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.)
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 …
See you in the road!