Left Hand Thread

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I have ridden a bicycle for entertainment and commuting for many years now. I was even a part time bicycle mechanic for the span of two years. As much as I love love love bicycles, I have a bad time with bike shops. A bicycle is and should remain a pretty simple, durable, machine. A bicycle should at all times bespeak a perfect clarity of purpose. I find most bike shops to foster a culture of obfuscation that is maddening to me. I do all my own repairs and order parts online as much as I am able. I know this is counterproductive to bicycles taking over the world, but I can’t seem to do otherwise.

Several years ago, the bottom bracket on my bike began to fail. Most bottom brackets are sealed units that you can’t really maintain, you just replace them when they wear out. Usually they can be expected to last for many years, but I was pretty hard on my old bike in those days. I couldn’t wait for the order to come by post, so I bit my tongue and went to the several bike shops local to my then hometown of Lawrence, KS.

My bike frame being custom built, it had kind of a weird bottom bracket shell size. The only model in town at that time was a RaceFace unit held by the wildly popular Sunflower Bike Shop. I purchased it from them with many warnings at my back about installing it myself. Later that evening, I found that there was something very peculiar about this thing they had sold me. A normal bottom bracket has left hand threads on one side, and right hand threads on the other. This is so that the normal motion of pedaling cannot cause it to back out of the frame shell. The unit I had been sold had by some freakish error or special purpose been made with left hand threads on both sides. There was no way it was going into my bike.

The next day I returned to Sunflower with a deep feeling of foreboding. I knew how hard this was going to be. I girded up my loins and walked into what I knew would be a deeply infuriating experience. I went directly back to the service area and placed the box with my new bottom bracket on the countertop with a polite thump. I placed my receipt under it, paperweight style, and tried to enter a zen state.

Mechanic: “How can I help you?”
Toby: “Hi. I bought this bottom bracket here yesterday and it is left hand thread on both sides.”
Mechanic: “Bottom brackets are supposed to be different hand threads on each side.”
Toby: “I know. This one is left hand thread on both sides.”
Mechanic: “You can tell which side goes in first because the fixed cup goes on the drive side.”
Toby: “I know. This one is left hand thread on both sides.”
Mechanic: “You can tell which way is left hand thread because it will screw in counter-clockwise.”
Toby: “I know. This one is left hand thread on BOTH sides.”

At this point Mechanic goes back to confer with Head Mechanic, a man I had previous experience with and had hoped would not be involved.

Head Mechanic: “This bottom bracket is left hand thread on both sides.”
Toby: “I know. That’s why I brought it back.”
Head Mechanic: “One side should be right hand thread.”
Toby: “I know. That’s why I brought it back.”
Head Mechanic: “You won’t be able to install it on your bike because the frame shell will be different thread on both sides.”
Toby: “I know. That’s why I brought it back.”

By now we had moved to the sales counter. A refund was finally enacted. Then Head Mechanic performed the coup de grâce.

Head Mechanic: “Do you know how to tell which direction the thread is? You put your thumbnail in the groove and see which way you turn it to advance.”
Toby: “Yes. I know. I’m the one who brought it back.”
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5 Responses to “Left Hand Thread”

  1. Leigh Ann Says:

    LOL…… I know!

  2. hannah Says:

    classic toby for the ages.

  3. jmac Says:

    marijuana

  4. Sage Says:

    You should respect your mechanics. Shame on you.

  5. clark Says:

    cool story, toby.

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