Bikes and the art of self-maintenance

There is something absurdly satisfying about taking care of your own bike.

“Absurdly” is a pretty good description in my case as I’m a bit of an erratic bike mechanic who normally ends up taking things apart, putting them back together wrong and having to start all over again. I also have a tendency to lose crucial washers, drop the alun wrenches in the water, stab my fingers on fraying brake cables and mangle my shins with the chainrings while turning the bike over (embarassingly I did all of these yesterday afternoon!)

So you’ll understand why it normally takes me about 2 hours to do what should be a 2o minute job. Not to mention why, about two thirds of the way through, I was thinking despairingly of wheeling it to the bike shop and confessing that I’d made a total hash of trying to adjust the brakes and asking them to please sort it out!

But persistence paid off and it all seemed so worthwhile when I went for a quick test ride afterwards. The gears changed sweetly (no clunking or jumping!) and the brakes stopped me so effectively that, having got used to badly adjusted brakes, I nearly went over the handlebars the first time I tried.

I spend most of my working and personal life doing complex, abstract things where it’s really difficult to be sure you’re making progress. Bike maintenance is a very restful contrast – physical, fairly straightforward and with tangible practical results.

I think I need to treat both my bike and myself to a more regular maintenance schedule!

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