24 August 2023

Archival footage: A MacGyver Story

The following essay was originally posted to the Vintage, Retro, Classic forum at mtbr.com on 13 June 2023.

JRA in a lonesome meadow which runs for a couple quiet foresty miles between two outlying upscale neighborhoods on the north side of town, I determined, as per usual, to take the higher-harder track this afternoon, the one that climbs over a rough basalt bench, rather than the other, which nearly everyone else takes because it's less angular (in all dimensions) and heads more directly and expediently back into town.

Threading the needle, I pushed the front wheel of my 1987 Panasonic Mountain Cat 7500, oh-so gently between two pointy black rocks embedded in the track, both firmly bolted down with the force of eons of volcanic glue, when, despite the confident finesse with which I executed this fine maneuver, the stem slipped, quite unexpectedly, about 15 degrees to the right of center.

No big deal. Hop off, out with the six-mil hex, a bit of righty-tighty and viola! With the last twist of the wrench, the unpainted aluminum top-cap on the ain't-she-sweet 1" quill Salsa roller stem crumbles to a mixture of crappy metal bits and a smattering of what I'm guessing is fully adulterated AL2O3. The bars now swing freely side-to-side...

A tube, a pump, a couple nylon tire levers, and a Cool Tool seat-post quick release are all the tools I've got. The Mountain Cat is my slackcountry commuter rig, afterall. Hasn't been on a long ride in the woods in decades (it's got seatstay breather-hole cancer). But for years it’s gotten me around town via the sidecountry and interstitials so darn well. So, there I am, not so far from home that I can't self-extract on foot, but reluctant to do so because, in some 30 years of riding, I've only ever walked out twice, once for a broken rear triangle (snapped both chainstays on the only FS bike I've ever owned), and once for a broken fork (fully snapped off one leg of a red Ritchey biplane... didn't want to risk snapping off the other, ya know).

A couple minutes looking at the bike, trying to puzzle out where a flat washer with an ID close to the stembolt's OD might be hiding, and I can't think if a thing... 'cept prolly there's a washer behind the crankbolts that would work (can't actually recall), but the Cool Tool QR tool doesn't have a 15mm socket for this purpose like the original Cool Tool does, just a 10.

Clock ticks off another minute or two as I contemplate other options... not. walking. home.

And then it occurs to me: I might could flip the two remaining parts of the top-cap so what remains of the flange will act as a washer to the recessed retainer and see if it'll bind enough without crumbling to steer without slippage sufficient to get my ass home. One foot-pound of tork, twist-check the bars, then another and another half-a-turn 'til it's juuuust tight enough to ride as slow and as straight as I can.

Something like this:


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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey