Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bicycle Maintenance Wisdom

Last night my friend Mandie stopped by with the front tire off her (somewhat) new Jamis cyclo-cross that went flat last week during a ride. As I started to pull out the tube (during the commercial breaks for Friday Night Lights which is a fantastic TV show fyi) and did my best to show Mandie what I was doing, my mind jumped to how simple of a task this is. But, then I started to think about when I had no idea how to change a tire and even when I knew how but still wasn’t very sure of myself in doing so and remembered how dumb I felt when I had asked for help in these occasions. I mean who doesn’t know how to change a bicycle tire, right?

While bicycle maintenance is far from complicated and difficult, it is also not just something that you pick up and automatically know how to do (at least not most of us). This past weekend I took my “new” polo/beater bike frame over to City Bikes to get a couple of measurements and I was reminded of just how useless one can feel when dealing with bike maintenance. The first reaction of the mechanic when I walked in with the frame was a bit of an eye roll and a quick run through of what he would likely need to do to build it up. When I explained that I was building it myself and that it was for polo his tone and the amount of respect towards me changed noticeably (keep in mind this was one of my favorite mechanics there and I am not complaining about him or his help as he has been more then helpful to me in his many encounters with my “dumb” questions).

After I told him this and said I was just getting a couple of general ideas for what I would need, he launched into a whole tirade on routes I could take for my bottom bracket and my headset which went well beyond my scope of knowledge. The main thing I got out of our discussion was that it looks like I’ve got an English threaded BB along with a couple of measurements he gave me. Hmmm, most of the rest came out to a smile and nod unfortunately, though I got the general idea for a bit of what he told me. Basically though my knowledge on these parts of the bikes are limited to what I’ve read in my basic bicycle maintenance manual which really is just a basic guide that doesn’t cover most of what I need.

So, I pretty much found myself in similar shoes as to when I first was learning how to do something as simple as changing a flat. I’m sure that after I continue to work on my bikes I’ll get a much better understanding of all the parts and measurements and then I’ll look back at this like I do changing a tire now. Until then though I’ll just have to keep asking questions and trying things out (hopefully with out breaking anything) until I get to the point that I am comfortable with it all.

Scott posted on the Racing Union blog yesterday a post which quickly discussed the differences between knowledge and wisdom. Here I can read about threadless and threaded bottom brackets and headsets all I want but until I get my hands dirty and get some real working experience with them, all this reading is going to produce is some basic knowledge; the wisdom will come with the work itself.

Luckily I’ve got Scott to provide some knowledge to me from his broad bank of wisdom and for the most part he is willing to deal with the “stupid” questions I consistently throw his way. Hopefully I’ll be able to do the same for my friends as they get more ingrained in the world of bikes as well.

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