bar bags garish in camouflage patterns, some in natty houndstooth, freshly cleaned chains dangle off hooks ready to be reinstalled, tools that all whisper “Welcome to this bike lover’s lair”, but most importantly, my rims newly shod with tanned walled Schwalbe One 28mm tires, one replete with the rear cassette ready to go.
Unfortunately, one of the tires is losing air too quickly and Ravin suspects we need to re-tape it. Not only have I decided to go disc, but I also have decided to run tubeless for the first time on Ravin’s advice. We strip the rim of the tape, and then he shows me how to carefully, meticulously ensure the rim’s tape is placed to ensure the tape seals properly squeezing every air bubble out with the back of his thumb. After all, I am here to observe and learn in the hopes of being able to do some repairs on my own the in future and not merely watch someone labour for beer. Then comes the fun part. Getting the tire back on. It is difficult to say the least. The tire is so tight, one of the rim levers snaps in two. I am lost, trying to figure how to help, noticing that in all the effort Ravin has torn his thumb nail away from his digit tip, bleeding, while I stand there looking down on him like a roadside construction crew watching their colleague dig out the sewage pit. I feel utterly useless as beads of sweat appear on his forehead. Amidst some choice words and a great deal of torquing, huffing and cranking on his part, I experience lucid nightmares as beads of sweat start appearing on my forehead as I am worried about witnessing my first new carbon rims being destroyed in all the effort. Then with one last gasp and twist, a resounding pop, and the tire and rim are one, finally being filled with air by a still huffing and sweating Ravin. They seat into the rim and keep their PSI. Phew.
Well that went well. I hear my inner voice chime sarcastically. What the hell did I just get my friend into? Why didn’t I just take it to Kissing Crows? Drop some reasonable coin on it and have someone who does this for a living put it all together? Ravin starts unpacking the boxes, and I hear him making small inhalations of appreciation of the still unopened Ultegra. “Jesus man. I can’t believe how lucky you were. This hasn’t been unwrapped! You know universally, this is the most highly regarded group set year after year - ya? And you got it during the pandemic. Wow.”
We continue unpacking, placing things in a random and incoherent order (at least to me), when I see him pull open the Chris King headset in the matching metallic blue of the hubs and I hear Ravin cooing over them, softly touching them with a reverence some have in the presence of spiritual objects. “My oh my. These are absolutely stunning. Look at the craftsmanship here” as he flips the headset repeatedly over and over in his hands, hands that I notice for the first time bear a striking resemblance to my father’s. Now I realize why I didn’t take it all to Kissing Crows and have them put it together. He revels in this moment and despite the energy required, he is in his glory and it would have been selfish of me to take the experience away from him.
Finally, I motion to the box holding the frame gesturing for him to have the thrill of its public unveiling. “Oh mate, please, let me give you the honours” he says as he declines the offer. I am giddy. I feel like it is my fifth or sixth Christmas when I’d accidentally discovered what all the noise in the basement was that my father was making: he and my mom had decided to build me a train set on a huge table about six by ten feet. It had been covered over with a few sheets and a musty old double sleeping bag, but I went down to the basement where I’d been forbidden to go looking for our cat when I noticed a slight glean and shimmer of track on a corner that had been partially uncovered. Over the month of December I had totally forgotten about it. That Christmas morning, when my parents told me to go to the basement to get my sister her gift or some such ruse I instantly realized what was in the basement and screamed out loud in delight “The train!” But now it was the dream bike frame that Ravin and I had spent so much time discussing that was about to be revealed and placed into his frame clamp. If I didn’t know better, I could have sworn I had got the ti frame as a surprise for Ravin. With what limited amount of his mask covered face I could see revealed nothing less than his astonishment and marvel. I was correct. The frame was exquisite. It was truly a thing of beauty to behold.
Up to the clamp it went and then the box of tools I’d never seen before opened and the head tube installation kit was in play. After a few attempts to find the right disc and alignment tool and setting in the bottom of the headset portion slightly askew, the frame was removed and we tried to figure out how to remove the bottom headset safely. More worried sweat beads appeared on both our foreheads. Safely removed, I noticed that it was about to be reinserted askew and so I suggested as tactfully as possible without offending Ravin’s efforts “Hey. Umm, I don’t want to seem stupidly nit picky, but is there a chance we could make sure that the logo is ninety degrees on each side and that it lines up centred on the head tube?” Yup. That’s me. As a person who’s been taught by his parents “A place for everything and everything in its place”, I attempt to create visual balance in my life. I grew up in a home that aspired to Home and Garden photo shoots. My mother has been awarded annually the “Trillium Award” in recognition of the excellence of design of her garden for the past 20 or so years. I admit it. I can be at times, particular, fastidious.
Fussy. I come by it honestly though. I am the person whom my partner watches use a tape measure to ensure the stereo speakers are equally distanced from the entertainment unit or walks through our small space with a level in my back pocket, carefully adjusting the frames of our art. (Feel free to feel sorry for her at this moment in your read). My finicky adjustment request is made to the headset and other things of beauty are installed: a Whiskey No.7 Road Fork and a Thomson Masterpiece seat post, a borrowed stem and bar of Ravin’s (parts still on order) and suddenly, the vague shadow of my bike appears. Magical. Just like Ravin’s hands in the photo below bringing the beginnings of the frame to life.
One thing I notice is that for every piece, a very delicate application of grease is applied with a fine model paintbrush to ease the integration of parts so tightly milled they require exceptional amounts of pressure and torque. They seem surgical in their precision. And so it is with the bottom bracket. Grease applied. Except it won’t go. No matter how much Ravin finagles and adjusts and re-adjusts it will not sit properly, won’t attach to the Birmingham Small Arms Co. (BSA) threaded frame. Nothing. Again beads of panic ladened sweat roll across my forehead while I listen to my friend in a Buddhist monk-like mantra, meditating and mumbling a series of inquiry questions trying to solve the problem. “Maybe too much grease” he finally says loudly and clearly enough for me to hear. He wipes down the bottom bracket, cleaning up the excess grease and it slides in smoothly. No resistance. No effort. Just as if it was always meant to be there. I breath relief and shoo away the nightmare images of a damaged frame and my dreams shattering like ice rink plexiglass hit by a Shea Weber slap shot. The front chainring and cranks are installed even more gracefully and Ravin gently pulls the frame from the clamp. The wheels are installed. He backs it into a stand and there it is. Dream bike. Well, at least the outline of it.
We stand there in front the skeleton of a bike, proudly grinning like two teens who’ve just jumped from the top of the local town cliff into the icy spring river, and marvel at a late afternoon’s efforts. Ravin cracks open a beer and I stand there gaping unbelievingly that the slight thing nestled in the stand is actually mine. It’s getting close to dark and I have to return home to take care of reality and family necessities like dinner and taxes and the list of the “to dos” on my own March Break list. I back away slowly, take the image in one more time and thank Ravin for everything, bumping elbows in substitution for what would normally be a big hug. In my car as I drive past the now closed garage door, I smile and breath a sigh of relief hoping that soon I will snap in my new cleats and shoes into the new pedals to take my first pedal strokes and the first of many kilometres upon my yet to be named new bicycle. Of course only when Ravin calls me to say it is done.
A Well Laid Plan is Never Without Snags
A week later and right on cue, as expected I see a text from Ravin. Wow that guy is a man of his word. As planned he’s managed to finish the build right before the end of March Break. We can go on the inaugural ride this weekend together! Not quite. I read the text closely and my stomach knots up. There is a problem. Two actually. It turns out the hydraulic cables aren’t long enough and I need to get a full length set. Not a huge problem and an easy fix apparently. The other issue is that the calliper mount that came with the group set is designed for 140mm discs and I had wanted and purchased 160mm. I misunderstand the text and erroneously think this is a fault of the frame design, but he assures me this too can be easily worked around. More breathing and less panicking is needed inside my overworking cranium. Slightly disappointed by the news, I take a quick peek at the Environment Canada weather app and realize it’s not going to be an issue anyway. Rain is in the forecast for the entire weekend and there is not a snowball’s chance in Hades that I am going to take the first ride of the bike’s life in a 5 degree Celsius downpour. I want to enjoy that first ride, not loath the experience. I’ll have to wait for another day. Besides, the bike isn’t finished yet.
To be continued...