useless

Recently I had the opportunity to take a hands-on, two-night bicycle repair and maintenance class.  It looked like a perfect fit for me.  Last year I attended an REI workshop that briefed cyclists on bike maintenance and tire repairs.  However, without actually fixing a bike myself, I do not have the confidence to take a stab at it.

The week of the repair class found me working longer hours than usual.  That, paired with the fact I was taking rowing class two mornings a week, I decided against taking the bike class.  I did not have any regrets as it was a good decision … well, sort of.

A week ago my local bike club, the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen, hosted one of their weekly rides.  This was my first time riding with the club and it was a great experience, once I got over the mild embarrassment of being applauded by 50 others for being a “new” rider with the group.

As I pedaled along the 35 mile route, I saw a member of the group on the side of the road.  The chain on her bike had jammed and would not move.   I looked at my own bike to do a comparison to hers.  Part of the chain was not where it should be.  We kept trying to fix it but it would not budge.  Finally, someone else stopped and said there were other riders behind that could help her.  Eventually they did stop and she caught up with us again.

This blog is titled ‘useless’, as that is how I felt.  The other cyclist thanked me profusely for stopping and trying to help her, but I had regrets that I didn’t have the time for the repair class.  Her bike wasn’t in need of anything too fancy, just someone with the know-how of making adjustments.

In the past I never cared if I got a flat or had some other bicycle mishap.  RI is small enough that there is always someone you can call for rescue.  Some of the routes, even rural ones, are either on a bus route or not too far away.  I never had the interest in learning how to repair my own bike, until I saw the “hands-on” description of the class offered last month.

Readers and fellow cyclists, what about you?  Are you an experienced tire-changer, maintain your own bike, or just go out there hoping nothing will go wrong?   Any advice for newbies who want to learn bicycle repair?

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5 responses to “useless

  1. I haven’t had to do many repairs on the road, (thank God), but it would have been nice to know what to do with my friend, on the other hand, who was pedaling uphill over at Addison Oaks and plunged forward when his front wheel just dropped off. I will say, though, a repair class would be SUCH a great idea, as since the accident, my dad participated in a 6 or 8-week course at REI and has SO much more knowledge about what to do. It eventually led to a job for him there . . . so haha there are definitely a lot of perks that come with those classes. 🙂

  2. I feel that it’s a good thing to at least have a working knowledge of how your bike works along with the tools to fix common bike problems when riding. Most cycling enthusiasts are glad to help and share what they know, so when in doubt ask often. I’m self taught as far as bicycles go and can remember taking apart bottom brackets with a screwdriver and hammer as a kid. I have since learned that the right tool for the job works a lot better, but that there is no substitute for hands on experience.

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  4. I have discussed offering basic wrench / maintenance classes with two local mechanics. We will offer this as a part of Re-Bicycle Lenawee. Contact me if you are interested.

  5. First, thank God for co-editors, because, as you can plainly see, I just haven’t had it in me to blog much of late. Imagine.

    Second, for those in the Lenawee County area, hopefully, the ABCo-op will be able to offer various levels of bike maintenance and repair classes once we’re up and running. In fact, educating Re-Bicycle Lenawee bike recipients will be a fundamental component of the program.

    Finally, in response to the questions posed, yes, I do try to do as much maintenance and repair of my own bikes as possible, for a variety of reasons, not least of which are independence/self-sufficiency and something more existential akin to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

    My recommendation for newbies is first of all to just try it. Practice at home. Tackle something basic like repairing a flat or adjusting your brakes and shifters. Also, cleaning your bike thoroughly and lubricating the drive train will help you get to know it in an intimate way. Check out websites like Sheldon Brown, Bicycle Tutor, Park Tool, and Jim Langley (all of which are linked to the right). These sites offer a heap of trustworthy information, advice, and how-to guides.