Workstands set up with SRAM wound up the first day. We initially worked with rear derailleur setup, and the instructor explaining the advantages of SRAM two-spring rear derailleurs over three-spring models. All the bikes had intentionally out-of-alignment derailleur hangers and misadjusted derailleurs, our job was to get them back to spec. After the adjustments were finished and everything was kosher, we then got the pleasure of "fixing" the derailleurs and hangers for the next groups of students. Both Campagnolo and the SRAM rep instructors said that they didn't even bother with chain lube—they just put on a new chain and ride it until it needs to be replaced. One of the other attendees asked whether SRAM road levers can be rebuilt which initiated an enthusiastic conversation regarding parts availability. Once that bump in the road passed, we concluded the session by observing the removal, disassembly, reassembly and reinstallation of a HammerSchmidt 2-speed crankset. We got to examine the disassembled crank, and after it was reinstalled, we were given an opportunity to take the bike for a spin down the hallway. I'm not a mountain bike guy, but have to admit that I thought the HammerSchmidt was pretty impressive.
I started Day Two with Park Tool's Calvin Jones, Director of Education. Pretty laid back, he nonetheless clearly knew his stuff and delivered it with a great sense of humor. Concentrating on frame preparation, he spent the first part of the class on theories of threaded fastening, the types of threads, why they're used, torque, and what goes wrong and why. We then worked on frames with bottom brackets and head tubes purposely fouled with spray paint. We chased, faced, and discussed why and when to do/not do each. Between facing disc brake mounts on suspension forks, discussing the special frame prep needs for installing HammerSchmidt cranks, and headsets and the different reaming needs of each, I learned a few valuable lessons.
- as a home mechanic, I could never buy all the tools I might possibly need
- A headset press alone just wasn't going to cut it!
- We should be mechanics who work on bicycles, not bicycle mechanics.
- As the former, we can be valuable problem solvers.
- As the latter, we just bolt parts on frames
- That hopefully those frames don't need reaming, chasing and facing!
In the Avid and Hayes sessions we had the opportunity to disassemble, reassemble and bleed hydraulic disc brakes. Not having worked on these systems, I nonetheless managed to hold my own, despite a bit of squirted brake fluid in the Hayes session. I wasn't the only one to do this—the instructor declared that it's not a career breaker—he then let on that years ago as a race mechanic, he had squirted brake fluid on John Tomac and his son! I bled both systems, had no problems pulling things apart and even got them back together with a little watchful help from my peers. In the Avid session, I heard whisperings that Hayes brakes were easier to service, and I heard the opposite in the Hayes session. Since we didn't know in advance what we'd be doing nobody brought aprons or safety glasses. There were plenty of stained clothes by the time it was all over but it was fortunate that nobody ended up with an eyeful of brake fluid.
Attending the Tech Summit was a great experience. Opportunities to work with the best mechanics on the best bicycle components are few and far between. As one of the few (if not the only) amateur mechanics in attendance, I learned a great deal and actually kept up with things better than I could have expected. I appreciate that Campagnolo, Avid and Hayes let us tear apart their gear to our collective heart's content, but wish that Shimano and SRAM had similarly let us disassemble their road components. I also think that troubleshooting should have received more attention. Sure, it came up from time to time, but our instructors were in the best position to know what problems are the most common with their brands and to share with us which of them can be repaired, and which should be referred for warranty repair or replacement. Knowing this could save shops a great deal of time, effort and money.
As a confirmed bike geek, one of the best parts of being at the Tech Summit was the opportunity to spend a few days as a part of a very special fraternity. The level of cordiality was higher than I've seen at a lot of (self-proclaimed) professional conferences. The registration lines were orderly and no one tried to sneak ahead. Late comers were accepted without grumbling. Workgroups queued quickly, and no one was discriminated against based on age or ability. The advanced students never failed to help the less experienced, sometimes stepping back to let them do most of the work and I might add letting them have the most fun. To my knowledge, no parts or tools were pilfered, and nobody tried to get more than his or her (as a note, women were woefully underrepresented here) fair share of the free goodies. All of our instructors were knowledgeable and despite their grueling schedules, were patient and displayed good humor. After the last session, many of the attendees stayed to help clean up the rooms and pack up the parts and tools. We were a motley crew to be sure, but we were all in this together, and I was proud to be a part of the group, even if only for a couple of days. On that note, see you at the next AIDS Ride, I'll be the one smiling and fixing your bike...