Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bike Shops

A bike shop is a special place.

I ran by my local bike shop recently to pick up a water bottle (which is what we call wishful thinking, since I can’t ride hard enough to need a water bottle right now) and I was reminded how much I like bike shops. I like the way they look, and I like the particular smell that you get, which is, I suppose, composed of equal parts new tires, new lycra, chain lube and sweaty cyclists. (If sweaty cyclists who were out for a ride and just happened to pass by the bike shop never stop in just to pick something up or get a drink or say hello or just hang out, this is a bad sign.)

Every bike shop needs a Steve. Steve is a wrench extraordinaire who has a simple philosophy: “There’s a right way to do things, and you should do things the right way.” This is a guy who I want to take care of my bike.

We considered trying to get a constitutional amendment past so that the Steve in every bike shop that has one would in fact be called Steve, but we decided in the end that it wouldn’t be worth the trouble. It would save cyclists who go to new towns a whole lot of grief, though. You could walk into a bike shop and ask, “Do you guys have a Steve? No? I’ll go somewhere else, then.”

Of course, then I suppose there would be unscrupulous bike shops which would hire a guy whose name happened to be Steve even though he was a Steve in the truest and best sense of the word. You’d have to watch out for places like that.

I have to admit that I have visited bike shops in other cities. I know this might seem to make me untrue to my local bike shop, but it’s okay just to look, right? That’s the excuse I offer, anyway.

I would like to make it clear that I am talking about bike shops here. I would hate to think that any of your who might have happened upon this blog by accident and who ended up reading it in spite of yourselves were making extrapolations about other areas of my life.

Bike shops.

My local bike shop has been known to let people come in and use the tools onsite and cyclists have been allowed to watch and ask questions while their bikes were being worked on so that they could learn how to perform some of the basic tasks on their own.

Yes, I know the old joke: The rates are ten dollars an hour, twenty dollars an hour if you watch, thirty dollars an hour if you help. Well, it isn’t like that. (Mind you, I have been known to provide great entertainment value. Just ask Steve about the time I took a can of degreaser and aimed it at my chain. I pressed the button and discovered that I was holding the can backwards. I degreased my face instead of the chain. It did wonders for my acne, brightened Steve’s entire week and probably created a story that will last a lifetime. It’s a bit embarrassing though, even for me, so don’t tell anyone, okay? Thank you.

If you happen to be a complete klutz, like I am (I have been known to injure myself just by watching someone else do something mechanical) it’s nice to have a trustworthy wrench you can take your bike to. If some people are mechanically inclined, I must be mechanically declined. Want proof?

The first time I ever got a flat on my bike, the bike was actually sitting in a stand at home. Now, I assume that I got a slow leak while out on the road somewhere and that it just took a while for all the air to drain out, but maybe that’s not the case. Maybe my bike has picked up my klutziness and actually did get a flat while standing still.

Whatever the case, I set myself to change the flat. I had been told how to do it, and I even (heaven only knows why) bought a book on bike maintenance, as if I were coordinated or something, so I felt what later proved to be a completely unjustified level of confidence in my own abilities to deal with the situation.

I pulled the rear wheel off of my bike and, sitting in my house, set a record for slowest tire change in the history of bicycle repair. I did, however, manage to get the tire changed and even inflated. I did not, however, manage to get the wheel back onto the bike. I was completely stumped.

At the time I was driving a small two door car. I got the back seat lowered and, by pushing the front seats as far forward as they would go, managed to get the bike into the car. I also managed to get my body into the car, albeit with my knees under my chin and my nose touching the steering. This was obviously completely unsafe, but I drove to the bike shop anyway, where they didn’t laugh at me once as I dragged bike and wheel in. Steve then showed me what I had been doing wrong, and took my now functional bike back home and went for a ride.

Since that time I have had to change a flat or two, and I have succeeded in doing it unaided, which is certainly a good thing, since they sometimes happen quite some distance from home. I’ve never been fond of that ride home with no spare tube, but that’s another story.

See you on the road.


  1. As always you crack me up! I am enjoying the new blogs.
    So glad to have you back on the bike today. Things seemed like they should be again. Jorg expressing his views,Dave egging him on. The wind in our face, and the warmth of the sun on our backs. I would say it was a perfect ride.


  2. That was great, wasn't it? It's great to be back on two wheel again.