Three times the screw

by Arlyn on September 4, 2009

Thirty-six hours before I was to board my flight to Colorado to race the Leadville 100 I was riding peacefully in my backyard canyon, trying to keep my legs loose. That’s when I felt a terrible “ker-chunck!” from somewhere and felt my bike sag depressingly towards the ground. Shiny metal fragments flew off my bike as I skidded to a halt. Oh, this can’t be good, I’m screwed…

Have you ever seen someone with a broken arm? You know how it just looks so strange for their arm to be hanging off at that strange angle? That’s how my bike looked – it took me a minute to figure out that my rear suspension had basically exploded.

The part that broked

This is how my rear suspension should look – the part that broke was the pin at the base of the shock. Everything in that joint needed replacing.

Two miles from my car, I tried pedaling it in. I was sagging so low that my pedals hit even small rocks protruding from the trail. I kept pedaling and started weighing my options.

OPTION ONE – Get it fixed? There was *NO* way I was going to get my bike repaired – this wasn’t a flat tire, my suspension had fallen completely OFF!

OPTION TWO – Borrow a bike? Unfortunately, I’m the only 6’4” mountain bike racer I know. All my friends ride size Medium. That won’t work…

OPTION THREE – Best excuse for a new bike! I was going to have to buy a new bike – screw it, I’ll go in debt. I have to race. I will not be stopped.

But… Buying a new bike the day before the race would be VERY risky. My chances for a race-ending mechanical issue on a 100-mile mountain bike race with a brand new bike were very high.

Racing a 100-mile mountain bike race requires rock solid equipment. I had been vetting my bike and it’s configuration for months, carefully tuning it to be as ready as me on August 15th. Too many Leadville racers have their races ended by stupid mechanical errors.

Ok, so buying a new bike was actually my second choice. Best choice was a repair, no matter how slim the chances. I decided to call Morgan at Bicycle Warehouse to verify I was screwed then head straight to the Trek Store and their 1-year, no interest financing.

I sat sweating in my car listening to the phone ring at Bicycle Warehouse. Morgan picked up and I explained that some pin sheared off in my suspension. You know what he said? “I have three of those right here, come on down.” My head almost exploded with joy. I threw my bike in the back of the car and raced to the shop, still wearing my kit, covered in dirt and mud.

We hung my Santa Cruz in the bike stand and Morgan started shaking his head, “No, no, no – you said you just broke the pin. I have a pin. This thing is completely fragged.” He was right. I was twice as screwed as I first thought.

My shattered bike

Morgan is disassembling my bike to get a better look. So far, it doesn’t look very good.

What initially broke way back in June was the pin that connects my rear shock to the rear triangle. A squeak developed in my Santa Cruz – the classic Santa Cruz squeak – so I ignored it. Since a broken pin wobbles ever so slightly, by the time it finally fell out it had ruined the joint bearings, bent the connectors and ovalized all the spacers. I needed more than a new pin, I needed a whole new… everything – which, of course, no bike shop carries.

Morgan came out from the back room carrying a small cardboard box of assorted parts. Then, like a magician, he fished out first one bearing and then another. Those were the only parts that couldn’t be re-machined. He quietly went to work rebuilding my bike’s suspension. Parts that were bent got un-bent, torn parts got smoothed. I waited quietly, knowing I was watching a miracle. After a time, Morgan finished, looked up and said, “You can race this Saturday, and it will hold, but then we’re going to re-order all these parts and rebuild it new. This is just temporary.”

Nice! Then Morgan went to re-attach the rear shock and stopped. There was a big gash on the shock’s piston – the gash would burp air into shock, rendering it useless. I said, “So, sell me a new shock”, and he explained that there are too many size variations among mountain bikes; none of the stores stock them. They just order them one at a time, as needed. I tried to suggest that they sell me one off of a new bike, but Santa Cruz had changed their design specs for 2009, it was different and wouldn’t work. I was triple-screwed.

Bad shock, bad.

The divots on the shock arm may be hard to see, but they’re big enough to burp air into the shock.

So, I got on the phone and started dialing bike shops around San Diego – maybe I’d get lucky. I got a lot of sympathy everywhere I inquired – the guy who’s racing Leadville and needs a rear shock is a good story, but still no shock was found. I stared at the Maps app on my iPhone, I had called all the bike shops – now what? What about JensonUSA? I order a lot of bike parts from them online and they have super quick shipping. Maybe, just maybe…

I called JensonUSA and the rep casually said he had one in stock – no way! I don’t think he really understood why I was so excited. The shock was about 2 ½ hours away and rather than risk shipping it, I decided to drive up and pick it up personally the next morning.

Less than 24 hours after my bike exploded, I was packing it carefully for my race, thanks to Morgan and Bicycle Warehouse. And after 103.5 miles of racing, my only mechanical issue was a minor adjustment to my front derailleur. Rock solid gear and rock solid service. Thanks guys!

ps: Morgan contacted Santa Cruz who decided this was a warranty failure. They sent all new parts gratis which Morgan installed just today. Nice…

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark September 4, 2009 at 7:52 pm

What a great story. It’s nice to know there are still some really good people out their and that perhaps there is still hope for brick and mortar. It’s got to be about the service and being the “got to have it now” source. Sounds like Morgan really delivered.

jeff September 5, 2009 at 4:56 am

A good “wrench” is like a teacher, they ought to be paid a lot more for the important work they do. Morgan sounds like a keeper.

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