A Christmas wish come true

Bike-assembly elves had a busy night preparing for Christmas day.

Bike-assembly elves had a busy night preparing for Christmas day.


I never was much of a wrench, and I have not gotten better with time, as I proved last night while assembling bikes for families in need.

It took about one minute to recall why I didn’t enjoy working in the repair shop at Palo Alto Bicycles back in 1979. I’m like a beginner violinist. Lacking coordination, unpracticed. No mechanic worth his weight in Phil Wood grease would need five minutes to adjust a front brake.

I once hired a Toyota dealership moonlighting mechanic to work on my car and he let me watch. It was like cellist Yo-Yo Ma making beautiful music. He could troubleshoot like no other, and there was nothing he couldn’t fix.

But I digress. Fortunately I broke my wrist in a bike crash on Mt. Hamilton and that put me in mail order. Much better. I could sort and pack, process returns.

Target bike quality
While working on the bikes sold by Target I learned a few things. Magna mountain bikes, retail $100, aren’t bad. They would be fine for around-town riding. Just don’t take them on a trail with serious jumps. They’ll snap like a dry twig.

How Target can make a profit on a bike costing so little is a mystery. It’s not like they’ll get rich from return customers buying bike accessories. Tubes? Tires? Give me a break.

Quality is decent. Sure there was a glaring gap in one of the robot-welded frames, but all in all the parts work. I was especially impressed with the gears. Nice shifting.

A few pointers. These bikes need tuning by a pro. The bottom brackets barely turned on some bikes. Fortunately I had the tools. Brakes are hard to adjust. It was a combination of poor alignment, cheap parts, lack of lubrication, and incompetence.

Headsets were tight, some so bad the forks barely turned. That’s an easy fix when you have the right tools. But what of the poor person buying this bike and trying to assemble with no experience? It’s a frightening thought.

Fortunately some local agencies have the best interest of the less fortunate in mind. They relied on experienced bike riders to put them together and then they took those bikes to a shop for further inspection. So for someone’s Christmas morning it’s going to be a smooth ride on a shiny new bike. It was a pleasure to help.

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One Response to “A Christmas wish come true”

  1. Mari Lynch - Bicycling Monterey Says:

    Thanks for making it possible for more folks to bike.

    I also appreciate your recommendation that new bikes such as this be tuned by a pro. I’ve suggested that to folks who are buying used bikes, of course, and your hands-on experience with these new ones gives helpful, specific examples why pro tuning can be wise with new bikes too. I’ve added a link here: http://marilynch.com/blog/tips-for-tourists/need-something-maam

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