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

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).


Wal-mart to ban all sharp implements

April 16, 2007

No, there hasn’t been a formal announcement to this effect, but I fully expect it to happen any day.

I’ve got the inside scoop from an insider.

Don’t blab this too much, but I spoke to an actual “associate.” That’s right, one of the “partners” in the firm.

I think her name was Shirley, and she was ringing up some manure at the counter in the gardening center.

axe_jason_toy-50.jpgYou see, I was in need of a certain common tool used in yard work and farm work. And I figured that since Wal-mart had bankrupted and driven off all of the small local hardware store competition across the land, the mighty one-stop mega-mart would now be my exclusive source for this common hardware item. Looking at all the rustic folks who had just piled out of their pickups and were shopping alongside me, I fully expected that at least a few of them were looking for the same thing that I was.

Surely Shirley could direct me.

‘Tis spring, after all, and the manly urge to clear the land and cleave the soil took root in my being and sprang forth with the warmth of the new Spring sun.

And what more a manly store than Wal-Mart? Where you can buy propane and 5-gallon jugs of water and other survivalist fare.

axe_worlds_largest-50.jpgWhy should I not expect this cornfed retailer to rednecks to vend to me a sturdy, old-fashioned common axe so that I could cut and clear the fallen limbs and dead tree trunks littering my yard?

Baffled I was, then, at scouring the aisles in hardware and coming up empty. So off I went to Shirley in lawn and garden.

Direct me good associate, says I to she, to that which allowed Paul Bunyan to clearcut this mighty continent so that should be lain upon it a Stuckey’s-laden interstate highway system envied the world over.

“We don’t sell axes,” Shirley says, somewhat perplexed-looking upon my request, “because they have sharp edges.”

Crestfallen I was, perplexed myself at the shovels and weeders hanging from the wall opposite. Were these sharp-edged tools soon also to be banned from the gardening center? I wondered how Americans would be able to weed and garden and cut timber. It seemed like a New World Order plot to take away sharp tools [weapons] from the common man. Wal-mart had already gotten rid of guns from most stores. Now axes.

Hoes (no, Don, not the nappy-headed kind) and kitchen knives must be next.


And after that, what then? Sharpies? And why not? Look at what can happen to some fools who are careless with those.——————————>>>>

Yes, I might very well buy an axe and cut off my toes or go on a bloody rampage. Then Wal-Mart might get sued.

And where would I buy my Molly Hatchet CDs, if not for Wal-Mart? I axe you…

axegnome-2-50.jpgThe fate of yard gnomes that come in contact with sharp garden tools could be my own, as graphically illustrated at this website:

Damn trial lawyers and liberals. I blame them for this outrage, of course. And I’m sure Bill Clinton had something to do with it. They’ve turned my Wal-Mart into a pansy store—an ugly version of Target—where I can buy organic tofu but not a hatchet.

So that leaves mega-hardware purveyors Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Home Depot was a nonstarter for me due to their inability to keep certain common items in stock when I need them, most particularly the 59-cent fiberglass 16 x 25 furnace filters. And besides, their website only lists one hatchet and one axe in stock, and they don’t tell you what the handle is made of.

The sparse assortment at Lowe’s was disappointing. Nothing but a bunch of plastic and/or fiberglass handles, hollowed out no less.

Where, oh where, have my wooden handled axes gone? Have I missed out on those, too?axe_collins_axe_50per.jpg

If I’m going to pay $40 for an axe, the handle has to be wood. No compromise.

Strangely, Lowe’s sold axes without wooden handles, yet sold wooden replacement handles for them!

WTF !?

So, in a scenario that is becoming increasingly common in this world, it has suddenly become hard to find something that should not be hard to find.

Yet I can buy a friggin cell phone at Kroger.

Look, I’m probably as metro-sexual as the next emasculated post-modern suburban wuss man. But in that rare moment when my testosterone surges and I wanna split some cherry or oak, by gum, I wanna be able get the tools I need to git ‘er done.

And I mean Amish style. No friggin chainsaws just so I can get it done fast enough to hurry back to sit my lazy ass in front of a 50-inch screen.

[OK, maybe chainsaws scare me. But I’m not talking about cutting enough wood on a regular basis to justify that expense.]

Anyway, no sale, unprovident mega-stores.

I took a rusty dulled old hatchet from my garage and—proving nothing to nobody but myself—chopped every single one of the fallen limbs and threw them into my neighbor’s fireplace wood pile.

So, mission accomplished Wal-mart. I didn’t hurt myself with my old hatchet, or on your non-existent ones.

Hope the tofu thing works out for you.

-Evan G