This Space for Rent

Consumables (pt 3)

A couple of weeks ago – almost immediately after I tore down the bicycle and repacked all of the bearing surfaces that were creaking (not a very long list – the brand new bottom bracket had picked up a bunch of dirt when I went for a long ride in the rain which had worked its way into the outermost threads of the BB shell, and the two dropout bolts on the free radical had worked their way loose enough so they were fretting against the dropouts) – my saddle started to squeak at almost any provocation. I applied some lubricating oil, which seemed to quiet it, but in a couple of days it was back to squeaking, and then I applied some grease to the rails, which did the same.

That’s funny, thought I, perhaps I didn’t lay in the grease liberally enough. So I unscrewed the saddle, shovelled a lot of grease into the saddle clamp, and attempted to bolt the saddle back on. It screwed down to hand-tight, but then the bolt just started spinning freely without showing any signs of tightening.

Golly,” I said, as I tightened frantically, “the seatpost is ruined! I’ll have to replace it

I unbolted the saddle clamp and took a look at the bolt. About halfway down the bolt there was a little spiral of metal trapped in the threads. A little spiral of metal that had, 20 or so years ago, been the thread cut into the special nut that clamped the whole assembly together, but which had slowly sheared loose under the repeated impacts of a 180-190 pound rider on the somewhat less than optimal surface of the Springwater Trail and the chipseal roads I ride on out in the country. When I looked closely at the spiral, the sheared surface was almost all burnished by rubbing against the nut except for a tiny amount at one end, which was just waiting for an opportunity to say “Ha ha!” when I was out in the countryside.

Well, that seatpost was trash. I’d just have to take it out and verify the seatpost diameter, then go to the hardware store, buy some emergency bolts, and bolt the whole thing together for the trip over to the LBS for a replacement. So I’ll just unbolt the seatpost and, um, oh oh.

The binder bolt on my poor bicycle has suffered through a lot, including a lot of saddle adjustments years ago when I didn’t have a metric hex driver. So the cap was rounded, and every time I’d been adjusting it this year I managed to chip away at the remaining corners, until this particular day, when I twisted the hex driver and it, too, just spun helplessly.


At least I have a hacksaw, and there’s enough room between the seat tube and the rear brake bridge to fit that hacksaw in so I could SAW THE BOLT IN HALF. And then I went to the hardware store and got two new bolts, plus enough nuts and washers to clamp the seatpost together so I could saddle up and ride over to the LBS and buy a new no-name seatpost (which, despite being longer than the old Kalloy seatpost that came with my Trek, weighed 40 grams less) in almost deathly silence (broken only by the occasional ghostly groan from the seat rails on my Brook saddle.)

As a general rule, I don’t like to replace components two days before I go on a really long bike ride (like the 300 km one I’ve talked myself into for 3:45am tomorrow morning), but having a saddle that isn’t attached by a rube goldberg kludge seems like a good reason to break this rule. At least if the new seatpost messily disassembles itself 10 miles out of Maupin I’ll be able to go back into the LBS and make nasty comments about components that disassemble themselves within 300 miles of purchase.