Idus Martiae

Lacey knows her some Latin, but I had to look it up here. Extra caution today, right?

A small part of yesterday morning was spent on my back, under the Honda Fit, installing a trailer hitch receiver. The retailer represented that the installation was fairly easy and would require forty minutes to complete. Even though I spent as much as ten minutes wriggling the rubber muffler carriers off their posts, they were right on the money. I was done in forty minutes and it wasn’t the hardest thing I have done. The installation video they provided, specific to the Honda Fit, was a huge help. Even so, I think I can offer a few refinements on the process to help if you find yourself on your back doing the same thing to your Fit.

First tip isn’t the most important, but I’m giving them in order. I supported the muffler with a toe clip strap. This allowed me to raise and lower the muffler as needed during the installation by tightening or loosening the strap. Don’t start the job without an adjustable strap.

The next challenge (and perhaps the biggest challenge) was a real surprise to me. I had to work the hardest just to place a washer and a nut onto the four mounting bolts that were hanging down from inside the car frame. Here are the two nutted bolts on the left side (the easy side to work on and photograph, as the muffler is on the right side). How could this be hard?

The bolts were fished into place using a supplied wire leader. Once in place, they were hanging down loosely from four holes. Knocking one or more into the frame during the install could have happened very easily and retrieving them might have been tough. Maybe a lost bolt could have been retrieved with a flexible magnet tool I have, but I didn’t want to find out. I mitigated the risk by adding the washer and threading nuts onto each of the bolts to keep them from disappearing into the frame until their turn came to be properly affixed through a hole on the receiver. That helped a bunch.

The task was made harder by the fact that I had to place the washer and nut with only one hand. The other was holding the receiver in place. Try to thread a nut onto a loose bolt and you’ll see what I was facing. If it was just the nut, a delicate hand could make it happen in a few tries, but adding a washer first and then threading on a nut all with one hand was a real test of dexterity. I was finally able to add the washer and then press it against the bolt threads with my index finger (which also stabilized the bolt) while using my thumb and ring finger to thread on the nut. The first washer and nut on each side of the receiver was the toughest. Once one washer and nut was in place, the second set was easier as the hitch didn’t need to be supported on that side, thus freeing up my second hand. Two hands made adding the washer and nut much easier (once I contorted my two limbs around the muffler on the right side).

Another huge help was raising the receiver nearly into position and resting it on three cubes of stacked cardboard squares. The cubes were already at hand, awaiting pick up by the recycler, and were made from the cardboard boxes in which the receiver and the rack were shipped. Without these extra “hands,” I doubt I would have been able to get it all together. The receiver is made of very heavy steel and wasn’t easy to lift into place.

The final challenge was torquing down the nuts. I was lucky to have a short three inch extension and a longer six inch extension for my wrench. I needed both, together, as I was on the right side wrenching through small holes where the muffler wasn’t. Don’t start the job without nine inches of extensions. I understand torque wrenches aren’t accurate with extensions, but there wasn’t any other way to make it happen.

Two final bits of advice. Consider raising the car’s rear end using ramps. I didn’t and it was tight. A vehicle with more ground clearance might not need to be raised, but the Fit is pretty low. It wasn’t fun. Also, have a friend help. Lacey was inside but I was too proud to call for her. That was a mistake. She would have been a big help.

So the receiver is on. What about the rack? I picked the Swagman G2 and couldn’t be happier.

I was excited to get it on the car and test it out, as I was concerned about the ability to rack two bicycles with fairly large front racks, but these two ANTs go on well together. Once the padded hold down bars are ratcheted into place, the bicycles are very secure.

Swagman is a Canadian company, but the rack was made in Taiwan. The design, construction and materials are first rate. It is very sturdy and all the folding and securing mechanisms are very stout and smooth in operation. I was worried that the wheel trays might be plastic, but they are fairly stout metal.

Should hold up well. I’ve been a Yakima man for decades, but the Swagman rack looked better on paper. I haven’t used any other platform racks so I can’t compare, but this one is super.

I was initially concerned about how far the rack rides from the rear bumper. Seemed needlessly far out, but it does allow me to get the inside bicycle off the rack without removing the outside bicycle. The extension is probably necessary for some applications where the receiver is further under the vehicle. I’ll get over it. The Fit is pretty short anyway and I won’t be parallel parking with the rack on and down.

It does flip up when the rack is not in use, and that shortens up the works considerably.

I am happy that the rack came with a locking pin to secure the rack to the receiver. The same lock secures a supplied cable that you can thread through your frames and rear wheels to provide light security.

The cable is probably good enough to safeguard your bicycles during a roadside snack, but I wouldn’t rely on it overnight in a hotel parking lot. I’ll bring the bikes inside if we stay anywhere overnight.

I bought both the receiver and the rack from eTrailer.com. I highly recommend them. Excellent customer service. I ordered the rack on a pre-release basis. Not only did they wait to charge my card until the rack shipped, but an individual sales rep emailed me weekly with updates.

My idea of using toothpicks to silence the rattling Wald basket works wonderfully. I broke a single round toothpick in half and pressed a half into the rattling bracket on each side with a pair of Channel-Lock pliers. I didn’t bother with glue. The things are jammed in there really well. Silence is golden.

I’ve been so good about not buying bicycles, but yesterday I broke down and bought this. It’s called a balance bicycle, you know, to teach kids to balance on a bicycle without the pedaling part to muck up the process. Didn’t pay much for it, having bought it at a garage sale, but that we don’t have a kid should show you how sick for bicycles I am. Isn’t it delightful? I desperately want one in my size.

Every hex key fastener was loose on the thing, but I snugged them all up straight away. The seat was loose, too, but the fasteners were under the vinyl seat cover. I removed half of the staples securing the vinyl cover to access the screws. Reusing wire staples is tough and I the staples I have are too long, so I used my new old wire cutters to snip each staple down to the appropriate length, then tapped them into place. The reupholstery job came out well and the seat is now secured.

I love the delicate line of the fender. I love that it has fenders! The rear fender had a gap between it and the seat mast. They had used glue and screws, but the line of glue was narrow. I used more. It is secure now.

The seat cluster is nicely designed. Remove the back stack of two bolts and slightly loosen the front stack to change the seat height.

The rubber steering dampeners are interesting and effective. They probably also serve to keep the user’s or a sibling’s fingers out of this potential crush point.

Surprised that the seat wasn’t given a narrower nose, or even an hourglass shape. That said, these folks surely know what they are doing. Little kids do seem a little bow-legged anyway.

The only serious design misstep is in the wheels. The valve stem for the tube is inaccessible to most home pumps. Not enough clearance for the lock on type heads that are so common.

I even tried a vintage frame pump with a flexible thread on hose. The metal thread on portion of the hose was itself too long to fit in the gap. The brass press on heads used with compressors will work, but it is silly that the tires can’t be inflated by the pumps most people have at home.

I love the bicycle. I was rolling it around in front of me while chatting with friends yesterday. I don’t keep full size bicycles in the living room (very often), but this one looks right at home inside. I bought it to pass along to the first young kid that needs it, but I will enjoy having it around until the pass is completed.

Disc golf at Joralemon yesterday. We played the last eight holes in the rain, but I still managed a 68. The rain started light but increased as we finished. The real downpour waited until we were in the car. Clean living.

Ended he day at Mahar’s. The place was packed. Glad to report they reopened on May 10, 2011. Get yourself there and show them you care.

Rainy day today. Maybe most of the week, actually. Probably safe to get even the frost-phobic seedlings in the ground. Maybe today if there is a break in the rain. They have been outside during the day for the past week. This process of hardening off isn’t strictly necessary, but it does seem to lessen the shock plants can experience when transitioning from life under the lights to the big, bad and harsh world outside.

Yours with eyes peeled for stabby things,

Randy

P.S. Er.  Lacey reminds me that it is May, not March.  I don’t think the ides of May require any extra caution.  Good to be wrong.  Now I can relax!

Advertisements

2 responses to “Idus Martiae

  1. neighbourtease

    My 2 year old son has a version of this balance bike. It was so unbelievably effective at teaching him to ride that we’re going to be able to get him an actual bike, sans training wheels, for his upcoming third birthday.

    Nice blog.

    • That’s incredible! Pedaling at three! I don’t remember how old I was, but it was many more years old than that.

      I just delivered “mine” to a four year old and she is loving it. I think she too will soon be balancing on a pedal bicycle.

      Thanks for taking the time to write!

      Be well!

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s