Palmer's Peeves | BIKE Magazine


I’m far from perfect. My shop is a mess, I have the most ghetto photo studio setup you’ve ever seen, I’m awful at returning texts, I drink too much, my BMI is shit and I’m a serial procrastinator. And, I expect perfection from everything around me. Does that make me a complete hypocrite? Yup, I believe it does. Am I going to change? Not likely.

Welcome to another Palmer’s Peeves, my special place to lament the stuff that irks me.

Free Joke

Have you ever tried turning the Free Stroke screw on a set of Shimano brakes? It didn’t do anything, right?

Truth is, the Free Stroke screw does do something, just not a lot. Shimano hasn’t ever bothered to tell anyone how to do it, but it does make a change. It seems like it’d be simple, right? Turn the screw, right?

It’s actually a two-step deal. As you turn the screw, you’ll see the reach of your brake lever change. It’s stupid. There’s a whole other screw for reach, but now this other one is messing that adjustment up. If you fix your reach using the actual reach adjuster, and then go give your brake a tug, you might just notice that the lever throw has been affected.

A little bit. Maybe. Sometimes not.

It’s a tough adjustment to get a grasp on because it involves two steps. It’s hard to feel if the lever’s stop point has changed if the start point changes too. Most people don’t measure their reach, they do it by feel. It’s really hard to detect how much the throw has changed while you’re also trying to feel out where your reach was before you touched that stupid screw.

Even if you do measure it, you’ll notice that the screw doesn’t actually change the throw that much.

The point is, this damn screw has been on Shimano brakes for something like 15 years, and in that time it’s never proven itself to have any real value. Most people still think the Free Stroke screw actually does nothing because they’re turning the screw without making the reach correction. Because Shimano never explained to anyone how it works.

But it’s sort of irrelevant that nobody understands how Free Stroke works, because even though technically does do something, it’s not really enough to make knowing how to do it worth knowing.

Who’s on First?

Back in 2013, Evil wanted to point out the fact that its new bike, the Uprising, had a low bottom bracket. It had adjustable geometry, as all Evil models still have today, but instead of calling the positions ‘High’ and ‘Low’ like everyone else, the flip chips were labeled ‘Low’ and ‘X-Low.’

It was a cheeky marketing move, and it worked. I mean, we talked about it. It was clever and sort of funny at the time. But it’s still happening and it’s become rather annoying.

Here’s an example:

Curious Rider: “Hey, nice Calling. Are you running it in low?”

Evil Owner: “Yup, love it!”

Cool, good talk. That clarifies nothing. Does Curious Rider know that low is high on Evils? Does Evil Owner know that Curious Rider knows that low is high on Evils?

So, wait. Who’s on first?

Dumb Holes

There’s no better way to ruin a perfectly good long-sleeve garment than by putting these ridiculous thumb holes in the cuffs. Listen up apparel brands: Thumb holes are not a “value-added feature.” They’re stupid and useless and annoying. First of all, they look preposterous, both ways—when you’re wearing the shirt normally, and also when your thumbs are through the holes. But that’s not the point. I’m not that vain.

The two garments in the above photo are made by cycling brands. The top one is Shower’s Pass, the bottom is Kitsbow. I see how thumb holes can be useful for runners and snowboarders. For sports that don’t require the use of your hands. Soccer maybe? But not cycling, and certainly not mountain biking. If you ride mountain bikes, you most likely ride with gloves. You can’t wear your riding gloves while also wearing these asinine sleeve mittens. Even if you don’t wear gloves while riding, doing so with sleeves over your hands doesn’t work. If it doesn’t seem obvious, try it and you’ll see why. If you’re a cycling apparel company, you should make your product ideal for riding, not running.

If the only downside were looks, I would be less offended. Still offended, but definitely less so. The real problem with these holes is that they’re holes. Holes that let air through them. When you’re wearing long sleeves, you’re likely trying to keep cold air off your skin. Putting a hood scoop at the end of your sleeves turns your cozy new sweater into a ram-air system. It’s a bit counterproductive, isn’t it?

That was a rhetorical question.

Why Wrench

It seems so convenient. Three common sizes on one handy, symmetrical tool. You’re an aspiring bike mechanic. You use it for a couple years. Maybe a couple more. The more you work on bikes, the more you find places the Y-wrench doesn’t fit. It might be three tools in one, but what it isn’t is an exceptional bolt turner. It’s not particularly good on your hands and wrists, either, because the Y-wrench doesn’t give you much torque to speak of. Plus, it doesn’t store very well in a tool box or up on a tool board. It takes up more real estate than it’s worth.

All this is why you won’t find Y-wrenches in the kits of many seasoned mechanics. We tend to ditch them for proper professional equipment. If you see someone using a Y-wrench for anything other than adjusting a seatpost for a test ride, do not let them work on your bike. It’s the best way to spot an amateur.

The Y-wrench is a crap, carpal tunnel-inducing tool that no company making professional-quality tools should produce.

How Did We Get Here?

Two decades ago, three French companies—Mavic, Michelin, and Hutchinson—developed UST, the first tubeless tire system. To make the tires airtight, a butyl layer was added. It sort of worked. The tires did hold air, but not for nearly as long as a conventional tire with an inner tube. Plus, the butyl layer added weight. It wasn’t perfect, but it was 20 years ago. Back then, we also thought the entire economy was about to collapse because of a computer glitch.

A guy named Stan came up with a liquid latex Band-Aid to the leaky tubeless tires. Then he started using it to seal up non-tubeless tires. It’s so simple it’s genius. Tire companies spend who knows how much money trying to make UST tires, and some dude in his garage in upstate New York goes, “Why don’t we just stick a little liquid latex in there and Bob’s your uncle.”

Technology has made astonishing leaps and bounds since that time. The watch on my wrist right now has more computing power and eight times the storage capacity as the Gateway 2000 I had back then. But we’re still putting messy goopy shit in our tires to make them airtight.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the stuff. Can’t live without it. I have gallons in my shop. I use it all the time, and have been since it was invented. But that’s also why I hate it. It’s messy, it dries up and becomes impossible to get off whatever it is you’re trying to get it off. And it stains. I have too many clothes with latex stains in them. Back in the early days, I had several tires blow off rims while trying to seat them, spraying latex all over the shop and in my eyes. Those days were not awesome.

Things are much better nowadays. I can typically mount a set of tubeless tires without spilling a drop of sealant on the floor or blowing out my ear drums. But it’s still messy when changing tires, and it’s still just a general pain in the ass.

It seemed janky 20 years ago. We actually used to call sealing non-tubeless tires with latex “Ghetto Tubeless.” My peeve isn’t even on the sealant itself anymore, it’s on the fact that we’re still using it. That original stuff was supposed to get us through a rough patch in tubeless development, but it became the status quo.

Can someone please finish what the founders of UST started? Is it really that hard to make a tire hold air without running this hokey garbage?