Saturday, January 4, 2014

In need of professional help

So this winter, being rich in time but poor in funds, I got it into my head to give Ollie a tune-up myself. It seemed to make sense. Check the cables and screws, rewrap the handlebars in new tape. Swap in a new chain and cassette. I did work in a bike shop for a few months, after all. How hard could it be to do a little slightly-more-than-basic maintenance.

After some pre-surgery cleanup, I had the patient all ready:

I had my tools all laid out, including some odd looking new ones I'd purchased with a little birthday cashola from the bike shop up the street, plus the handy "chain tool" my cousin Laith had mailed me along with some other helpful knickknacks way back in 2009 when he learned I was going on a cross-country bike trip. (At the time I had no idea what the chain tool was or what it was for, so simply kept it in a gallon ziploc bag along with other mysterious but possibly useful bike paraphernalia.)

I decided to start with the comparatively simple task of replacing the chain (which only required the eponymous chain tool) before tackling the more complex task of replacing the rear gears (which I'd been advised would necessitate a chainwhip, lockring remover, various wrenches, and possibly a bench vise).

I spent much of Tuesday morning watching Youtube videos of mustachioed guys easily removing and replacing bike chains and rear cassettes. I spent most of that afternoon trying to get the dang chain off. Eventually I conceded temporary defeat, throwing up my grease-caked hands and scrubbing down as best I could before joining Kenton for dinner and hottubbing with friends out in Northern VA to ring in the new year.

Thursday afternoon, I returned to my apartment to find Ollie still wheels-up in my living room. I spent another couple of hours alternating between trying to use the chain tool to pop the pin out of various chain links, rewatching Youtube videos, scouring online forums (fora?) for tips on getting chains off of bikes, and swearing profusely. (I think Ollie was moderately scandalized, tilting her handlebars toward the window politely and pretending not to hear me. I hadn't cursed that much since we biked down the Pacific Highway.)

Friday morning, I awoke determined to get that bike chain off, so help me. After more video clip watching and forum research, I had a stroke of what I thought was genius and began to frantically scour Ollie's filthy chain for a "master link" -- kind of like a quick-release feature supposedly on some bike chains. I cleaned the chain (and the cassette, just because I was at it, and maybe my OCD was acting up) and stared intently as I slowly and repeatedly ran the chain around and around, looking for any sign of difference between one link and all of the others that might indicate it was the master link. After awhile, I threw up my hands (again) and started trying to crank out random pins with the chain tool (again). Oh, I broke something this time: the tool.

Guess I don't know my own strength.

There was no need to tell the bike shop, when I called late yesterday afternoon to check their hours and pricing, that I used to work in a bike shop. Since I'd damaged the chain too much to safely ride over, but not enough to get the stupid thing off, I walked Ollie over there this afternoon. I humbly returned the unopened tools I'd bought earlier in the week and forked over $20 (less than the cost of said tools) for a professional to install the new chain and cassette. I meandered over to Whole Foods to pick up some odds and ends for dinner, trying to comfort myself that while I may not be a crack bike mechanic I could still cook darn well. One can't be a professional at everything, right? We all have our talents, right?
Late in the afternoon, since I'd forgotten to bring along my helmet, I rolled my dear Ollie home with a shiny new chain and cassette. All ready for our ride to the farmers' market tomorrow.

Here's to smoother riding in 2014!

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