I made another foray into the shop recently. Since moving to the new house, working on the bike involves an unheated garage instead of a minimally heated basement. So I don't tend to spend much spare time out there, especially in the winter.
I was forced to consider bike maintenance, however, when the left pedal on my mountain bike starting making bad crunching noises. I had heard a similar sound on my Univega, just before the pedal stopped turning altogether. So, this time I decided to do some preventive maintenance. I examined the pedal and found somewhat excessive play in the bearings (about a quarter of an inch).
Now I was kind of attached to these pedals. They were of the bear claw variety, looked like a pair of crampons on a spindle. The were real mountain bike pedals, unlike those wimpy clipless models. I also had a sentimental attachment to them, since they had sunk their teeth into my shins on innumerable occasions (I have a permanent scar as the result of a face plant related to Doug Jensen and a rather large log, but that's another story). So I had to consider carefully whether I really wanted to throw them out. In about a heartbeat I decided they were history. I had recently scored some cheapo pedals from Nashbar for about $10, which I really had practically no use for, since virtually all my bikes these days are clipless. Now I had a use for them.
So I got out the Campy Pedal Wrench. The Campy pedal wrench is an extravagance that ranks right up there with the goretex cables. I had bought a pedal wrench from The Third Hand, and attacked some rather stubburn pedals with it. Pedals won. Wrench was rendered virtually useless, so I wrote 3rd Hand and complained. They replied that if I really wanted a pedal wrench that worked, they had this Campy model, which they would happily sell me. It was horrendously (or so it seemed) expensive, and I later found out I could buy a Park tool that was nearly equivalent for about half the price.
I had bought my mountain bike in November of 1987. Since then, the extent of my maintenance has been to say "Whoa, big fella" after a ride and pat it on the top tube. Needless to say, the pedals and the crankarms had bonded to the point that they were one and likely to stay that way. Even the remonstrances of the Campy Pedal Wrench were unable to rend the two in twain.
It looked like I was going to keep my Mountain Bike Pedals after all. So I would have to adjust them. I took the pedal apart, and of course all the bearing balls fell on the floor. What was surprising was how few of them there were. I reckon a full complement of bearing balls amounts to about two dozen. I found about half that amount. Being a high roller, I decided to throw away the old ones and replace them with a completely new set. Now in the days when I was a Nashbar mail order junkie, I would basically buy anything that was cheap and looked useful. Bearing balls fit the bill, being very cheap indeed, and indispensable when you needed them. I determined that there were three sizes, that I imaginatively termed "Small," "Medium," and "Large." I would buy a hundred or so of each and put them in film canisters so labelled. Since I haven't been doing all that much work on bikes lately, I figured I had a lifetime supply. And most of the things I have bothered to rebuild take the medium and large variety. Imagine my surprise when I discovered two empty film canisters of small balls! After much rummaging I encountered an envelope full of smallish balls of uncertain origin. I figured these were better than nothing. So I reused the old balls for the inner race, and the mystery balls for the outer, packed the whole mess with massive quantities of wheel bearing grease, and voila! Not exactly a Swiss watch, but at least you could turn them without a torque wrench.