The Lifespan of a Bell Bicycle Pedal = Two Big Weeks

August 21, 2008

A couple weeks back I posted a big tutorial on installing new bike pedals (See How He Uses a Spanner.., Gravy Bread, Aug. 5)—those pedals being Bell Universal Fit Comp Bicycle Pedals, purchased at good ole Walmart. I didn’t honestly expect these pedals to last as long as the previous ones they replaced, which made it very nearly to the three-year mark, three very grueling years. I did, however, expect the new ones to make it for at least one year. Ha! How about 18 big days? That’s right. Catastrophic failure of the right pedal—installed on Aug. 3—occurred the night of Aug.20, on my way home, and this in fairly dangerous traffic. Luckily my foot was able to grip the remaining metal shaft enough to get me over some railroad tracks and out of the way of several cars behind me as we went through a busy intersection. After traffic cleared, I rode back to the spot near the tracks where the pedal had fallen off. Examination later, as shown in these pictures, reveals a complete separation of the middle part from the rest of the pedal. How can something meant for such a serious, grueling endeavor as bike pedaling be so shoddily made? I will be taking this back with the receipt, but without the original packaging (I threw it out) I’m not sure what to expect. I’m more baffled than pissed off. A company is mass manufacturing a product so unsuited and inadequate for its purpose – on the shelves of every Walmart, and that’s a lot of stores with a lot of shitty Bell bike pedals, if indeed, they were made with the same bad plastic or design. Guess I’ll be heading for the bike shop for pedals after all. -EG

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See How He Uses a Spanner to Tighten That Nut; or How to Change a Worn Out Bicycle Pedal

August 5, 2008

In a world where all men are superheroes and the norm is to walk around town wearing your Superman suit, there is one among them who, unknown to all, has a secret. At a moment’s notice and at the beckon call of distressed cyclists everywhere, one of our supermen can secretly and swiftly transform himself into his seemingly banal alter ego: Bicycle Repair Man. Wearing ordinary work duds and meek and mild in appearance and manner, he goes about the task of fixing broken-down bikes, to the astonishment of all the superheroes who’ve gathered around. “Why, he’s mending it with his own hands!” exclaims one. “See how he uses a spanner to tighten that nut!” cries another. In the land of supermen, it seems, the ability to affect simple bike repair is an Herculean ability that eludes them.

His job complete, Bicycle Repairman rises from his stooped work position and confidently snorts up a loogie in throat-lumping pride as he walks off triumphantly. “All in a day’s work for … Bicycle Repair Man,” he states, with perhaps a slight sense of false humility. Another good deed for mankind achieved.

Bicycle Repair Man is the twisted creation of Michael Palin and the Monty Python’s Flying Circus troupe, one of my favorite skits from the classic British comedy show. Unfortunately, I can’t call upon this guy whenever my bike suffers critical structural distress. It’s either shell out the $30 and leave my bike in a shop for a week to work its way through the ever worsening repair schedule backlog, or do the darn thing me-self. As most repairs aren’t major, I most often opt for the latter – and learn a new skill or two in the process.

After three years of continuous, vigorous use, my Schwinn 26″ Ranger mountain bike finally saw its pedals reach the end of their useful lives. The left pedal had completely failed – the outer plastic shell had cracked open to the point that its inner metal shaft was exposed and sticking out, causing the pedal to start drifting away from the crank arm and making for a very loose foot grip. The same process had begun on the right pedal, though not to such an advanced state. In any case, this was a very hazardous situation that needed correction.

Walmart had the goods: a pair of generic Bell bike pedals in the $6 – $7 range for both (though I really had to hunt for them among all the detritus on the bottom floor shelf that had fallen off the hooks above, seemingly undisturbed for months by any attempts at straightening up by store personnel).

The gist here is that bike pedal repair would seem simple, but is not so much. Screw off the old pedals and screw on the new ones, right? Well, not so fast, Bucko! It was actually a bit harder than expected, so let me lead you through the process. All told, this process took me about an hour.

What you will need:

* WD-40
* typically a 5/8ths inch spanner (open end of a solid wrench; forget about trying this with an adjustable wrench – it doesn’t work; bike shops have a special wrench for this, but I don’t have one and you probably don’t either)
* a mallet (yes you will have to do some pounding; barring that, a hammer should do)
* soap and water to clean your greasy hands when finished.

The old rule, “lefty to loosen, righty to tighty” is not necessarily true with pedal removal and installation, so chuck the idea out the window. The right and left pedals are threaded in different directions, so pay close attention.

The left pedal (that is, the pedal on the left that you would see if you were sitting on your bike and looking down) is the one that presents the most difficulty. This pedal is loosened to the right, or backward toward the tire (clockwise); this is counterintuitive to the usual wisdom. And I can guarantee you the pedal’s interior metal shaft will be screwed so tightly into the crank arm that it will seem to be fused solid; seemingly impossible to unloosen.

Step one: Spray WD40 into the pedal screw-in area on both sides of the crank arm (do this for both pedals), and go into the cool house for 15 minutes and eat or do something else while the loosening, lubricating action takes place. This cannot be hurried along.

Step two: Lay the bicycle down on a solid surface. The crank arm will want to turn clockwise as you are trying to unscrew the pedal in the same direction, which makes for a clumsy grip. You will have to improvise here on how to stabilize the crank arm from turning. I used part of one leg to stop the crank arm action and used the other leg to keep the rest of the bike from moving around.

Step three: Take the 5/8ths inch spanner (I assume this is a common size) and grip the screw end of the pedal shaft at the crank arm and start pulling clockwise. If nothing is happening, pound the spanner with the mallet and try not to hit your hand as you hold the spanner in place (which I, unfortunately, managed to do once). After about 6 poundings I finally got the thing to loosen.

Step four: Do the same procedure on the right pedal except follow the old adage “lefty to loosen” (counterclockwise).

Step five: Install the new pedals. your new pedals will either be of one piece and will fit right into the crank arm threads or will come with an adapter piece that first screws into the crank arm (with the pedal screwing into the adapter). Mine was of the latter type, with the adapter. IMPORTANT: do not screw in the pedal or adapter until you make sure you are using the left and right pedals and adapters. The threading direction differs on both, so make sure you check for “R” and “L”, which should be marked in the outer edges of the adapter or pedal. Remember again that the rules about threading direction that applied when loosening the old pedals still apply when screwing in the new ones. If you have to force the things in or notice that the pedals or adapters are not gripping the threads, then you are probably screwing the wrong way. Duh!

The results of this repair/replacement is that I have pedals that—because of the adapter piece—stick out a little farther than my old one-piece pedal mounting assembly did. Nonetheless, a test drive proved that it all felt right. It was certainly better than trying to turn a loose and crumbling pedal.

I can’t vouch for the longterm durability of the Bell pedals, and if you want to get fancy schmancy on style and price and such then you might want to explore your options further at a bike shop. But I didn’t have time to do this, the emergency called for quick action and I bought the first pair I saw. The Bell set says right on the package that it will fit on vitually all bikes. And in this case the claim was true.

Anyway, it’s all in a day’s work for … Bicycle Rapairman (snorts prideful loogie, spits).

-EG


Dereliction of Duty By the Louisville Metro Police as Epidemic of Red Light Running Hits University of Louisville Belknap Campus area

July 24, 2008

(The image at left is not my own, but grabbed off Flicker. It is similar enough to what I am about to convey and will suffice to illustrate).
A colleague of mine just yesterday noted to me that he’d read a report that traffic accident incidents were way down due to people driving less because of high gas prices. To this I expressed surprise, because my darker side assumed that drivers would compensate for the price trends by ignoring red lights and stop signs, thus raising the odds of accidents. Nothing in my everyday biking experience, though, had provided real evidence of this; people seemed to driving just as well or as badly as always.

This morning, though, my more cynical assumption received validation.

Within the span of a minute, just two blocks apart from one another, I witnessed two blatant runnings of red lights. And I’m not talking about drivers who made it just under the wire as the light changed from yellow to red—I’m talking about lights that had been red for a good several seconds. In the worst case, the second incident, the light had been red for almost 10 seconds. This was the sort of incident where pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers and car passengers who happen to have the right of way, aka. a green light, get killed.

The cyclist in this case was very nearly me.

The first incident happened at Third and Lee where I, safely passing under the yellow at Lee heading south on Third Street noticed in the lane to the far left behind me a large produce type truck barreling down Third with no intention of stopping. Mind you, cars on Lee heading east or west for the light at Third cannot be seen by anyone heading down Third, so someone trying to run the light on Third takes an insanely stupid risk. But this jerkoff, sitting high in his mega-truck would not have been the one killed, and his fucking ass probably knows that. I looked over at him and shook my head vigorously in disgust, but regretted my lack of quick-thinking in failing to look for a brand name or license number or truck code number as he passed. Things like this happen so fast that they stun you in your disbelief.

The second incident was even worse than this. As I was passing east on the green light at Cardinal Boulevard, a white SUV traveling north on Second Street at high rate of speed blatantly ran the red light after it had been red for at least five seconds and maybe as long as ten seconds. I had barely passed under the green when this fucktard whooshes by right behind my back tire; I could feel the wind and the rumble of the asphalt from his vehicle weight right behind me.

The guy was practically out of state by the time I could react in any way, which was to look back at him and mouth out loud, “Oh my fucking God! Another one!”

So was this a case of some SUV driver—angry at the world for his own stupid choice of buying a gas guzzling penis-extender-mobile now getting back at a $4-a-gallon-gas world by thinking he now had the right to obey or disobey whichever traffic laws he chooses?

Or was he just on a cell phone? Or asleep? Or just a fucking jerkoff. I would not be surprised if all four of these applied.

So how is it that I’ve got the traffic situation north of the UofL better covered than our vaunted law enforcement?

(Postscript: One day after I posted this, two innocent little girls with the right of way crossing the street at Floyd and Warnock on the eastern side of the UofL campus were killed by a maniac hit-and-run driver eluding police; just a few blocks from the area referred to in my posting. Fortunately, they caught the motherfucker. I volunteer my services to drive over him…)

-EG


That Sunset Last Night in Louisville, KY

July 10, 2008

Biking to the Hurstbourne Green Office Park in eastern Jefferson County, Louisville, Kentucky, is a common ritual for me at dusk. There are lots of empty parking spaces and fun obstacles to swerve around relatively safely, not to mention the weird Omega Man feeling of being alone among all those abandoned glass box buildings. On the way out of my neighborhood toward the park I heard something grind into my tire. Stopping to rotate and look at the back tire I didn’t see anything, so proceeded on to my destination. Arriving at one of the highest elevations in the office park I was greeting by a spectacular sunset and then, after the sun had set, the subsequent light show of rays lending a pink hue to the clouds’ underbellies. After taking these snaps I found that my back tire was completely flat. Mind you, I had just changed this tire about a month ago. This is about the eighth time in two years that I’ve managed to get a hole in the back inner tube. The culprit this time was a one-inch nail similar to a paneling nail. Trying to take a short cut home through the neighbor’s yard after carrying the bike for about a mile I managed to step into a pile of dog shit, thus necessitating the cleaning of said dog shit off my shoe after changing the tire. On the whole, given the sights I saw and the shots I managed to get, the trouble was worth it. The final shot in this sequence is of the sky this morning at about 7:20 a.m. -EG


$5,000+ These Fuckers Didn’t Get From Me

April 22, 2008

I’m sure all of you saw this motley crew of oil execs assembled before Congress a few weeks ago, mainly so legislatewhores could posture and put on an impotent display of righteous indignation in lieu of actually doing anything to push real alternative energy solutions. While most of you out there have been grumbling but continuing to line the pockets of these oilmen (and their multi-wifed brethren in the Middle East) I have been taking the bus to work, in tandem with my bicycle (and yes, winter doesn’t stop me).

It was two years ago this month (April) that I began this daily ritual, and in the process lost 30 pounds, increased my muscle tone and improved lung capacity, heart health, metabolism, blood pressure, circulation, digestion and so on—not to mention notching piles of unread books on the 20-mile journey each way.

Oh yes, there’s much to be recommended about the complete lack of stress resulting from letting someone else do the driving, not having to swerve and avoid maniacs and playing stop and go with my feet on a gas-guzzling pedal. I can sleep, read, dream, whatever. And I’m inside a vehicle bigger than a tank, so it’s pretty safe.

And it costs $29 a month. See how much gas that gets you–and how far you can get on it.

AS for me, I ride for free because one of my perks of employment is free unlimited TARC rides with an employee ID.

But the most satisfying thing of all is that the oil industry and the profit-gluttonous CEOs who are sucking up all that cash from you got no more than $6 from me over the last two years. (Had to fill up my lawn mower a few times; otherwise most weeks I use a gasless Scott’s reel-mower, just like my grandparents did.)

So adding that up, that’s about $5,000 or so that Big Oil didn’t get from me in the past two years.

And although I know this is an overused picture on the Internet, there is just no better F-YOU! photo ever taken than this one of Johnny Cash. So Big Oil, let Johnny Cash send my message to you loud and clear.

-EG


This Here is a Louisville Blog; Let it Be Known

June 15, 2007

louisville-skline.jpgHaving been almost fully dependent on my bike for more than a year now, I’ve more clearly noticed the surroundings and all the good things I used to ignore as I tooled around in an auto in this here hometown metropolis of mine, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

At some point during the process yesterday of adding lots of new links to my “Louisville, Ky. Stuff” blogroll over there at page right, it occurred to me that this is a damn fine city.

louisville-waterfront2.jpgI didn’t always think so.

I’ve been to a few other places: Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta and so on, and been impressed by what some of those cities have done. San Francisco is the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen; Chicago is the most exciting (I’m probably the only person I know who still has never been to New York City, but I’m sure that would be even more exciting).

By contrast, Louisville to me seemed a backwater, a surrogate target of my own scorn, maybe even a reflection of self-loathing and an inferiority complex.

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Part of that notion might also be due to the influence of various well-meaning but misguided local businessmen and “leaders” who think we need things like professional sports teams and giant new stadiums so that we can be like Indianapolis or Atlanta. There’s a certain unseemly penis envy about this kind of manly inferiority between cities. Who the hell wants to be bigger, more congested and more polluted, anyway?

Louisville isn’t going to have a better quality of life or be better loved by locals or more admired by outsiders just because it has a pro basketball team. That’s dime-a-dozen shit, and pea-brained thinking to boot.

louisville-cherokee.jpgBy getting out and about more, I’m discovering what makes Louisville unique and different. And none if it has to do with, nor will it ever have to do with, having some tax-sucking sports franchise that costs the average family $200 a game.

But, getting out of the car and getting around on my own power has opened my eyes. I breathe the open air and feel the atmosphere around me better perhaps. I’m more curious to explore, and more fascinated by what I see.

Part of that has to do with aging, and part of that maturation has to do with seeing the positive in my own back yard.

I’ve come to realize that we’ve got it pretty damned good in good ole Louisville.

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Consequently, an almost embarrassingly maudlin sense of pride about my hometown has overtaken me of late. I might even be perfectly happy to spend the rest of my days here.

Why that is would take a lot of pages to explain, and would sound too much like I was a shill for the convention and visitor’s bureau. Anyway, this organization has named our River City/DerbyTown USA/Lou-a-vuhl one of America’s 30 Most Livable Communities.

louisvilleshakespeare.jpgAs far as culture and recreation go, we are really wanting for nothing in this town. We have nationally respected theatre (stuff has premiered here at Actors Theatre before becoming hits on Broadway), opera, ballet, a fine orchestra, dance groups, literary groups, chamber ensembles and a Bach Society, a bohemian strip along Bardstown Road where edgy indie bands play and great restaurants abound and every hot young thing wants to be seen, classy gentrified and beautifully restored and preserved 19th-century neighborhoods and downtown iron-cast storefronts, a good library and universities, a super art museum with a real Rembrandt, a recently developed recreational waterfront on the Ohio River, triple-A minor league baseball in a spiffy new riverfront park, and unique museums and other attractions all over the place, including a planetarium and an old steamboat.

louisvillepalace.jpgThe Louisville Place has to be one of the most stunning venues for live and film entertainment in the country.

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louisville-thunderover.jpgNot only do we have the Kentucky Derby, but we have a Derby kickoff event that has far surpassed it in scope and attendance, Thunder Over Louisville, the largest annual fireworks display on the continent.

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louisville-art-glass.jpgAnd there are lots of funky nooks and crannies that make a city a real city, not just a collection of big suburbs surrounded by a tiny core of pathetic buildings that lack cultural cohesion and breadth (I’m thinking, of course, of Kentucky’s second-largest “city,” Lexington).

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a hipper music store than Ear-X-Tacy anywhere else in the United States, or a better video store than the amazing Wild & Woolly Video, or a funkier bookstore than the rambling All Booked Up—all of them on Bardstown Road.

louisville-bar.jpglouisville-jazz-factory.jpeg

In Louisville we can go to a jazz nightclub, or turn on our radio 24 hours a day and hear Beethoven or Mahler or Duke Ellington or Tom Waits or Stereolab. That’s because we have three topnotch public radio stations. Very few cities this size can boast that.

And if we want to get our rocks off we can go to Louisville’s vast, evil network of adult businesses, and there are lots of them all over louisville-at-night.jpgtown, from the Lion’s Den to Priscilla’s to Deja Vu to Frederick’s of Hollywood to message parlors and escort services and gay bars. You see, a lot of us ’round these parts figured out that sex is natural and necessary and a basic human need. In fact, Louisville just oozes and reeks with dirty, filthy sinful SEX. Ewwww, gross.
But if you want to go to church here, there are even far more of those around—for all denominations and faiths. And there’s country line dancing too at Coyote’s nightclub.

 

louisville-4thstreettrolley.jpg

So, we are weird, in a good way. We are diverse and eclectic and eccentric and stark raving mad in a joie de vivre sort of manner. In other words we are not bland or banal or predictable or stuck in a go-nowhere dusty vacuous stark and repressed past or satisfied with everyone’s else’s low-bar expectations.

Exhibit A: Hunter S. Thompson came from here. And if you’re really hip, you know about Slint.

louisvilleyorkstatue.jpgFor these things, of course, the rest of the state of Kentucky hates us. And that just makes me fall in line in loyalty to my city all the more. Louisville pays the bulk of taxes for this Commonwealth and gets far less back in investment in return. And the gratitude we get for this is concealed jealously and scorn and stupid laws aimed against our progressive, cosmopolitan ways by the legislators who prefer to answer to the retrograde Rev. Billy Bob Chickenplucker types from Hogshit, Ky.

Hate and ignorance aren’t good enough for Louisville.

A similar vibe struck me a few years back when some fundamentalist-type southern Kentucky relatives of my wife—nice and polite folks, I’ll grant you—visited us at our suburban Louisville home and we took them out to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom amusement part next to the fairgrounds. That’s all well and good, but that’s all they wanted to do. They didn’t want to go downtown and see other attractions with a true local flavor because they were “afraid” of crime. Never mind that Louisville’s crime rate is low—or that they’d be more likely to be struck by lightning on their rural spread than mugged on our city streets. Expanding their cultural horizons was really what they feared.

louisville-slugger-big-bat.jpgThrough political fashions, including the 30-year trend toward electing conservative Republicans in practically every office in this state, the mayoralty of Louisville has remained staunchly and solidly Democratic, as has our aldermanic board. That’s because people here like solid, competent, dependable leadership, and prefer not to trade good basic governance for irrelevant, divisive ideology. God doesn’t make government work, thinking and working people do.

Although he has enemies as all politicos do, long-time Mayor Jerry Abramson (or as one local radio DJ calls him, “mayor for life”) is probably the most liked politician in the country.

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Meanwhile, our Republican governor, Ernie Fletcher, can’t even get our downtown I-65 bridge painted properly without corruption and in a reasonable time…

louisville-waterfront3.jpgSo are we arrogant and elitist here in Louisville? Well, when you’re clearly superior, why the hell not be?

As in the past, I intend to post more stuff about Louisville in and among my other various ramblings. My intention is to keep the blog split about 50-50 between Louisville stuff and other various non-Louisville related topics.

louisville_sistercities.jpgAs I tool around on my bike with my digital camera, I’m snapping pix like a fool. What I hope to cover are people and things that the local media and others ignore or miss. Some of it will be ugly and some beautiful.

To me, even some of the ugliness is beautiful. Industrial ruins for instance; the despised and forgotten corners of Louisville’s past.

I hope to talk to poets and street people and people who ride the buses, and report what I find.

I recently interviewed Louisville’s number one atheist. I have some good snaps of this unique individual and his mission and hope to have an article on him soon.

I want to photograph the interiors of funky musty bookstores and other unique venues.

I will wax nostalgic about past people and places in this here town
louisville-belle-of.jpgI might even complain about some of the bad things that plague us here: the unpredictable weather and heinous summer humidity, smog and pollen and the shitty Keystone Kops way our police do traffic control during special events and so on.

Whatever the case, I hope you can take the journey with me.

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And in case I haven’t made it clear yet, Louisville is fuckin’ cool.

-EG

—photo credits/ All images were borrowed from publicly displayed and openly accessible websites/ if anyone has a problem with their images being displayed here, please tell me and we can either take it down or re-do the photo credit to suit your needs:

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Louisville Skyline at night found at Louisville Metro Guide.

Thunder Over Louisville by Gene Burch found at Gene Burch Photography


This is Why Cities Get Sued

May 23, 2007

100_0451.jpgWhat you’re looking at here is a foot-and-a-half deep hole on Langdon Drive next to Rolling Hills Plaza (a few steps away from the Dollar Tree) just off Westport Road in eastern Jefferson County (Louisville), Ky. This thing has been inviting car tires and unwary night walkers and bikers to fall into it for months now. It’s been there at least two months without anything being done about it, although I noticed this past weekend that somebody had finally at least put a caution horse with a reflector around it.

Somehow our society has money to waste in Iraq but not enough to fix minor yet potentially dangerous infrastructure problems like these. It’s about priorities, folks.

-EG