Nipple in French is mamelon
In the tune of fixing things from an earlier post, I have to fix my bike. Again. For, like, the third time. I broke a few spokes on my ancient wheels over the past few months, and have been stealing some from an abandoned bike in the basement of my building to replace them. On my back wheel, which I had a local bike collective replace a spoke on, the hub is absolutely shot. I did not think, at first, that this was the problem however. See, on the way to take my broken computer to the Apple store here, my bike decided to fall in line with the rest of the oft-used material objects in my life and work in such a way that is not satisfactory. My back wheel started making this horrible grinding noise and wobbling a bit. I rode on it for awhile to see what the problem was, and ended up deciding to take a closer look when I got home.
Upon inspection, I diagnosed the problem as some of the eyelets from the spoke nipples being torn out or loose, thus letting the spokes shift inside the rim when I rode. I tried tightening the spoke tension and truing the wheel a bit better, but this did nothing, really. Thus, I thought it would be necessary to buy a new wheel. If I were in America, I could easily explain the problem to any mechanic and ask for what I want as if I were a professional mechanic. I am in France, though, and sadly do not know many of the words necessary, like nipple, eyelet, it's completely fucked, etc. I looked up a few, and decided I could crudely get the point across that I wanted a new wheel but not a new cassette, and that it would need to be dished properly.
I went to the bike collective, and was able to speak to a mechanic. Sadly, I did not understand a single word that this man said, except to joke that I needed a whole new bike. I tried to explain that I wanted to buy a wheel. He said he'd look to see if he had "something like that". "Something like that" turned out to be spoke nipples, which weren't really the problem. At this point, I had decided that he really wasn't too interested in trying to fix my problem, that I couldn't really understand what he was saying, and that they probably don't sell new wheels anyway at the collective. I thanked him for the 5 nipples he gave me for free and set out for home, trying to think of what to do.
Upon arrival at home I took a closer look and discovered that the wheel shifted without the weight of my on it, meaning that it wasn't the spokes at all, but rather the hub. I took it all apart on the floor of my bedroom and soon found that the bearings in the hub, instead of being small little balls, were a mixture of ground metal and grease. The cones were worn too. All told, these parts should cost under 10 euros or so, not the 40 to 50 of a whole new wheel. I had been all excited about getting a wheel that didn't creak or was a bit easier to true, etc, but now that I know I can fix it for less and keep it rolling for 5 more weeks I am determined to fix it myself. Again.
I write about this because it boosted my ego to know that I solved a mechanical problem on a bicycle that a shop mechanic didn't notice or care enough to try and diagnose. This is not to say that I'm a better mechanic than he, but rather took the time and effort to find a solution to a problem, accepting that my first thoughts on the subject were completely incorrect. I could have bought a new wheel at another shop easily (and may still have to - I asked at one and they don't sell hub parts separately, only the complete wheel) and not known the difference, but I learned a lot about how a hub is constructed from taking it apart and seeing what's up.
Also related to this, I recieved an email from this company concerning my application to be a route planner and mechanic over the summer. They were very interested in my application and wanted more information, which I gladly gave them. If all goes well, I should get paid to ride my bike, plan routes and fix bicycles over the summer all across the United States. Rad.