Category Archives: Wrenchin’

Johan the Gazelle mechanic

I wish I was this guy.

He’s in a clean, open shop that looks very well organized. And that shop coat? I needs it. It has racing stripes!

He cares about his job, you can tell by how tidy his station is. He cares about the shop too I figure – and the shop cares about him. I’ll bet there’s a great cafe across the street where they know all the mechanics by name. The coffee and biscotti are awesome. If the Dutch do biscotti that is.

He’s probably got some Dutch sports talk radio on in the background – just loud enough to hear, but not loud enough to annoy. They’re discussing the latest cycle racing gossip, which he says he doesn’t care about, but he follows avidly.

I think his name is Johan. He’s been a mechanic for probably 40 years. He’s had a nice life as a mechanic, since in the Netherlands, bikes aren’t considered to be toys. He keeps people moving, and that’s worth something.

He’s not rushed. He takes a little longer maybe than the younger mechanics, but whatever he does, it’s 100% when he’s done. This very nice Gazelle (a Dutch brand btw) cyclocross bike will be ready to race as soon as he takes it out of the stand. It’ll just take a few more minutes, why not go get a coffee?

It just looks like a terrific environment. I’d like for my shop to be like this, but I’ve got a ways to go. Step one is that coat…

I figured this picture for the mid-70’s at first, but closer inspection shows aero brake hoods, and those came along in the mid to late 80’s. Maybe Johan’s style is mid-70’s then. But┬áthat’s OK, because Johan is getting it done.

You can relax if this is your Gazelle he’s building, because it’s going to be great, no matter you use it for.

The joy of bike building

Building your own bike is highly rewarding. Not only do you get a bike where every part has your own individual stamp on it, but you get the personal satisfaction of knowing you made it work.

However, you will run into some truly idiotic situations if you mix parts. Of course mixing parts is the whole point of building a custom bike.

So here’s the most recent bit of ridiculousness that I’ve had to deal with;

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I haven’t talked about anything new in the world of bikes for some time, so, let’s talk cranks, because I’ve realized they’ve gone through some interesting changes recently.

1996 Shimano XTR group

The Gold Standard in cranks has almost always been Shimano’s XTR. There might be lighter, or cheaper options than XTR, but historically, XTR has given buyers the best compromise of weight, performance, and price.

And generally, they’ve been the best looking too – but I’m not sure that’s the case anymore.

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Enter the Raleigh (36 Chambers)

You may be familiar with the term “you can’t polish a turd,” which simply means that something inherently bad can’t be made good, no matter how much time or money you throw at it.

The Mythbusters though, proved this to be untrue. I won’t go into the details, but they were able to take actual poop, and turn it into somthing that shines. Here’s how they did it.

Now it’s my turn to see if I can do the same with a bicycle.

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