Monday, August 12, 2013

What The Bike Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know – Part 2: Some Things Can Be Fixed

In the first part of What The Bike Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know we exposed the misconception that different brands of bicycle componentry do not work well together. In Part 2 we look at how certain things can actually be fixed, rather than replaced, after they break.

The bicycle industry is not alone in its evolution to an almost totally disposable existence. Electronics and home appliances are notorious products for being irreparable, or at least for having a prohibitively high cost of repair that encourages consumers to replace broken items with new.

Bikes do have some parts that are understandably consumable – brake pads, tyres and drivetrain parts like chains and cassettes are always going to require replacement when they wear out. Bike frames, which in the past were made from metal, could be repaired, even after catastrophic failures, because the individual tubes could be replaced and welded back together.

However, with carbon fibre, once a frame is damaged there’s not much it can be used for.
Almost every single bicycle component is offered in a carbon fibre version these days, including handlebars, cranks, wheels, stems, seatposts, pedals, saddles and bidon cages.
This carbon fibre saddle weighs in at only 61 grams and these bidon cages at a staggering 4 grams each – make sure to fill your bidons with special low-density H&#x2082O so the effort is not wasted!

While carbon fibre allows for the manufacture of extremely lightweight components, they generally have very low resistance to impact damage meaning that if you crash there’s a fair chance you’ll need to replace something.
Even the most talented bicycle mechanic would struggle to make this carbon wheel round again.

When you combine electronics with bicycles the chances of being able to repair a broken component are even slimmer – certainly the manufacturers are not usually interested. That’s why I decided to have a shot at repairing this Garmin Edge 500 GPS-enabled cycling computer which has a cracked screen and a major Liquid Crystal breach (left) using parts from another unit which has a functioning screen but broken mounting tabs (right).
If you’re not familiar with the bicycle industry then you might wonder why cyclists need a GPS-enabled computer. And the answer is that cyclists are obsessed with numbers. They love data about their bike’s weight, ride distance, vertical metres climbed, heartrate, power output and the gradient of the hills pedalled up. This device allows the cyclist to quantify all of these things, apart from their bike’s weight, but that can easily be done at home…or even outside the home.

 A full bidon can add upwards of 500g so remember to remove them prior to weighing your bike!

The Garmin Edge 500 has become an extremely popular device for both road and mountain bikers over the last four years due to its compact size, excellent functionality and ease of use. It has only recently been superseded by a new model that offers some fancy new features like a touch screen and Bluetooth connectivity.
 GPS technology has become so popular that during the ABSA Cape Epic in South Africa, GPS computers were banned by the race organisers because they did not want competitors to be able to record the race route, which traversed a number of private properties – mainly wineries from memory. I guess they don’t want to encourage this kind of behaviour:
 Alcohol is a gateway drug that, when combined with cycling, increases the likelihood of further abuse with more dangerous substances.

So, while you won’t be allowed to use your Garmin Edge 500 at the Cape Epic, there are plenty of other times when it will come in handy. For this project, the aim was to disassemble and combine two broken units in a Frankenstein’s monster-style operation to produce one fully functional device.

The transplant would require removing the internal electronics and screen from the functional device (with the broken mounting tabs) and transplanting them in to the casing from the broken device (with the functional mounting tabs).

I should point out that I’m not the home-handyman type. While I have some basic bike tools at home and like to fix my bikes as much as possible, the result usually:
1) ends in a worse state of disrepair than beforehand or
2) appears to be fixed but then fails catastrophically shortly after and often when I least expect it.

So I did not have high hopes of the Garmin project turning out successfully. But I also had nothing to lose.
Here’s what you will require in order to disassemble a Garmin Edge 500:
1. Precision screwdriver set that includes a T5 Torx bit
2. A very tiny Philips-head screwdriver
3. A small flat screwdriver or blade.
4. A winning attidude!

Because this device is not manufactured by Apple it is very simple to take apart:
1. Remove the four T5 Torx screws on the bottom side of the device.
2. Lift off the top screen cover.
3. Carefully tilt up the LCD screen to expose the circuit board.
4. Remove the three tiny screws holding the circuit board in place.
5. Open the rubber cover on the USB port and gently push out the circuit board.
6. The battery is glued on to the casing so pry it out with a small flat screwdriver or blade.
7. Underneath you will find a small disc connected to the battery – I have no idea what it does but it looks important so try not to damage it when you pry it off the base.
All of the internal electronics should now be free and you can transplant them to the undamaged casing.

I didn’t bother gluing any of the components back in place, I just pressed them back in to the new casing. Start with the small disc, then press the battery back in to place followed by the circuit board.

Reverse the disassembly instructions listed above and finish by re-installing the four T5 Torx screws.

If, like me, you decide to do an inventory check only once you’ve sealed up the unit you will then to repeat the disassembly steps (1-6) listed above in order to install the USB port seal that you neglected to check when you swapped over the internals.
Once completed, take a moment to congratulate yourself on at least attempting to prolong the life of an accessory that could easily have been thrown out and replaced. Make sure you do this before actually turning on the device to test whether or not the procedure was a success.

In my case, the device did turn on and appeared to function properly, however there does seem to be a problem with the battery discharging rapidly during use – in fairness, this problem existed prior to the transplant operation – which will require some further tinkering, probably involving a soldering iron. I’m a little bit apprehensive about this as it’s been a long time since I ironed anything, let alone complicated electronics on a bicycle.

 Stay tuned for the 3rd instalment of What The Bike Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know.

No comments:

Post a Comment