Sunday, March 13, 2005

Bike Maintenance Class, Day 1

Today was Day 1 of a 2-day, 8-hour bike maintenance course at a local sporting goods store.

I had a little trepidation going into this class for a few reasons: I thought it was kind of expensive ($100), they had us bring our bikes to the class and I was a little afraid that I would do something wrong and mess up my brand spanking new bike; and my usual generic all-purpose new situation dealing-with-mechanics trepidation. At the same time I knew that it was Necessary (I did not know how to change a flat until today) for triathlons and I knew it would be Good For Me to gain some confidence in learning how everything works on my bike, and knowing how to adjust it.

The class has so far exceeded my expectations and pushed me to try things on my bike that I NEVER would have attempted on my own.

The instructor was their store's Master Bike Mechanic, whatever that means. Clearly he was knowledgeable and comfortable dealing with lots of different types of bikes and their ignorant owners.

We were given quite a nice spiral-bound bike maintenance manual, "The Park Tool School Student Manual", which looks quite helpful, with lots of diagrams.

We started out with the most frequent maintenance problem we'll face: flats. He showed us different inner tube repair kits, and had us remove the inner tube from our front tire. Once he showed us how, it seemed fairly simple. I got the sidewall of the tire unseated and took out my teensy little inner tube, and put it back in. I had a little trouble getting the tire rim re-seated after I replaced the inner tube, but he showed me how to get it around the valve properly and then it worked fine. Whew! I think I'm ready to buy the rest of the supplies that I need in order to change flats in an emergency out on a triathlon course, but I'm not sure I still won't cry in frustration if it's a rear flat.

Then we started studying the drive train.

Our first task was to break the chain and then put it back together. This scared me - but only because I never knew it was such a simple, reversible operation with the right tool! I guess I always took the term "breaking" too literally. Actually, I didn't NEED to do that since my chain came equipped with a special purple link that is made for taking it apart, but I went through the exercise anyway.

Then we removed the back wheel of the bike and removed the cassette of gears from it, then put it back on. My biggest struggle of the day was getting my rear wheel mounted again properly on the bike into the rear dropouts - it took the longest time to get it to fit in there properly.

Then we removed the crankarms and the big chainring. My bike had a newer, different type of bottom bracket and so he called the class over to take a look at it. Then I put it all back together - it's important to align the crankarms directly opposite one another. :)

We finished up Day One by looking at the rear derailleur and going over the different adjustments that can be made on it, and practiced adjusting the rear shifter cable so the tension was correct and it would operate smoothly through all the gears.

At the end of the day I definitely did feel better informed, and thought the class was a good value, and I'm more comfortable knowing how some of the bike parts operate. I still think I want to pay a specialist to do most of the major operations on my Buttercup. I'll just look over their shoulder a little more than I did before. :) I'll practice and make the bad mistakes on my Old Blue bike until I'm more comfortable and have the right toolset of my own.

Next time we work on front derailleurs, brakes, wheel bearings, and I don't know what else! But I'm going to read the manual carefully and examine the 3 bikes we currently have in the living room and figure out a list of questions to take back with me!

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