Monday, January 10, 2005

Bike repair, cleaning and politics

Chicago got dumped with snow last week and created some interesting biking experiences. Most of the route to work is on a major street, so that isn't much of a problem. However a few blocks were snowy/icy/rutted and difficult to manuever on. I am sure that I royally pissed off a more than a few drivers as I slid, tottered and slowly worked my way home as they were forced to join me in a ridiculous slower-than-walking bicycle-lead procession. I thought my clumsy handling was funny--but I suspect that had their windows been rolled down, allowing them to hear my uncontrollable giggles, that I would have used me as a stencil to imprint a bloody snow-angel-riding-a bicycle in the dirty snow. This thought made me just giggle all the more--and giggling does not contribute possitively to balancing a bike on an uneven, shifting, slippery surface. Luckily I haven't fallen.

It all hasn't been smooth riding however. On the morning of the first snow (Wednesday?) my bike felt super sluggish on the road--I attributed this to the snow. Most of my attention was consumed by watching the road--which had snow and icyness. After I was riding on a clear path for a while I realized that I was working way too hard for the speed and gears that I was riding. "Fucking out of shape lazy ass" was the commentary going through my head as another biker passed me (people don't pass me unless they hit a light better than me or are on road bikes). The rhythmic 'flupping' sound that I had been humming to finally penetrated my conscious brain, jarred into recognition by the bone-rattling beating I experienced at every bump. My problem wasn't snow, ice or my lazy ass, but instead a flat tire. I then remembered that the night before I thought I needed more air in my tire, but then completely forgot about it. So basically I rode three miles on a flat tire.

I fanagled the front desk woman to let me bring my bike into the building to fix the flat. It was fun to get all greasy and work with my hands at the office. This tube had been patched before, but I didn't have the presta valve converter, so I patched it again. This worked fine and off I road. Coming home from the bar on Saturday night I went over a grated bridge and the unpleasant sensations resumed. Damn it. I was only a few blocks from home, so it wasn't a big deal--but bike maintenance isn't my favorite activity.

When I flipped my bike over to remove the tire I was treated to the filthy underbelly of my poor bike. I scrubbed all of the nasty, salty crust off and then cleaned the floor where it had been parked. Apparently bicycles can smuggle an amazing amount of snow/slush/ice indoors with them. This frozen mess melts all over the floor leaving a salty finger pointing back to my bike sitting guiltily in an incrimating, dirty puddle. [the trail also demonstrates how uneven our apartment is.] After all of this cleaning I replaced the tube and was quite pleased with myself. Most pleasing was the fact that both of my patches were still intact and holding air. It is good to know that I can rely on my patching ability to get me out of a pinch. tehehe

Riding to work on Monday again made me feel out of shape--but it didn't feel like I was riding on the rims. A quick look at a stop sign confirmed that the tire still had air. I continued onward, once again feeling out of shape and got to work sweatier than usual. Riding home took a ton of effort and after about a mile I stopped to further investigate. After checking to see if it was the brakes or fender rubbing, I realized that the tire was rubbing against the frame. I had to push the tire hard to get it to move at all--no wonder it was so hard to ride. Once the tire was properly housed the rest of the ride home was a breeze. How could I possibly not realize sooner that these problems were mechanical instead of assuming that it was me being sluggish? I ride this thing damn near every day--shouldn't I trust my own abilities by now to identify problems like these sooner?

Another disturbing thing is that recently I have found myself annoyed with some bikey people that I have met. The owner of the bike shop scoffed at me for getting a new tube instead of patching it again, "two patches--that's nothing, I don't consider getting a new tube until it has been patches at least 16 times". First of all, 'Fuck you.' In my opinion this tube is just used up. It has over 4000 miles of bumpy, glass-strewn miles on it and has flatted three times in as many months. January is not the time of year when I want to be fixing a flat on the side of the road, either. Second--what kind of business owner are you? Don't criticize a customer's decision--especially when she is erring on the side of buying more stuff from your store. I didn't ask for his advise, and was secure in my decision. While he knows who I am, I don't feel that we have a good enough relationship for his unsolicited, condescending attitude.

On the other end of this spectrum is a woman who was appalled that I didn't have an all-gortex uniform for riding in. She is older (she coordinates her clothes with her dog's clothes) and tried to lecture me on this about a week ago. She actually was demanding reasons why I wouldn't want completely waterproof clothes instead of settling for water resistant. My temper rose to her challenge and I explained that I would get too warm and sweaty in waterproof clothes. She countered with a glowing endorsement of gortex and couldn't believe that people go without it. I don't know what is so hard to understand about the fact that gortex is too expensive to justify the few times that it is actually necessary.

Why do people get so preachy about this sort of stuff? Neither of these people are negatively effected by my clothing or flat-fixing methods. I just don't understand it. I don't want to be a gear or apparel freak--but I don't try to convert those who are. Both of these experiences just made me cranky. I am not out to prove how hard-core I am (for either of their mind-sets) and I hate this whiff of bikeier-than-thou from these people. I expect it from the roadies, fixies and the immortal messenger class, but I don't want to hear it from the car-free commuters. From that great group I expect only support and friendship.


At 12:22 AM, Blogger equipoise said...

I've noticed my biking wardrobe becoming increasingly ecclectic lately. I went out for the Saturday night ride, and started out with 2 pair of tights, Gap cargo pants (from thrift store), wool socks, heavy duty backpacking boots, wicking upper layer, fleece, and shell jacket. Shell was too hot after like a mile, so I took that off and threw on an old holey wool sweater I had packed just in case. Old holey sweater was just the ticket - high tech shell went into the backpack and stayed there for rest of the night. As far as I'm concerned, wear whatever works, the cheaper or more second-hand the better.

At 7:11 PM, Blogger jojo said...

My IllumiNite jacket sort of bothers me because it is so 'bikey'. I try to show people that biking is easy, fun and the best way to get around a dense city, instead of acting as a burden or a sacrifice. So I don't want it to be too expensive or separate from the rest of my life. Gearing up with cycling-exclusive clothes seems contrary to that method, because it separates biking from ordinary life. I can't wait for it to warm up so I can just throw on a sundress and ride--and No, it won't be a Gortex, Pearl, vented, back pocketed, shelf-bra, hidden-spandex-shorts sundress.


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