Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance

At work, I have a reputation for outspoken clumsiness. These days, whenever I let out a squawk because I've just caught my finger in a crate or dumped an entire scoop of trail mix everywhere but into its intended bag, they say I'm having a "Valerie moment."

At home, I keep a bottle of hydrogen peroxide around to clean the clothing I'm always bleeding on. The most mundane of tasks result in injury. Yesterday, while washing my bike, I managed to put a 2-inch scratch in my forearm when I spun the wheel and spun my arm with it, straight into the gears. This morning, while putting the hose attachment on the vacuum cleaner, I whacked my hand into a sharp edge and scraped my knuckle. I also walked into a doorknob, a car door, and a wall. Just now, I kicked my ankle into the leg of my chair hard enough to remove the top layer of skin. [Edit: the next day: And then I bruised my knee while getting into bed!]

If ever there is a day that I don't have some self-inflicted injury somewhere on my body, I think angels would descend from the heavens and sing halleluia.

Surprisingly though, when working on more difficult chores, I escape mostly unscathed. Perhaps its because having to concentrate on an unfamiliar task makes me work more slowly and carefully. In any case, my mission today was to adjust the poorly shifting gears on my bicycle.

Last year, a clicking noise caused me to take old Greenie to REI, where it waited 3 weeks in the shop before finally getting tuned up. After that, the brakes worked better, but the clicking noise was still there! I took it back to REI, where they determined the source of the noise to be a loose pedal. This year, I decided not to put my bike into the incompetent, expensive, and slow-moving hands of REI employees, and do it myself instead.

The following resources were helpful in educating me on the workings and repair of a bike gear shift: http://www.ehow.com/video_4985712_fix-poorly-shifting-bicycle.html, http://www.ehow.com/how_117871_fix-poorly-shifting.html. But I still had to resort to a lot of trial and error to get it done. At one point, I was terrified that I had rendered the bike completely unrideable and would have to shamefacedly take it to REI to be put to rights. But I tried again and got it into a semblance of working order. I might have even fixed it! The gears shift now, with little of the slipping, grinding, and gabbling that plagued me before. And at no point did I cause injury to myself! My fingertips are a little raw from yanking on cables, but they'll get over it.

The moral of this story is: If simple tasks cause you woe, complex tasks are the way to go!