Because our family has been separated by travel so much over the past six weeks or so I turned down an invitation for a lovely 50mi ride on peaceful roads that included a mid-ride sit-down breakfast this past weekend. But another week off the bike means I am jonesing for a ride like nobody’s business.

So what do you do when you can’t ride? You read about riding.

I recently picked up “Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling” by BikeSnobNYC at my local library (on my bike, of course) and am enjoying it immensely. His wit and humor bring levity to the often pretentious world of cycling and frankly, makes me feel better about myself for not being Super Fast, Super Skinny or my quad’s lack of effective rippling when I walk.

That wouldn’t be scary or anything.

So I get to the chapter that talks about maintenance, specifically the bare minimum any cyclist should be able to do:

  • Flat Repair
  • Chain Maintenance
  • Saddle Adjustments
  • Handlebar Adjustments
  • Wrapping Bars
  • Brake Adjustment
  • a list of your Must Have Tools.

These include a set of Allen keys, a floor pump, and a correctly-sized wrench if you don’t have quick-release wheels. Which of course, prompts me to think about my bike and the few minor adjustments I’ve been meaning to make since my last ride.

As I’m tweaking my handlebars and seat post – in the middle of my living room, much to my husband’s amusement – I’m reminded of a recent thread on the local bike club listserv that became very heated over group ride leader responsibilities and more specifically, should club riders on lower-level rides (D through C+) be required to know how to change their own flats or at the very least have adequate supplies for basic repairs?

(SIDE NOTE: The thread was charged mostly because there was a dispute over whether the group should have waited for the broken-down rider to be picked up or if they were correct in going on after securing contact info and another rider volunteering to stay behind. And before you jump in, keep in mind I am withholding a lot of facts/speculation because a) I wasn’t there and b) am somewhat confused by the whole situation. Interestingly, I had considered going on that very ride but decided I didn’t want to go to the end destination and instead went on a wonderful 40mi ride for coffee with a new cycling friend. That whole weekend was whack.)

I digress!

Can we realistically expect new riders (or low level riders) to know how to do these repairs? Should there be a requirement to attend a basic bike maintenance course when purchasing as a new rider? Many shops in the area host basic bike maintenance clinics once a month … So it’s not that the information isn’t out there. And heaven knows The Google will bring forth most information you seek.

But I’m not really one to talk, right? I am certainly guilty of buying a sweet ride and not knowing how to deal with flats or anything else for that matter. And I was fortunate to be with a great group of riders when I did experience my first on-ride flat. I asked the more experienced cyclists to guide me, since I’m a hands-on learner, and in the end it worked out very well. Can I change a flat quickly? No … But I’ve done it once and that’s more than I have previously. And I always ride prepared with an extra tube, levers, patch kit, and CO2.

Also, in taking with the guys at my shop, I’ve picked up a few things too. Like how to clean and lube my chain and at what intervals. How to adjust my handlebars, cleat position, seat post and saddle. They even showed me how to adjust my brakes and to some extent how to adjust my chain guide thingy. And that’s really where the value is … in developing a relationship with your favorite bike shop. Learning the tricks of the trade so you can maximize your enjoyment. Because the shop wants your business – not your ride in their maintenance queue.


In other news, I am pleased to report I am attempting my first bike commute this week. I outfitted my hybrid with a rack and pannier; the fenders and new lights will arrive this weekend. The local shop was having a huge sale so I prepaid and just need installation. Yay! I’ll let you know how it goes …

Specialized Crossroads Sport hybrid
now with sexy new rack and pannier!

See you in the road!

Author: Laura

wife. mother. kick-ass girl. all mountain, all road adventurer by bike.

10 thoughts on “Maintenance”

  1. People stopped waiting on me 35 years ago. The fact that one person stayed back is amazing.

    People who rely on other people to fix their problems or hold their hand, always wind up disappointed at some point.

    I’d offer to babysit the rider in question for $25 a ride. You know, make sure they don’t ride alone when they drop off the back, fix their flats (with their equipment), and so on. Bet that raises an eyebrow or two at the club ride…but it would get the point across.

    1. To be fair, they weren’t in the best part of town and as a woman, I would have insisted on someone staying with me as well if the group was hell-bent on continuing on. I’m not sure to what extent she wasn’t able to fix her issue so much as she didn’t have a second spare tube when the valve broke. And with 650cc wheels, no one else had a tube to share.

      When I got my flat, I was fortunate enough to be with a group of cyclists who not only guided me in the process but helped the other guy fix his flat even though it took us an hour in the blazing sun with crazy humidity because we didn’t want to just leave him to wait for a cab (even though he offered a couple times). Eventually we were able to get him rolling again by glue-patching his old tube and really, the ride was better for all of us sticking together.

      1. The bad part of town changes the story altogether. I’d have stayed with her myself.

        Of course, maybe we shouldn’t get into the fact that she didn’t have the forethought to have a spare tube one her whilst riding through the bad part of town.

        I do apologize for the harsher reaction and not thinking of that first – sometimes the old knight in shining armor thing doesn’t work until the situation arises.

      2. It’s all very confusing, really. Everyone was arguing about many different aspects of the situation and like I said, I wasn’t there so I don’t *really* know the story. I only know the 100+ emails I got in the days after that got very, very heated.

        The thing I got out of it was the ferocity of some of the more experienced cyclists who were adamant that everyone who owns a bike should know how to fix a flat and always carry two spare tubes. Other experienced cyclists reminded the group that we all start somewhere and just because you can’t change a flat today doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ride until you do because the lessons will come. Or that not everyone can carry two tubes if they have a smaller saddle bag due to a smaller frame. I’d rather ride with the latter cyclists – the lessons will come and we’ll get through them together. That’s part of the fun and adventure of cycling. 🙂

      3. I ride with (and am one of) the former. 😉

        Who carries two tubes? I’d bet flats are frequent where you ride…

        One in the saddle bag, one in a ziplock sandwich bag in the jersey. My saddle bag wouldn’t fit two either. Gotta be prepared. But within reason of course.

        Too bad it had to get heated. That’s why I ride fast (and usually alone) by the way. If you’re going to keep up with me you’ve been around bikes long enough to have your tube and be able to fix it. Sounds like a few of the “formers” need to find a different ride – you don’t need them spoiling your fun anyway.

      4. The Faster Kids weren’t on the ride – it was a C- (10-12mph average) ride – they were just throwing in their “two cents.” A “newbie” type ride shouldn’t come with expectations of being able to do your own maintenance IMO.

        But there should be an expectation that you learn along the way. It’s clearly posted that ride leaders are not expected to be your mechanic – this situation just seemed to bring out the nasty in everyone. And that benefits no one.

      5. That post is done… though I’d bet the person you’re talking about already bought everything on the list… If not, and she flats again… I can’t even believe that would be possible.

  2. Hi…. writing from Mexico, i just bought a bike just like the one in your photo i’d like to know how good are they? Specially in desertic environment because I’m from baja… thanks

    1. Hi Claudia! The bike is solid – a bit on the heavy side so it’s not very fast or zippy but it is very stable and comfortable. Hope that helps!

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