In The Red Or In The Pink?

At what point do you just pack it in?

Whether it’s a relationship, or a job, or that guitar you’ve been trying to learn for the past 14 years, there comes a time when you have confront the possibility that you’re deluding yourself, and decide whether it is nobler in the mind to persevere and see whatever it is through, or else to move on, salvage a bit of dignity, and refocus that energy onto something that might yield actual progress.

It is in this context that the Faggin–faded, funky, and pink–has reentered my life as a poignant metaphor and the physical manifestation of my ongoing attempts to differentiate between dedication and futility in my various endeavors. Is it a once-proud racing bicycle that is now undeniably at the end of its life? Or is it merely in a transitional phase, and on the cusp of entering a new, proud, and productive phase of its existence?

I must contemplate these questions, for it’s near the end of the week and I’ve been toiling over this thing since last weekend. As I mentioned yesterday, I ordered new freehub body for it, and it arrived that very afternoon, at which point I got right to work:

I should mention I could not find the exact freehub body, since it’s an older hub and the exact replacement is no longer available. However, after much research and poring over exploded diagrams I ordered one that I was fairly confident would work. The old freehub body came off easily:

I had set the wheel aside several years ago after the freehub body started making an ungodly noise. Of course I never got around to replacing it, and it was now completely seized:

To my nerkid eye, the old freehub body and the new one were identical, and indeed the replacement bolted right on without a hitch. However, when I put everything back together I had all this extra axle sticking out–so much that I figured I must have forgotten a spacer or something. But I’d even gone so far as to photograph everything before taking it apart (if you’re a hapless bike tinkerer I highly recommend snapping a picture of everything you disassemble as a rule) and there was no way I’d omitted anything. I could only conclude that some dimension of the new freewheel was different–the bearing race sits more inboard, maybe?–so I went to the wheel I’d just removed (also a Shimano, though I’m fairly sure an incompatible freehub body, as it’s “11 speed”) to see if there were any spacers I could cannibalize:

Removing both axles, I engaged in much trial and error…

…and finally arrived upon an arrangement that: 1) left the right amount of axle on either end for it to sit properly in the dropouts; B) resulted in the wheel being centered in the frame.

Once I’d gotten the wheel properly spaced and centered–and readjusted the derailleur accordingly–I headed out for a test ride. Everything worked great…except now when I’d shift all the way down and rock the bike back and forth on a steep climb the inside of the pulley cage would occasionally graze the spokes ever so slightly.

I fussed with the derailleur’s “B” screw as well as the dropout adjustment screws, but couldn’t eliminate the problem completely, and I’m pretty sure it’s due to the design of the derailleur itself:

See those pulley screws? See how they stick out, particularly the one on top near where the spokes cross? If you look at a road derailleur the inner part of the pulley cage is nice and flush. I’m guessing that, since this derailleur isn’t meant for racing bikes, the engineers weren’t so concerned with spoke clearance. (Or else the Faggin’s derailleur hanger is bent, but I don’t think it is.) It wasn’t a problem when I had it on the RockCombo, but I did note that it came pretty darn close. It also wasn’t a problem with the other wheel, but that had fewer spokes, and they were bladed.

So next I resorted to desperate measures in an attempt to free the stuck (and subsequently stripped) limit screw on the Ultegra derailleur I originally wanted to use:

I’m sure there’s all kinds of stuff you can use to extract a screw with a drill, but I don’t have any of it, so I simply tried to drill right through with the smallest bit I had in the hopes that, I dunno, maybe I could just thread a new screw through there or something? But it was taking too long, so I gave up…for the time being.

Then I went for a ride.

Since the Faggin is ostensibly an urban runabout I stuck to the city streets. Here’s some more new Bronx bike laneage:

Like every bike lane project it’s a little better and a little worse at the same time–better since sometimes it’s nice to have a “protected” bike lane, but worse since it sucks being stuck in a “protected” bike lane when it’s full of people, or potholes, or glass and other assorted debris, as it is a lot of the time:

About eight or nine miles later I arrived at Randall’s Island, and decided I’d put together an excellent city bike:

It felt like quite the little go-getter, and the matching wheels went a long way towards redeeming its questionable appearance:

The derailleur/spoke contact really only happened if I tried to make it happen, and even then only minimally. I figured the likelihood of the derailleur winding up in the spokes–or even scratching them enough to compromise them–was extremely slim, so I decided I can live with it until such time as I manage to free that screw or another derailleur becomes available, which is liable to happen at any time since I’m always swapping stuff around on my bikes:

As for the rear wheel spacing, judging from how much I had to readjust the rear derailleur, something weird must have happened as a result of the freehub body swap, but it shifts just fine and I’d say the wheel is pretty well centered:

Certainly if it is off it’s not enough to see:

And yes, while I was messing with all this stuff I did also take off the Arclight pedals, at least for now:

They’ll no doubt find their way back onto this bike, or maybe another, but I thought these would suit the bike’s overall vibe and I couldn’t help myself.

Oh, and I’m going to figure out how to give away that second pair of Arclights, so if you need a pair of light-up pedals keep your ears peeled.

As I’d struggled with the bike earlier that morning I’d felt like maybe it was a lost cause, but now I was feeling good about it:

So I headed back towards home:

In addition to all the various wacky e-whatevers, the streets are also now full of unregistered motor scooters. This one’s Uber Eats:

And this one’s Female Uber Eats:

Anyway, I was beginning to think maybe my rolling metaphor symbolized new beginnings as opposed to the end of the road, but moments later my optimism vanished with a hiss as I incurred my third flat in a week:

Evidently the quickie stick-on patch I’d used failed, and I blame that ferret:

So there I was, my bike and I both deflated and well past our prime, and I reached into my bag only to find yet another faded metaphor of my diminishing relevance:

Had the glue inside been miraculously usable I’d have interpreted this as a sign of hope, but of course it was dry and useless:

Fortunately I had a spare tube, but I couldn’t help feeling dry and useless myself, a bedraggled specimen astride a bedraggled specimen:

Time goes by, the paint job starts to fade, and replacement parts grow harder to come by. To keep it going requires equal parts resourcefulness and obstinacy. “Is it even worth it?,” you ask yourself as you grind away at a stuck screw, or pedal towards home on your last good tube, one more shard of glass away from having to walk. But you do make it home, and what’s more, you look forward to doing it again.

As long as you can keep this old thing rolling you decide you’re going to ride it.

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