Installation Instructions

When I arrived back in China it was dark, but not dark enough for me not to notice someone had nicked the saddle from the missus’ electric bike. But I had a heavy bag to lug up five flights of stairs and I decided it could wait until the following morning. After all, I reasoned, even if both mountain bikes were off the road, there was still my trusty old Chinese bike leaning up against the wall next to the saddle-less electric bike.

The next morning I mounted up and I got about 10 yards down the road before the chain dropped off. I wasn’t too worried, it’s an old bike and this happens from time to time as the back wheel slowly moves out of position in the frame. I went back up five flights of stairs, got the toolkit, readjusted everything and set off again. I managed at least 20 yards before the chain dropped back off. No matter, I thought, I’ll just take the moped, and walked down to the main gate where I keep it parked to stop the same people who nicked the saddle getting more ambitious ideas.

The battery managed two wheezy turns before surrendering. So there I was; three bikes, an electric bike and a moped all out of service and an estimated high for the day of 44C with 65% humidity. After some deliberation I figured the best bet was to try and fix one of the mountain bikes because, after all, how difficult could it be to replace a bottom bracket?

The instructions that came with the overpriced part ($79.95) certainly gave no hint of possible problems, concentrating instead on the range of catastrophic possibilities that awaited anyone foolhardy enough to stick a leg over the top bar.

– Before riding you should carefully check your crankset to make sure there are no cracks, and if you find any sign of a crack or any other unusual condition, do NOT use the bicycle
– Be careful not to let the cuffs of your clothes get caught in the chain while riding, otherwise you may fall off the bicycle
– Check that the tension of the chain is correct and that the chain is not damaged. If the tension is too weak or the chain is damaged, the chain should be replaced. If this is not done, the chain may breaking and cause serious injury
– If the inner cover is not installed correctly, the axle may rust and become damaged and the bicycle may fall over and serious injury may occur as a result
– Obtain and read the service instructions carefully prior to installing the parts. Loose, worn or damaged parts may cause the bicycle to fall over and serious injury may occur as a result. We strongly recommend only using genuine Shimano replacement parts.
– Obtain and read the service instructions carefully prior to installing the parts. If adjustments are not carried out correctly, the chain may come off and this may cause you to fall off the bicycle which could result in serious injury.
– Read these Technical Service Instructions carefully, and keep them in a safe place for later reference.

On the other hand, the installation instructions were limited to a single sentence

Installation of the adaptor
Use the TL-FC32/36 special tool to install the right adaptor (counterclockwise thread), the inner cover and the left adaptor (clockwise thread)
Tightening torgue: 35-50N-m

I particularly liked the last recommendation “Read these Technical Service Instructions carefully, and keep them in a safe place for later reference.” What kind of person takes out their bottom bracket installation instructions to review bicycling safety procedures? I’m not going to go off on one of those rants about health and safety gone mad, I get it, it’s for legal purposes and like iPhones and digital tv, it’s just an unfortunate consequence of living in the twenty first century. There’s not too much you can do about it except to cock a thumb at those who would have us stay tucked up in bed, and learn to juggle with kitchen knives or move to somewhere like, I dunno, China. But what I do find odd is that these are safety warnings for installing a product on a mountain bike which is a sport that is inherently fraught with dangers. When I’m going down a ski slope at 45mph, getting the cuffs off my clothing caught in the chain is generally the least of my worries.

Anyhow, the brevity of the installation instructions suggested it would be a piece of cake, “our boys will be done by Christmas” and all that, or lunchtime in my case.

To accompany the overpriced part I had an equally overpriced bottom bracket removal tool ($39.95) that had a large hole in one end that neatly fitted over the end of the bottom bracket and a plastic cog that fitted into a slot where the pedal crank was attached over the axle.

I assumed that the little cog was plastic because the bit I was slotting it into was also plastic and the manufacturer didn’t want the user to apply too much torque. The Shimano site, manufacturer of the bottom bracket was useless, merely offering additional warnings regarding the perils of biking. The Park website, manufacturer of the tool, was a little more helpful insofar as they had a 10 second video to demonstrate how to remove the part on a bicycle so spotless I suspected it had never been ridden. With finger and thumb the actor effortlessly rotated the bolt out of the hole. It reminded me of one of those old upbeat newsreels from the 30s with a crisp upper class accent saying something like “with a quick twist of the wrist the part is removed and we are ready to go to the next stage”

In the meantime I had retreated to the bedroom and reemerged with a pair of ski gloves so I could apply enough pressure to the bitch bolt from hell without drawing blood.

I found another video on the Park site that showed how to remove the crank using a specially overpriced Park crank removal hammer and similarly expensive Park rectangular slab of metal to insert between hammer and crank. Two delicate taps of which an archeologist would have been proud and the part was in the actor’s elegant hand. I opted for the option of bunny hopping the bike in the study until I felt the crank coming loose; less elegant, but about $100 cheaper

I was finally at a point where the bike looked like the diagram in the installation instructions. – apart from the fact that when I wiggled the part all the remaining ballbearings fell out and scattered across the floor. At least I began to understand why so much effort was required to pedal.

I didn’t bother checking anymore professionally produced online videos featuring bike mechanics who had more certificates than sense. I figured I knew where I was going from here. Except, unlike the bike in the video, the bottom bracket spanner wouldn’t fit over the bottom bracket because the rear suspension arm was in the way.

I started removing the bolts that pivoted the rear suspension arm, only to find I couldn’t remove one of them because… the front derailleur was in the way. I began to wonder if the bike had been designed by someone who didn’t actually ride and spent their free time writing safety warnings for Shimano.

I loosened and rotated the front derailleur so I could remove the pivot pins on the rear suspension. I removed the rear suspension arm. I removed one side of the bottom bracket and then had to use a hammer to remove the other half of the crankset so I could remove the other half of the bottom bracket. And then I could install the new one before putting it all back together. Just like they said in the instructions. Piece of piss really.


One Response to “Installation Instructions”

  1. Jan Says:

    I hate it when ballbearings do that.

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