It’s been a while since I took my 23-year old, geared bike in for a tune-up. It was a combination of bad timing, limited funding, do-it-youself pride, embarrassment for putting it off, followed by the morbid fear that it would cost more than a new bike, that kept me from taking it in.
Bad timing, because I don’t give myself much of a down season. I didn’t feel like making the time to be without my bike for too long. Limited funding, because money for my bike is low priority compared to other expenses. Do-it-yourself pride allowed me to fudge my way around basic maintenance and cleaning. This led to my bike getting to an eventual state of serious wear – leaving me too embarrassed to bring it in.
My bike was showing some serious wear in the drivetrain. The chain, gears, shifters and hubs (all original) were really worn and loose – which made the bike hard to pedal. It was a rough ride, at best. I feared the cost of replacing or repairing these things may have been more than the bike was worth.
I decided to bite the bullet and take it in to my local bike shop, Richardson Bike Mart. One of their great mechanics took a quick look and gave me an assessment that took me by surprise. The repair and tune-up was going to cost me far less than I had anticipated. It needed a new cassette and chain, both would cost me about the same as a tank of gas. They said they would look at the hubs, shifter and everything else with the tune-up. If it needed any other new parts, or a more extensive repair, they would let me know. Fortunately, it didn’t.
When I got my bike back, I was blown away with how great it looked. That was nothing compared to how great it rode. The new cassette, chain and proper tune-up turned my old clunker into a sweet ride, and I truly enjoy riding it again.
If you’ve been putting off a good bike tune-up, I strongly recommend not being like me and waiting so long. Get it tuned-up now! Life is too short to ride a poorly adjusted bike. If you can’t tool on it, yourself, take it in to your favorite local bike shop. They can take care of you, and you’ll be putting money back into your local economy.
I know that I really can’t complain. Riding my bike during the winter in north Texas is nothing compared to riding up north. It still sucks.
The cold is one thing, but when you throw in winter rain and the occasional ice and snow storm, riding becomes a real chore. I hear the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad weather just inappropriate clothing.” all the time. I just wish it were that easy. I do follow the rules of layering and dressing for the last mile, which really helps.
I also feel, having the right bike – or the right bike setup – is also key. At least, get a good set of fenders.
I’m so glad, spring is here and riding is much more pleasant. Bring on the summer.
Being safety minded, I’m always on the lookout for high visibility and reflective gear—especially for the longer, dark days of winter. One of my favorite finds is a set of gloves that aren’t actually designed as bike gear.
I picked these up, earlier this previous winter, at Home Depot for about $13. The day-glow orange and yellow caught my eye, but what sold me were the reflective tips. They are perfect for communicating my hand signals, when riding in the dark.
The gloves aren’t very warm, so there were some mornings when I was cursing the cold and wind. For $13, I don’t expect them to last more than a couple of seasons – long enough to find the right pair of safety bike gloves that are winter worthy.
Here they are, reflecting light:
I shared this on Facebook, but wanted to record it here for future reference as well as for those who are not friends with me on my social network.
Let me set the stage first. Today was a rare snow day in north Texas, but I usually try to get out and get a little bit of exercise before going to work – no matter what the conditions are. It was still dark and the sidewalk was covered in snow, ice and sleet.
I was walking out of my neighborhood to do my morning loop around it’s perimeter. Because it was dark and cold, I was sporting my reflective vest and full head coverage (now that I think of it, I can see how the head covering might have looked suspicious). As I was walking I crossed paths with some guy. Folks usually ignore each other this early in the morning, but this guy begged me for my help. He had a bike, so – at first – I thought he might have had a flat or some other mechanical issue. Instead, he said he needed help rolling both of his bikes to the next corner. He then pointed to his other bike a few feet over. The snow was so thick, that he was having trouble rolling both bikes.
The absolute first thing I asked was, “why do you have two bikes?” Without missing a beat, his immediate response was that it belonged to his old roommate and that it was left for him. At this point, I’m still suspicious, but I also started reasoning in my head. If he were a bike thief, he picked a hell of a time to steal bikes. He didn’t seem nervous, so perhaps, I should take him at face value.
My other reluctance to help was that I was heading the other way and I was on a time limit. However, I didn’t want him to just get away, so I tried to test/bluff him. I said I would help him roll is bikes a few feet, but only if he let me take a picture of him and his bikes. Without hesitation, he said yes.
He called my bluff.
I took the pics and he actually posed for his. He even offered me a few bucks to buy my breakfast, for helping. I declined. Keeping my word, I helped this stranger roll one of his bikes a few feet. Before we got too far, I sensed that he was having second thoughts. He immediately, turned and said that he could get it from there. Worried that he might try to grab my camera, I agreed, handed him the second bike and then walked the other direction. My goal share the pics online once I finished my walk. I thought about calling 911, but figured it was horrible out and emergency services are probably busy, dealing with actual emergencies.
As I was continuing my walk, a man in a truck pulled over (down the street where I had come out of my neighborhood). He got out and started following me. He was in plain clothes, but he flashed me his badge, stating that he was a police officer.
He saw me with one of the bikes, so he immediately started questioning me about the other guy, the bikes, who I was, where I lived, why I was out there, etc. We walked back to his truck as I explained the situation. I also tried to explain who I was, my involvement with the local bike community, and how I had taken pics of the guy and his bikes. Still suspicious of me, he asked if he could take a pic of my drivers license (not being in his squad car, he had no way to run my ID). Not having anything to hide, I agreed. He then stated that he would ‘destroy’ the photo, once they were done.
During this time, another police officer, in a Richardson Police Department squad SUV, pulled the guy with the bikes over. He radioed over to the officer with me, to inquire about me. My officer replied with, “he’s just a concerned citizen.” I took a sigh of relief, since I feared that I could be considered an accomplice. This was something I didn’t think about, when I agreed to interact with this guy.
After that, I continued on my walk, where I was able to reflect on a few things. First, in a situation like this, even though I was suspicious and took precautions, it’s hard to judge a person’s true intentions. Because of my lack of better judgement, I actually assisted this guy for a few feet. Next, I am grateful that we have such a great system of police, who actually catch people in the act. Finally, all being said, I still cannot say with certainty, that this guy was actually stealing bikes. I’m am not a police officer, prosecutor or judge, and I do not have any proof that this person is an actual bike thief. All I have is speculation.
My wife says that I’m too trusting with people. Perhaps, in this situation, she is right.
I’m curious as to how other people would have reacted in this situation. What would you have done?
Update: Because I can’t say for certain if this guy was actually stealing bikes, I decided it was only fair to distort his face in the image.
Richardson continues to impress me with their network of great bike and pedestrian access routes throughout the city. As part of that, we have some really nice multi-purpose trails. However, over time and through excessive usage, they have’ve gotten covered in litter, animal waste and broken glass. Instead of complaining about the mess, my local bike advocacy group, Bike Friendly Richardson, decided to take the maintenance and care of our trail network into our own hands.
We scheduled our first, hopefully of many, Trail Clean Up Days. Given such short notice, and everybody’s busy schedules, our first turnout wasn’t that great. We did get a few volunteers from all around the city, as well as somebody from our neighboring city, Plano. The plan was to try and fill as many trash bags (provided by the city) as possible in two hours.
Overall, we were pretty successful in filling 8-10 bags—not bad for a small group of people. Think about what we could have accomplished with more volunteers. There was still a lot more trash on the trail that we couldn’t get to. Perhaps we’ll get it all the next time.
Our goal is to do this more often than not—hopefully in other parts of the city as well. My only hope is that we’ve inspired other people to get out there and care for the public areas near them. This is our city, and we need to take responsibility for it.
Riding on a trainer – spinning your wheels for the purpose of exercise and burning calories – is boring. In my younger, more easily metabolized days, I would avoid doing such activities. My mind has to be constantly stimulated while exercising, or I just get too bored and quit. That’s one of the reasons I love riding my bike around town. The scenery is always changing and I’m experiencing new things, almost every time I get out there. I really don’t know how those folks, in a gym environment, keep it up.
There is only one thing I hate more than riding a trainer: riding in the winter, with freezing, windy and rainy weather. Pick any two of those conditions and I’m out. I’m a summer boy, enjoying moderate to hot temperatures. I also love the longer days of summer and not having to layer up.
What’s your preference?
I want to wish everybody a Happy New Year. I hope your 2015 is filled with great rides and awesome discoveries.
My 2014 goal of doing more active transportation was pretty successful. I did ride my bike quite a bit. My walking started off well, but for health reasons, I had to taper down a bit. I still love to walk as much as possible.
Do you have any New Years resolutions for 2015? Mine is to simplify my life by reducing the amount of useless stuff that I own. My mother-in-law has had to make some lifestyle changes and move into a much smaller place. After watching my wife go through the daunting task of downsizing her mother’s home, and it’s many years of content, I decided it was time for me to start reducing my clutter.
I’m starting with baby steps. For every non-essential purchase this year (anything that isn’t food or necessary for daily survival), I will need to get rid of 3-5 items that I haven’t used in years.