Sunday, August 16, 2009

zen and the art of bicycle maintenance

I tried really hard to put myself in a zen-like state as I was working on my bike this evening.
I almost succeeded.
in fact, I may have been there for a brief moment or two . . .

but the rest of the time I was sweating and trying not to swear.

because I really just don't like having to take care of my bike. I was thinking of those cyclists who race and whose bikes are just like family members to them, and how they probably love to take care of their machines. cleaning and lubing, tightening and loosening, changing out parts . . . all done with great love.
I am not there.
I am working on it.

all I had to do this evening was change out a tire. old front tire, 3500 miles on it, time to go.
the nice thing about old tires is that they come off and go onto the rim really easily.
guess what the bad thing about new tires is?
yep, they don't stretch quite as nicely.
in fact, they don't want to stretch much at all.
when I reached the near-final part of the process, fitting the second side of the tire into the rim, I hit that point where you take your tire lever and neatly flip the bead of the tire into the rim. I was down to about 10 inches that needed to be tucked in, where the tension is so high that each time I tucked the next inch of bead into the rim, the bead on the other end of that final 10 inches would pop right back out.
so I would do it again.
and again the other end would pop out.
I breathed deeply and felt zen-like, wiped sweat from my brow and, yep, went through the whole process again, watching my 10-inches just move further around the arc.
finally I determined that my method was flawed.
I tried for the middle point of the 10 inches, using my lever to try to flip that section up and into its future home.
no go.
I paused and reflected.
be one with the tire.
yeah, right.
I relaxed my shoulders, breathed deeply, and gently slipped the tire lever under one end of my 10-inch stretch and held it close to the rim while I took another lever and worked on the other end of the unseated bead, and voila: buddha slipped that tire right into place for me.

and the rest, as they say, is history.
my fresh new tire with its plump new tube is going to go for a ride in the morning.
and as much as I gripe about having to take care of my bike, there exists a tiny little spark inside me that bubbles into a warm glow each time I successfully complete one of those dreaded maintenance tasks.

chop wood, carry water, change tires.

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