What to do when it doesn’t go right?
Make it right, of course.
So here’s what happened:
I had built a frame and fork for a customer, and though it took longer than I had originally quoted (with the caveats that it may take longer, and I’d keep them informed), the customer was elated when he had them in his hands. I pointed out a couple things with the graphics that I wasn’t 100% happy with, but he assured me they were no issue. He promptly took it to a shop to have it built up to a complete bike. A couple weeks later I called that shop and talked to the mechanic, asking about the build up and any issues that had arisen. There were two – (1) the brazed-on front derailleur hanger, which I tend to not favor, was lower than standard for the derailleur being used, and necessitated the derailleur cage to be filed to allow the chainrings to pass without contact; and (2) the fork crown race seat had been milled slightly undersize, such that the bearing race slid on with light finger pressure rather than the interference fit that is standard.
I promptly called the customer to talk these issues over, and we came to the agreement that he’d ride the bike as-is, and if these things caused issues in the ride, we’d address them. I wasn’t so concerned with the derailleur hanger issue, as that wasn’t a potential safety concern, but the fork definitely was if play developed between the fork and the bearing. Speed wobbles could result, or even deformation of the head tube itself.
I did some digging and asking around, and found out that the hand mill I used to do the final cut on the bearing seat has a tendency to over-cut when trying to take off too much material, making the diameter smaller than standard. We’re only talking about a couple tenths of a millimeter, but that’s all it takes to make a transition fit into a slip fit. The solution? Hand file the bearing seat down very close to the final diameter, then do the final milling. I tried it out, and though it took a good 90 minutes or more of careful filing and rotating the fork, it worked beautifully.
Well, a couple months later (three weeks ago tomorrow, actually) I get the text… The derailleur hanger still causes the derailleur to contact the chainrings, and restricts the size of chainrings that he could possibly use, and while the fork wasn’t causing any problems currently, it was always in the back of his mind that it could, and it affected his confidence in hard and high speed efforts. All valid, and I had already agreed that this was a possibility and I would address them. I would re-braze the derailleur hanger (which would also mean a complete repaint), and make a new fork, all at my expense. Also, since his previous (and new) front derailleur had been modified to fit the bad placement, I would also replace that at my expense as well.
The frame and fork are back at the painter now, and I should have it back in about a week (the sixer of hefeweisen may or may not have helped get a shorter flow time). Then I’ll build it back up to riding condition (will also require one new cable, which I’ll gladly supply), and deliver it back to the customer for many happy miles to come.
In the end, I will likely not make any money on this deal, but I will have a happy customer, and I will know I did the right thing. It was never even a question of whether I would. My ethos wouldn't allow anything else.