Basic Wrenching at Caltech

We had our first Basic Wrenching class yesterday at the Caltech Bike Shop. I think it went pretty well. Maybe a little bit chaotic, and a few too many people – but that’s okay. Someone brought chocolate chip cookies, and someone else brought chocolate banana bread! A great start!

I helped 9 people take their front wheels off, remove their tires and tubes, and then walked them through patching one of the many tubes that we had laying around at home with holes in them. Steve from Open Road graciously gave us some patch kits and chain lube and tire levers for the effort. John McKeen walked people through adjusting their brake and shifter cable tensions, and Katherine gave people bicycle anatomy walkthroughs. I think Ian kind of floated from one place to another. There were at least 20 people total. Hopefully most of them got something out of it.

The shop itself is almost completely barren – everything but the tools was jettisoned for the South Hovse remodel unfortunately, and the Moore-Hufsteadler funding hasn’t come through. They (I think rightly) pointed out that we really need to have some procedure in place to keep the tools from diffusing away. I don’t really want to call it “theft”… but when people can borrow things, they do tend to end up making a kind of random walk away. That’s just (social) entropy. But we really do need workbenches, and a couple more stands, and a big toolbox, and pegboards that haven’t had all of the tool outlines turned into phalli. So I hope we can agree on a structure that we’re willing to implement, and they this is acceptable.

There’s lots of room in the “rafters” of the shop to hang bikes, if we can get some hooks and cables set up somehow, safely. I think it would be great if we could operate like the Bike Oven, letting people work on abandoned bikes we get from Security, and then buy them for cheap. And it would be nice if we could have a selection of patch kits, tubes, and tire levers, that people could buy at cost (or at least cheaply).

Maybe what we really need is a separate bike shop “membership”, with a minor fee to cover consumables like oil and patches and grease and gloves, etc., and to serve as an official designation for the people who have access to the shop. Then, at least once a week, I think we should commit to having a mechanically inclined person down there willing to help anybody else out who wants to work on their bike, so that it’s a Caltech Community resource, instead of just a closed club.

I think I’ll see if I can show up (extra) early next Monday, and do a little tool organization, and make sure to bring the work stands from home, and maybe my own personal tools, since it seemed like we really were lacking some basic stuff – or it just wasn’t findable.

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Zane Selvans

A former space explorer, now marooned on a beautiful, dying world.

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