Making Amends : Bike Workshop I

Class: Bike Workshop I

For the Bike Workshop class, I had to choose one of my bicycles to bring to the shop. That makes me sound like a cyclist, right? Hahahaha. My three choices were a hand-me-down bicycle that goes to the Black Rock Desert decorated as a cat, a ten-speed retro “road” bike in sad condition that I got at a yard sale five years ago, or my decent hybrid street/off-road bike that needed a tire repair. For amusement, and because it gets the most concentrated use, I brought my dusty cat bike. Here are its symptoms: mysterious clicking noises, doesn’t always get into gear, rear brakes don’t work, lots of corrosion, and the seat fell off a few times. Diagnosis: this bike needs help!

[Note: the abuse in the top photo came from the wind and not from me. Well, the decorative abuse came from me. “Crevé” means punctured in French and is used to describe flat tires. It is also a colloquial term for being exhausted, like my bike.]

Our instructor, Todd, took us through the different bike components and then we learned about basic maintenance for tires, brakes, gears, and the chain. As we progressed, I felt more and more guilty about all of the bikes I’d neglected.



Obviously, there was the cat bike in front of me and the other two in our garage; I could make amends with them. But there were a few others, most notably a Velib free bike in Paris, the only bike around at 1:30 a.m. when the distance back to the hotel seemed too great to bear on foot. I could see why it was still around: a floppy, under-inflated, but not-quite-flat front tire. It needed rest, but I needed it to rally for my return. The whole ride back I could hear the thump-thumping as we shared this painful journey together. If I had brought my bike repair kit, I might have been able to fix it; instead, I left a message for Velib to please give the bike some love once I deserted it.

This Lifelong Learning class taught me the error of my ways. Besides the tire repair and brake adjustments, we also focused on tuning the shifting mechanism. Suddenly it became clear that I did not have to live with the bike not going into gear, the chain falling off, and the clicking sounds. I had been introduced to the low and high limit screws and the barrel adjustment among other things.

Those of you who ride bicycles a lot (and I know some of you really well) are probably laughing at me right now, and I’m okay with that. I will laugh with you. The derailleur and cassette components had seemed mysterious before because I never really looked at them. Now I see them as part of the complete bike system, and it’s liberating to understand how to care for the whole bicycle. I recognize the limits (and the limited quality) of the cat bike, but that doesn’t mean I have to treat it flippantly. I pledge that my other bikes and future vélos and biciclettas will all get the attention they deserve.

Bike Workshop II is finishing up now, and for this class we’ve gone into greater detail about performance adjustments. I estimate that each of my bikes need about four hours of cleaning, maintenance, and repairs. Then it’s time to hit the road.