I’m On Intimate Terms With My Bike

8 Mar

A cookie to anyone who can tell me what that title is referencing.

In the meantime…

Yes, this week I got intimate with my bike. It appears I have some mechanical intimacy issues. I bought said bike back in August. She is my first and I have yet to name her. My car–a red Subaru Impreza–got his name (Tito) three days after I bought him and I feel great affection towards that car. But my six month old Trek Lexa? I don’t know why but it has been hard for me to feel particularly close to her. I don’t like that. Feels like Post-Bike Purchase Depression. I’m a bad bike-mom. I have neglected my bike-child.

What exactly do I mean by “neglected?” Well, let’s see, since I took her in for an initial tune-up back in November, I haven’t lubed her chain, I haven’t cleaned her thoroughly and I haven’t degreased her drive train, derailleurs, etc… Don’t freak out–I did finally do all of this yesterday. But sure, I was bad to her for several months. I was bad because I didn’t really know I had to do these things.

OK. That’s a lie. I knew I had to do these things but I wasn’t totally sure as to how or what products to use or whether I could do all this without a yard and a water hose, etc…

OK, that’s an excuse–any idiot can go online and watch a hundred Youtube how-to videos devoted to this kind of maintenance. Here’s one from a lady named Becky. Becky made me feel really bad about myself. Becky is a good bike-mom. Watch the video and you’ll understand why (a flippin’ TOOTHBRUSH, BECKY?!?!).

One of the great things about training with a team–especially a really well run and organized team–is that you’ve got access to other athletes and their years of experience. This week, our Commander taught a flat-changing and bike maintenance clinic. I went for the flat-changing segment (more on that in a minute) but I really needed the maintenance lesson. When he asked us to raise our hands if we’d lubed our chains in the last week and barely anyone raised their hands, I didn’t feel so bad. When it got to “three months” and I was the only person not raising her hand, well, that’s when the shame came.

It’s not a nice feeling. To be shamed into admitting your weaknesses. But it’s an experience we all need to have. Something inside of me changed in that moment and I made a promise never to neglect my bike again. I bought everything I needed to keep her in tip top shape and yesterday, I went to town on her parts. It was toxic and it was gross and I had to do it on my balcony but she’s really shining now and I’m psyched to race with her on Sunday.

The tire changing is a whole other ball of wax.

When I die. If I end up in hell (and I might), my punishment will be changing bike flats for all of eternity. I went to the clinic because I had to watch a friend change a flat two weeks ago and it made me very nervous. I haven’t had to do it while out riding yet (KNOCK ON WOOD. Did I actually just type that sentence THREE DAYS BEFORE A RACE?) so I figured I’d better learn. The lesson yielded several not-so-pleasant surprises.

Surprise 1: Getting a tire off even WITH a Park Tool tire lever is a total BITCH! Surprise! The Commander timed us on the change and I was a hot mess. Everyone else managed to do just fine but it took me 20 minutes of struggling just to get my tire off. Seriously, I have never been so foul-mouthed and ungraceful in a public setting.

That is yet another untruth. But whatever.

So I FINALLY got the tire loose and the tube out. I checked the inside of the tire for “miscellaneous debris,” and then put the tube back in. Then it took me another 20 minutes of fighting with the stupid tire lever before I could get the tire back in. That’s when I got hit with:

Surprise 2: I’d been riding all this time with THE WRONG PUMP! SURPRISE! The combo manual/CO2 travel pump I bought in September? Not for a 48mm valve. I didn’t even know that my tubes had 48mm valves. I do now. And that brought me to:

Surprise 3: Apparently, I’d been riding with a spare tube that was totally useless! Surprise! Then came:

Surprise 4: The CO2 cartridges that came with the crap pump didn’t have any ridges on them so they couldn’t even be screwed into an adapter when we found one.

I THOUGHT I had all the necessary equipment to deal with a flat. Surprise! I was wrong. I have been riding the bike since August. I have been incredibly lucky.

Anyway, eventually, we finally just grabbed a full size bike pump and that’s when I discovered:

Surprise 5: My valve stem was completely smushed so I couldn’t inflate at all. Which meant…drumroll…Surprise 6: I would have to go through the entire process all over again! YAY! But all of these surprises were worth confronting because, had I not gone through this ordeal, I could have ended up with Surprise 7:

Being stranded on the side of the road on Key Biscayne with no way to change a tube save flagging some other (probably male) cyclist down and using my feminine charms to get a tire change out of him. SURPRISE!

So the next night, I repeated the whole process, all by myself, within a relatively short amount of time. It sucked. Changing bike tubes SUCKS. But I can imagine a certain level of pride that might come with getting expert at it. NOT that I am asking for many opportunities to become an expert. Still, I’m glad I now know the steps. And I’m really glad that I got to know my bike a little better. She deserves my love and attention. I’ve been bad mouthing her a lot lately and coveting fancier, more expensive Triathlon bikes that I can only dream about purchasing for myself right now instead of learning to be happy with the bike that’s right under my butt. One of my teammates just got a new Kestral and has taken to calling it “Maserati.” My bike is not a Maserati. She’s like a…well actually she’s like the bike version of my Subaru Impreza. So maybe I’ll just call her Titita. Or Tit for short. That’s pretty intimate.


22 Responses to “I’m On Intimate Terms With My Bike”

  1. alltriwear March 8, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    you seriously spoke out loud what I went through!!!! I am yet to establish an intimate bond with my bike too although I already went through the tyre changing madness and as long as I have friends that do full maintenance work on the bike, I feel I do not want to do it! Gor for it though and mostly: enjoy riding!

    • mymultipersonality March 8, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

      thanks alltriwear. I’m with you though–I don’t want to do it. But i don’t want to spend $20 every time she needs a cleaning either!

      • alltriwear March 9, 2012 at 11:46 am #

        I guess I am just lucky to have a friend who is “one with his bike” and his idea of a good spare time activity is cleaning and servicing bikes…. be my guest, so I bring mine round there regularly and learn something every time. Hopefully you can extend your friend group to bike enthusiasts and find yourself a friend like that 😉

  2. Mark March 8, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    Nice to know another Impreza driver. 🙂 Mine’s called “Prometheus.”

    • mymultipersonality March 8, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

      he sounds super. tito is a mere humanoid. but still awesome. how old is Prometheus?

      • Mark March 12, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

        2005.. needing a new coat of paint and probably a new clutch and CV joint at this point, but I just don’t have the cash right now. 😦

      • mymultipersonality March 12, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

        I got tito a new clutch last year. Was not cheap but couldn’t wait. he’s older though. and I need him to last a few more years.

  3. Coston March 8, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    Yeah, park tool tire levers are the worst. Pedros are the bomb.

    • mymultipersonality March 8, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

      this is good to know. i will get a different one asap. i literally lost the first layer of skin on all my fingers and gave mysef multiple blisters.

  4. sexyflexi March 9, 2012 at 2:46 am #

    True West. What kind of cookie do I get 😉

    • mymultipersonality March 9, 2012 at 4:30 am #

      I am very proud of you. U get a virtual vegan cookie.

      • sexyflexi March 9, 2012 at 11:05 pm #


  5. bgddyjim March 18, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    In that youtube video that you linked to, Becky does some things that are outlandishly wrong… You never dump degreaser onto your cassette – NEVER… Inside your cassette are bearings. Those bearings have grease all over them and they do not come out for a simple chain cleaning. If you get degreaser on those bearings you will eventually ruin your cassette and you’ll be pushing a rear hub with bearings that no longer have grease on them until your cassette fails which will take a lot of wasted effort (I was amazed when she tilted that bottle of degreaser over her cassette). The proper procedure is to degrease the chain (get it wet) then shift through the gears (front and back – chain rings and cassette) which will deposit degreaser on the teeth rather than the entire cassette, preserving your bearing grease inside the cassette. This is obviously difficult with the bike right side up sitting on the ground.

    Finally, don’t mess with a toothbrush, that’s crazy and takes WAY too much time and effort. I use a Park Tool CM-5 Chain Cleaning Tool and Home Depot stock degreaser. That cleans the entire chain in a matter of 30 seconds (30 – 40 cranks backwards). Also, if you have trainer, degreasing is easiest done on that (just place paper towels on the trainer to keep from splashing degreaser on its important parts).

    There’s plenty of other things she did that I disagree with, but the degreaser on the cassette is the most egregious.

    • mymultipersonality March 18, 2012 at 10:00 am #

      Thank you! That is extremely helpful. I knew something was “up” with, Becky. Yet another reason to take everything you find on the interwebs with a grain of salt, I guess.

      • bgddyjim March 18, 2012 at 10:04 am #

        No doubt about it. My pleasure.

      • mymultipersonality March 18, 2012 at 10:12 am #

        Good to know someone else is up right no and probably on their way out the door.

    • mymultipersonality March 18, 2012 at 10:09 am #

      Also, i’m glad to hear you use the HD stock degreaser. I was just saving a couple of bucks but good to know someone else thinks it’s useful.

      • bgddyjim March 18, 2012 at 10:19 am #

        Yeah, I can spend $7 at HD for an ecologically sound degreaser or $15 at the bike shop for a bottle half the size, is bad for the environment, but does the same thing.

      • bgddyjim March 18, 2012 at 10:24 am #

        Oh the other comment… I’m up at 4:30 am, seven days a week. I work early during the week so I can train in the afternoon/early evening – the best way to keep on my schedule is to wake up at the same time all week long – and take naps on the weekend… Oh how I love my weekend naps. It’s the easiest way to give my wife and daughter’s their hubby/dad time and get all of my work done.

        It definitely takes some drive to get up early – kudos to you.

      • mymultipersonality March 18, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

        I agree: consistent wake-up time is a must. It only took me 30 years to figure that out. Now I like getting up early although some days I have to sleep until at least 7 or else I don’t function.

  6. Fairhaven Bike & Ski March 20, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    Congrats on becoming intimate with your bike – better late than never! Plus, now you can play superhero and come to the aid of the next poor soul you see stranded by the side of the road with the wrong size tube and a pump that doesn’t put out enough air to blow out a candle.


  1. Multiview 7: Andy Clark « mymultipersonality - March 22, 2012

    […] added the informative weekly Alien Endurance University clinics without which I would not yet be on intimate terms with my bike. The growth and popularity of this group, in a town that is notoriously tri-crazy, is a testament […]

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