Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance.

Today I fixed my bike all by myself. I'd taken Trusty into the local bike shop three times in a row after a nasty derailer accident, and every time I picked him up the poor love just wasn't quite himself. It was taking quite a lot of time, although luckily not much money, because it was their fault. I had a conversation with a friend of a friend who heard the saga and whose breathtaking response was: 'Why not do it yourself? It's not rocket science'.

This was news to me. I sort of thought that rocket science was exactly what it was. I mean, both rockets and bikes are propelled. They both have...mechanisms. Don't they? Sciencey stuff that only qualified people can fiddle with?

Obviously having become concious of these assumptions I recognised their ridiculousness, and so decided to give it a go. It helped to think of my bike as just a big meccano set. If my brother age four could build a suspension bridge out of meccano surely I could make my chain stay on the cog I wanted it to be on. The problem had been reduced to an annoying slipping-on-the-gears fault, not enough to stop me riding but enough to irritate. A kind man called Ian explained that you can twiddle a knob on the back of the derailer to fix this, going a quarter turn at a time and noting the difference it makes. And so, screwing up my courage, I tried it. And knock me down with a feather, it worked.

I am not a naturally technical person (as is probably perfectly clear) but after my great triumph I am determined not to darken the door of the bike shop...well, for a while at least. I figure with some patience and enough youtube tutorials I should be able to handle the basic things. I can't think why I haven't even attempted it before- partially being intimidated by the (almost entirely) men in the shops and really just not knowing where to start.

I think this free bike maintenance workshop in Hackney might help me work it out. So, Trusty and I will be growing even closer as I get to know his inner workings- I just hope he trusts me.


  1. Good for you! I did a bike maintenance course at Hackney City Farm when I first started commuting which was really useful. It was a 6 week course, once a week - think it cost about £60. Worth doing (didn't know about that free one which I will definitely check out, so thanks for that!)
    To be honest, a lot of the bigger stuff I would still get someone else to do - but brakes & stuff - it's definitely useful to be able to do!

  2. Yay! Good for you!

    Personally, my philosophy is to know how to do the basics, do them a few times to prove I can, then find a reliable shop where the staff will take me and my bike seriously so I never have to dirty my hands again.