My bike feels like new!

snowbikingMy bottom bracket had been showing signs of premature aging (pedals aren’t meant to wiggle, right?) so last week I went up to my parent’s house to put in a new one. My dad was still at work but he told me to go ahead and take the cranks off.

“But I don’t think I can take them off by myself, I don’t remember how!” I sputtered.

He reassured me that I was quite capable of taking them off without him. So I dug around in the toolbox and found what I thought were the right tools and timidly set to work. But these cranks didn’t take my gentle suggestions very kindly. I had to unscrew those bolt using all of the strength I could muster, hoping that I was unscrewing them properly.

It took me a lot of huffing and puffing but eventually I was triumphant and both crank arms came off. I felt ridiculously proud of my accomplishment; my dad had been right after all.

bike crank arm

It actually came off!


Having a dad who is always willing to coach me through bike repairs is the best things a non-mechanically minded cyclist could ask for. He has a knack for pushing me beyond the limits of what I think I can do but also being there to help out with the stuff I can’t do yet.

And one thing that I quickly discovered that I couldn’t do on my own was to take out the bottom bracket. Even after my dad made it home the bottom bracket didn’t want to come out. But eventually, after working on it for a good thirty minutes, maybe even closer to forty five minutes, we were able to get it loose. (I say we, but really my dad did all the muscle work while I held the bike still.) Then I cleaned up inside the frame and we put the brand-new shiny bracket in. Don’t worry, thanks to salt, I am sure it won’t be shiny for long.

bike bottom bracket

Poor old thing


I also got new brake pads, which I installed today despite a strict warning on the package that said…

“Fitting and adjustment should be undertaken by a qualified mechanic.”

Slowly, ever so slowly, I am getting comfortable with working on my bike. I am starting to understand how different parts work and much to my surprise, actually enjoying the process. I can’t thank my dad enough for giving me a helping hand.

Stop that squeak!

It can be overwhelming. There is so much about bike repair and bike maintenance that I don’t know yet and I find myself constantly playing catch up, trying to learn what I need to know to keep my bikes in good condition.

Sometimes, I look at one of my bikes and think,

“I have no clue how this thing actually works, what am I even doing riding it anywhere?”

I guess learning it all doesn’t happen overnight. The good thing is I am making progress, albeit slower progress than my bikes surely hope for.

Last week, my mountain bike started squeaking with every pedal stroke. I figured the chain needed a good cleaning, so that day when I got home from work I scrubbed everything down. In the morning, I applied a fresh layer of lube and called it good.

It wasn’t good. The squeaking continued. Is there anything worse then riding a madly squeaking bike?

This time when I got home, I looked at each moving part to determine what could possibly be causing my ears such pain. The culprit turned out to be the innocent looking guide pulley.

Yesterday I got out my set of Allen keys and confidently loosened the bolt which held the pulley in place. (Guide pulleys can sense fear so my use of the term “confidently” is a cover-up of my actual emotional state.)

Since I was already tinkering around with the derailleur, I took the other pulley out as bike pulleys

After cleaning each part, I lubed the pulleys and tightened them back into their respective places. And for bonus points I figured out why I have been having trouble with my rear brakes; one of the pads was up too high and was brushing the tire.

I felt like a champ. I had diagnosed the problem and solved it.

Did the process take a few hours?

Was I laughably clumsy the entire time?

Did I put the chain around the pulleys incorrectly the first couple of tries?

But everything is back in place and working fine. And best of all, I did it all by myself.

Keeping my bike clean.

DSC00937My bike gets really dirty, really fast. Especially on rainy days. And, since my bike is light-colored every bit of dirt, sand, grass and snail (yup, I find snail parts on my frame all the time) shows up beautifully. So I have gotten in the habit of washing my bike a lot. I wash her down every time after a rainy ride and a couple times a week otherwise.

I use the same basic routine shown in this GCN video although I don’t use WD40 as my lube. I must admit I am three times slower than Simon, but I am getting faster the more I do it.

I don’t have a hose outside so after I have scrubbed down my bike I run it up the stairs and stick in my bathtub to rinse it off. My mom did not believe that I gave my bike a shower in the shower until she came to the apartment one day and saw it for herself.


Shower time!


The last order of business is to wash off my own hands, because I always manage to get them filthy in the process.

I enjoy taking a few minutes to make my bike sparkle and it is a great feeling to have a clean bike to take on the road the next day. Besides, it is way more fun than giving my dogs a bath, my bike doesn’t stare at me with mournful, pitiful eyes and act like I have betrayed it. I think my Trek likes being clean.

Getting to the root of the problem (takes me a long time).

DSC00881I was biking home from work yesterday afternoon when a piece of metal jumped into my path, bit my rear tire and then flounced away, clattering on the pavement. It left my tire looking sad and limp, but I must admit, I was rather excited. This was my first big chance to put my mini pump to use out on the road. But after removing the old tube and replacing it with a new one, I discovered with a sinking feeling that my “new tube” wasn’t new at all. It was as incapable of holding air as the tube I started with.

Bringing along tools to fix a flat tire  10 points
Knowing how to fix a flat tire              10 points
Bringing a flat tube                            -100 points

I lost the game. So I rolled my eyes at myself for having a spare tube with a puncture and pulled out my cellphone. It was time to be rescued. I hate being rescued. After calling for assistance, I walked my bike over to a nearby cemetery and we hung out together until my dad arrived.

On the drive home, my dad filled me in on all the latest TdF details. Hey, if I can’t ride my bike home at least I can have a conversation about biking on the way home, right? Then I was off to my youngest brother’s soccer game (which he won, yay) and I didn’t get back to my apartment until past my bedtime. So I threw a new tube on my rear tire, pumped it up and got my bike ready for my commute in the morning as fast as I could.

Waking up at 3:30 to find that my tire was suspiciously flat wasn’t a great way to start the day. I scoured the apartment for another tube, I had one somewhere…but I failed to find it. So I hijacked my sister’s bike instead.

I didn’t realized how accustomed I have become to having my feet clipped in. On my sister’s MTB with platform pedals, I had to remind myself to keep my shoes on the pedals. But the good little bike got me to work and back quite nicely.

Then I went down to the local bike shop to pick up new tubes for my bike. I had never stopped in before. The owner is a full-time teacher, his bike shop is something he opened on the side a couple years ago. He was very nice, but oddly he knew who I was.

“You’re the girl who bikes ten miles to work, right?”

Armed with two boxes of brand new tubes (just in case something happened to the first one, with my track record things weren’t looking good) I returned home determined to get my rear tire fixed once and for all. It took me a few minutes but I finally, finally, I found the root of the problem. My tire had a quarter-inch gash in it. I was in a time crunch, I was helping an elderly couple in the afternoon and I had only minutes to spare.

So I called the cyclist hotline.

“Dad, my tire has a gash in it, what do I do?”

Once he told me there wasn’t anything that I could do, I remembered my old set of tires. My dad told me to put the old front tire on until I can order a new one. So that is what I did and then I carefully made my way to the home of the elderly couple. Whew! Who know flat tires could be so much work.

There is a moral to this story.
Avoid hungry chunks of metal on the road.
Or maybe…
My dad needs a pay raise for his cyclist assistance hotline and taxi service.
Maybe it’s both.