It's not every day that the ISWE staff recommends a product to the ISWE community, but then again it's not every day that said ISWE staff is standing in the middle of the office at work, covered in grease, 15 minutes before an important meeting on the other side of campus.
The chain pin pictured at the left is a small device that, normally, prevents the chain from falling off of the chain ring when the ISWE Birdy is folded. When the chain does however pop off, as happened last week when I clumsily unfolded the Birdy improperly to rush off to eDoc training, the chain pin also prevents the chain from going back on the chain ring. It does that really really well. In fact, no matter how hard I pried and prodded, it prevented me from putting the chain back on the Birdy for about five of my fifteen precious minutes. All I accomplished in that time was covering both hands with copious amounts of grimy chain grease. As I looked down at my blackened palms juxtaposed to my clean white button down shirt, I thought, "Im going to be late, I'm going to ruin this shirt, and my coworkers are going to come in and think, Barry is a total idiot!" With mere seconds to act before all three events occurred, I remembered my Doc Allen's Versatool !!!
According to their website, the Versatool is a lightweight, compact, multi-function, stainless steel tool that works well in tight places. It also works well in tight situations. I keep one in my messenger bag at all times. Here, I grabbed it, pulled out a hex bit, and removed the chain pin in like 10 seconds. I even used it to put the chain on without getting my hands greasy. Oh, I guess I didn't mention that I used about 20 of the office's Purell wipes and tons of elbow grease to remove the chain grease (sorry office, I'll replace them, I promise!). My hands were clean and they stayed clean. Ten seconds putting the chain pin back on and putting the tool back in its pouch and I was on my way, crisis avoided, and I even beat some of the car-driving people to my meeting because they couldn't find parking places where they wouldn't get towed. Lessons learned: 1) Don't be stupid when unfolding the Birdy, 2) Don't forget you have a Doc Allen's Versatool before getting greasy and using up all the office's Purell wipes, and 3) Small-wheel bikes never get towed and never have to feed greedy parking meters. Victory!
So, please consider picking up a Doc Allen's Versatool. They are way cool, made in the USA, and pretty inexpensive, especially considering they would probably outlast the cockroaches that would survive a nuclear apocalypse... Plus, using one makes you totally feel like MacGuyver and that's way good for your self esteem.
Back in the day (although I'm only 29, I'm talking a long time ago) I was one of the first students to own and ride a mountain bike on the Miami University (Ohio) campus. I had a white Cannondale (much like that pictured to the left). It was great for campus because it was fairly tough. It's aluminum frame (an innovation at the time) was impervious to rust and it's big knobby tires were darn near puncture proof. Most people were riding 10-speed road bikes at the time. With their thin, flimsy wheels and tires, they were pretty much disasters waiting to happen. I was king of the road... and sidewalk, and grass, etc. Within two years, mountain bikes had practically taken over campus. Only recently have road bikes managed a comeback.
Over the years, I owned several mountain bikes, including a silver aluminum GT, and a sweet black/red/orange/yellow Gary Fisher with prestige tubing (Wish I'd kept that one. You could flick the tubing with your finger and it would make a Ping!). I've also owned, uhm, a vintage Bianchi road bike. Nice bikes all, but there was always something off with them. They just didn't feel right. Then, one day, my friend Tony (Baloney Man) Neff had me watch this video of a Peter Gabriel concert.
That's Peter Gabriel (below) in said video riding what appears to be a stainless steel Moulton New Series SPEED. It has 20" wheels, front and rear suspension, and space frame construction. If you were going for a bike ride on the moon, this is the bike you would ride. It's that cool. Anyhow, that got me thinking about small wheels (a lot), and so I got the Birdy (Thanks Gammy Bawa!). I was in love the first time I rode it. Something magical happens when you combine the multi-gear capability of a full-size bike with the small wheels of... I guess a kids bike. It improves the acceleration, the maneuverability, and control of the bike--all the things you want for close-quarters urban riding. In a way, it makes you feel sneaky (in a good way). I once rode the Birdy all around inside the Lincoln Memorial. I was in a pretty tight crowd and a lot of visitors didn't even realize I was on a bike. That sneakiness probably kept me from getting beaten down and/or tazed by the popo. I saw signs at the top of the stairs that said, "No Bicycles." They should really put those at the bottom of the stairs. By the time you see them at the top, you've already messed up. Oh well. Anyhow, you couldn't do that sneaky monument riding on a beach cruiser, a triathlon bike, or a mountain bike. You need small wheels to swiff around appreciating your great all-American sense of freedom with your honest buddy Abe.
So, this small-wheel factor is pretty tough to explain in words (at midnight), so from now on I'll do my best to record some of the stuff small wheels can do and report the evidence back here for you to deal with at your leisure. All I can say for now is this: Lo I say unto thee (with the help of ISWE) soon henceforth from today the tired and hungry masses everywhere will be able to zig and zag their small wheeled vehicles to the complete delight of their hearts, minds, and spirits... or something like that. Thank you for joining me in the important mission to liberate people form the tyranny of oversized wheels!