Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: The Chris Fehr Tool

To cap off RABRAI week in Iowa, I have one more RAGBRAI related story to share.....

When I made my re-entry into the bike shop business as a mechanic with the shop I currently wrench for in 2002, it was because of my performance on RAGBRAI as a bicycle mechanic earlier that summer.  I was at that time wrenching on cars, but that came to an end in September of that year when I was hired back into the bicycle business. In 2003, I was again on the trail of RAGBRAI as a wrench at the overnight stops. We always needed some extra help on RAGBRAI, so the shop had hired a mechanic we used the previous year named Chris Fehr. He was teamed up with my co-worker, Jeff Kerkove as the on the road mechanic team. During the afternoon of my very last day on RAGBRAI ever, (due to the birth of my son the next day!), Chris showed up after getting done early on the route and was lending a hand with the work coming into the overnight town. He somehow got a job rebuilding a paired spoke rear road wheel that used bladed spokes.

Chris was a quiet but smart and resourceful guy. He kind of made a splash the year before on RAGBRAI by taking the DH bike he dragged along with him for the week and doing some high flying antics off a broken water slide section that was in the campground we were at. After wandering around to the other shops and gathering spokes and nipples that he would need to do the rebuild, he got to work on the wheel. As he started to tension the wheel up, the bladed spokes did what bladed spokes coming up to tension do. Twist.

Chris came up to me and asked if I had a section of steer tube in my tool box. It just so happened that I did. Then he asked for a hack saw. Having no idea what he was up to, and up to my elbows in repairs already, I just shrugged it off as something weird he was up to, like jumping a DH bike off a water park slide or something else odd that he was  sometimes noted for doing.

So, after things died down, I asked him what he was up to with the steer tube chunk and hacksaw. He showed me the chunk of steer tube. He had hack sawed a slit into it near one end, and slipped that slit over the bladed spoke to keep it from twisting around as he tensioned up the wheel. I was amazed at his idea, and Jeff and I dubbed it "The Chris Fehr Tool". We got back from RAGBRAI and promptly made our own "Chris Fehr Tools" and used them all the time. Then, when I had to shorten a carbon fiber steer tube, I made a carbon fiber version! The ultimate "Chris Fehr Tool"!

Remember that I said it was my last time on RAGBRAI? Well, that very next morning, my pregnant wife, who wasn't due for two more weeks, called at 5am to say, "Honey, my water broke...."

Fortunately, I made it back in time to see my son be born.

Next week, more "Bike Shop Tales"..............

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