Auld lang crunch

It was New Year’s Eve. I was happy enough and pleased to be in for the night, plans to go out abandoned to the mutual relief of all involved. There was plenty to usher out from the annus horribilis, to queenly quote, from the year drawing to a close while not much, particularly, promising to get better in the coming solar circuit.

Bleak, it was.

BBPress angle.jpg

Enough optimism cheered the day and the occasion to lighten the heart, however, not least being this very project and the bicycle was coming together. Thus far I’d done just as I wished and intended, taking my time, proceeding in measured steps, never acting without knowing what I was meaning to do and why. No guessing. No forcing things. If I didn’t have the right tool, I didn’t fake it. When in doubt, I backed off and reassessed. I learned before I leapt. Checked thrice, cut but once. If it was not set up exactly right, precisely as I wished it, it was done again.

Then, it was New Year’s Eve and the moment caught up to me. I was puttering around in the garage – Ye Olde Bike Shoppe. It was time for the cranks to go on. The most mechanically impressive, aesthetically pleasing part of the build was nigh. With this addition, Hugo Black would look the part of a bicycle.

I palm-tapped the BB86 press cups into the aluminum sleeve of the bottom bracket. I threaded through the big screw of the bearing-cup press advertised as a duel-purpose tool, used with equal facility to install press cups in the headtube as well as the bottom bracket. This may very well be so. But the curse of the hybrid – the hybrid anything, really, whether it be tool or bicycle or motor vehicle – is in this truth: A hybrid promises the best of two worlds and delivers the worst of both. Necessary compromises make for constant dissatisfaction rather than the touted universal satisfaction.


Just to take a picture – really, I tell myself, just for the photo – put the cups in and stage the press in place. There will be lots of football on New Year’s Day and it will take some time for these photos to upload to the cloud and show up in the camera roll. Then, once poised to be pressed in, it seemed ridiculous not to insert them It’s just a matter of turning the handle. The headset went in smoothly with slow turns gradually shoving the sleeves into the tubes. I brushed on LocTite.

Almost immediately the turning got harder than it should have been. The cups clearly shifted out of whack, misaligned. And yet the retention compound had been applied, would soon harden. I turned with greater force, counting on the cups to reach an equilibrium in the sleeve of the bottom bracket to straighten out.

In retrospect, my problem was pressing both cups at the same time. Clearly I should have pressed the right side in first with an adapter fitted into the other side of the bottom bracket. I should have followed, then, with a separate fixed-on-one side press of the cup on the non-drive left. I did not do this. I did not fully comprehend what I was doing or trying to do. I made a mental exception in my head, knowing I was out of bounds on limits I set myself. Nonetheless, here we were.

I pressed ahead, forcefully turning the double handle. There were several alarm bells going off in my brain even in the midst of this. And yet I overrode those alarms and sallied forth, by god.

Then, the inevitable.

A snap was heard. A crack was felt. Brain lightning streaked. Head thunder followed.

Happy new year.