So it turns out that I can’t drag Shane (my partner) behind me on a little bike trailer to fix any flat tyres or bicycle issues that crop up in my triathlons. Primarily because he is refusing to do it.
Which means that I had to commit to learning yet another skill for triathlon training – bike maintenance.
When we bought my road bike, the lady at the shop (whose name was also Lauren) recommended I pump up my tyres before every ride. I have done this religiously, much to Matilda the dog’s annoyance because after inflating the tyre, the sudden air release as you remove the pump sounds like a gun firing and Matilda thinks the world is ending. She has taken to running away whenever I get the pump out. It’s not easy being a dog.
I have also ‘kind of’ been good about lubing the chain once a week(ish) as instructed by The Other Lauren. It’s not a nice job because it requires grease and dirty rags and trying not to get grease anywhere other than the dirty rag (especially not on the brake pads if you want them to still work) so it’s a bit more stressful for me. Although Matilda doesn’t mind this bit – apparently the lube is quite tasty.
For more advanced bike maintenance skills though, it was clear I would need to attend a class. Luckily, 99 Bikes at North Lakes offers free maintenance classes to Club Members (which I am, since I bought my bike from 99 Bikes Chermside) and I obtained two tickets to the session last night – one for me and one for my resident bike expert.
After explaining to Matilda that she’d have to get out of the car and wait at home because Shane is the bike expert to whom I was referring, we raced down to the store. We were a bit late, so arrived as the opening speech was being concluded.
They started with a lesson on how to assess whether your bike was safe to ride, which was kind of useful but seeing as my bike is only a few weeks old, I’d like to think it’s safe to ride for the near future. It was definitely good to learn the names of various components and see some parts being taken off and checked that I didn’t realise even had a purpose. But I’ll be honest – most of it went in one ear and out the other. Hopefully Shane was listening better than I was.
Next, we learned how to clean the bike correctly. So far, my bike is as clean as the day I got it but apparently a layer of ‘road grime’ will eventually build up on it and I will have to clean it with a damp cloth where possible. The nice man went through the process of cleaning your chain, your gears, and various things whose names I have forgotten, before also announcing that a clean is included in your pre-race tune-up ($59) as well as your yearly service ($99). Which I decided means that unless the next time I fall over lands me in a pile of cow poop or similar, I will live with a bit of road grime build-up until the bike is serviced. I love you, 99 Bikes.
At this point, I was feeling very pleased with myself about how organised I’d been to attend an actual lesson about bike care, and how easy bike care would be. What a good triathlete I am.
My confidence level went from Level 3: Foolishly Overstated to Level 5 (top level): Grand Master Idiot when the next lesson was about lubing your chain. I had to hold myself back from taking a bow and announcing I’d already done it three times.
Finally it was time to learn the Very Important Thing – how to change your tyre when you get a flat. The nice man demonstrated the process slowly, talking us through each step and what could go wrong and why. I wont bore you with the details but basically a lot could go wrong here – it’s a bit fiddly.
After the demonstration, it was our turn. Only one other lady and I volunteered to have a go – frankly I wasn’t leaving that store until I knew for certain that I could change a bloody tyre, but presumably all the men in attendance were too cool to try. So I got down on my hands and knees (immediately regretting wearing a skirt and high heels) and started wedging the tyre levers I’d been handed under the tyre.
The man kept telling me to feel for the ‘bead of the tyre’ with the lever. I didn’t like to admit to him that I didn’t know what a ‘bead’ was unless it was on a necklace and therefore had no idea what it would feel like, because I was still at Level 5 confidence level. I dug around a bit until he said ‘see, do you feel that now’ and I said yes even though I didn’t. I peered into the little gap I had made and I think I saw what he referred to – a ridge-type thing around the tyre. I wedged it outwards and stuck another lever in a few inches away to wedge it out some more. I got my fingers underneath and started peeling the tyre off like a banana, all the way round until one side of the tyre was completely off and the other was sitting down the middle of the wheel.
‘OK good,’ the man said (I arrived too late to class to hear what his name was, sorry)
‘Now, reach under and carefully slip the inner tube out.’
I couldn’t rip it out like I probably would in real life, because there was nothing wrong with this tube and I was going to put the same one back in again when I got it out. So I carefully went around and plucked it out from under the tyre. It took a few minutes.
The nice man instructed me to check for what had caused the puncture (er, we let the air out?) and when ‘located’ we imagined removing the rock/piece of glass/nail from the tyre. This was actually handier to reenact than you might think – because if you put a new tube in without removing the sharp object first, you’ll just puncture your new tube as well. Which I would definitely do. Ingenious.
To put the tube back in, I pumped a teeny bit of air in to give it a nice circle shape, and prodded it back under the tyre. This part took the longest time because it kept popping out again like my unruly fringe from my headband when I am running. I almost lost some confidence, but it was 8.30 at night by that point and I hadn’t eaten in 6 hours so the adrenalin kicked in and I was fine.
Finally, it was time to push the actual tyre back over the tube. This took some brute force but I did it. The tyre was ready to pump up and use. What a success! Level 5 confidence maintained!
The class ended with a question and answer session, where I was able to ask what should go in my bike kit for repairing a flat tyre ‘on the road’. The man showed us some very cool little CO2 canisters that you keep in your bike bag to pump your tyre with instead of an actual pump. I’ll be getting some of them for my kit, if only for the bling factor because they were shiny gold grenade-type things.
We headed back home, still on Level 5 confidence and feeling very smug. As I pondered what to make for tea (at 9pm – more sad face) Shane suggested I wait until after Christmas to buy my bike kit. I wondered if he’d read the blog post on my current financial woes and had become worried that the bike kit represented precious dollars that could be spent on his presents. I admit that I had been planning to get the kit next time I am paid (before Christmas, yes)
I settled on rissoles for tea and I perked up at the thought of saved dollars. The words of The Nice Man echoed in my head, reinforcing Shane’s suggestion as a good one – many of the visitors to his store came in with their first flat tyre after 3 years of riding or more, he’d said. I think his point was that we should try and do the class annually so that we don’t forget our new skills if we don’t use them. But I only heard that flat tyres aren’t as common as I feared.
I mean, I’ve never had a flat on my car and I drive that every day.
So I agreed that it is unlikely that I will get a flat tyre before the Bribie Island Triathlon and I can spend the bike kit money on presents this month. I have the maintenance skills I need when/if the time comes and I’ll add a bike repair kit to my birthday wish list – maybe my bike expert can get it for me!