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Fantail

Saturday, July 10, 2010 10:33:32 AM Categories: engineering problems mountain bike New Zealand
 It is Winter. (Have I mentioned this?) It is cold. The moth that fluttered round the kettle this morning seemed out of sorts as if he'd prefer to have stayed in bed for a few more months like a teenager. He resented being captured in cupped hands and when I chucked him out of the kitchen door and he was instantly plucked from the air by a fantail, I saw he had a point. New Zealand possesses these tiny birds just like blue-tits who flutter a yard away wherever you walk, on the lookout for disturbed insects. As soon as they take to flight you just know in your bones that they are called fantails; and so it proves. Fantails are not very clever and whenever they come into the workshop they spend hours attacking themselves in the mirror and perching, slightly baffled, on the badminton racquet below for a rest. The Maoris tell me it's bad luck to have them indoors and that's true, because a month later you find they've been dropping corrosive white chemical onto your supply of silver steel. Chickens are not the only bird that don't just lay eggs.
 
My workshop is full of anomalies like badminton racquets but the mirror isn't an anomaly. It's used for checking one's riding position while building useless fairings, and it makes the workshop twice as roomy, except now it doesn't because I cover it with a garish pink tablecloth to stop the fantail despoiling all my reamers. Why does anyone go to the trouble of making pink tablecloths? My life is full of mystery, including where the pink tablecloth came from. Another mystery is why my cycling tee-shirt has to have a large plastic tab sewn onto it bearing the legend Eden Project. I thought the Eden Project was about recycling and sustainability and whatnot. Large red plastic tabs cannot be recycled, add weight, serve no purpose, and itch. It is as if clothes designer executives have a group session every Monday morning to decide what brainless irrelevancy they can perpetrate upon an insentient and gormless public that week. What they need to do is take lessons from bicycle manufacturer executives, who, as we all know, have group sessions every Monday morning to decide how to make components that work flawlessly and are compatible with all other components. That is how Shimano Index Systems work so well, and why I fitted one to my new perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle.
 
Unfortunately it didn't work.
 
Unfortunately the inner chainring needs a whisker of clearance against the frame so that you can turn the pedals round, and unfortunatelyer Shimano's executives didn't think of this on their Monday morning group session so when I tried to fit a front mech I found that the parallelogram frame is actually too short to lift the chain onto the big chainring. And to rummage for alternatives in the box of spare front mechs I had to move the bandsaw and the table promptly broke off, examination proving the attachment lugs to be made of some flimsy brittle substance approximating to metal but possessed of No Strength Whatever.
 
 Shards of bandsaw
 
 
And two minutes later a temporary German damsel (1) came round the corner wheeling a bicycle with a broken chain-link.

 

Shards of chain

But at least she had the great good sense to keep the chain. The last time I heard of a chain-link breaking was in a phone call from a friend in the village where we lived in England and he had thrown the chain away, being unacquainted with the phrase 'weakest link'. The curious thing was that he was a certain Professor H********, head of department at the largest university engineering faculty in the country. I now start to wonder if his special field of research incorporated bandsaw table lugs, tee-shirt technology and the corrosive metallurgy of bird-lime. I don't think he was a consultant at the Shimano Front Mech Factory.
 
1. She goes back to Germany in ten day's time, slightly chilled and probably exhausted from skiing

 

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