Today’s Art of Manliness assignment was to learn how to do something with your hands. So I decided to learn how to tune my bike.
This is my bike. I got it to ride in college, back in the summer of 2008. It cost $95 at Wal-Mart at the time, and I basically treated it as a cheap bike all throughout college. I never took care of it, and it took all the abuse and neglect from my busy self. During college it always stayed outside, exposed to harsh UV radiation, dihydrogen monoxide, dirt, etc. I also never cleaned the chains and gears, and often my tire pressures were low (I thought it was a good way to intensify my exercise by using flatter tires).
Towards the end of college, I finally began feeling a bit sorry for my bike. I also started to get into biking as more than just a way to get to class faster (so I can sleep in a few minutes longer). So for a while I’ve been wanting to give my bicycle some tender loving care… I just didn’t know how until I looked it up on the internet this morning.
Apparently the most important thing to maintain a bike is to clean the chain and gears. I never cleaned my chains, but I had once sprayed some WD40 on it and said, “Done!” But apparently you’re supposed to use WD40 as a solvent to clean the grease-grime from the chain, and use a proper bike lube. It turns out that WD40 is a degreaser, not a lubricant. Why didn’t anybody ever tell me this?!
Anyways, after all the cleaning, I went ahead to take a look at my gear-shifting gizmodos. For as long as I could remember, there were gears that my bike simply couldn’t get to, and I just assumed that it was what happens with a cheap bike from Wal-Mart. But it turns out that my gear cables just weren’t adjusted correctly. This part wasn’t on the online instructions I looked at, but it was surprisingly easy to figure out how it worked. The actual fixing took a while, but in the end I got my gears to shift like they were supposed to. Hooray for new manual skills!
At the end of all this, my hands were really black and a bit sensitive after all that gripping and friction action with the bicycle. Even as I type there are some spots of darkness that I couldn’t get out of my hands. I guess when people talk about getting their hands dirty, it actually does mean your hands get dirty.
After today, my bike will definitely be getting more tender loving care once in a while. It’s just another skill in my handy-dandy tool belt.