Rabu, 10 Februari 2010

Bicycle Maintenance and the Zen thereof..

Style is in the eye of the beholder..

I find myself oscillating between the romantic and classical views of bicycling; ala “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” While I love the freedom of being “at one” with a bike and just spinning my legs as I journey along the roads (the romantic), I am also intrigued by the workings of the machine that converts my energy into forward progress (classical).

My daily goal is to have my bike de jour in such a state that I can forget about the complex workings and enjoy the simple joy of locomotion. One of the great pleasures a cyclist enjoys is to come to a short rise in the road and gently get out of the saddle and power up the short hill with no loss of momentum. The efficient transfer of power into motion gives a feeling of satisfaction that appeals to ones romantic and classical senses.

When the blissful marriage of man and machine is shattered by an unwelcomed creaking or clicking sound the romantic perspective is suspended and the classical mind begins to dissect the sound and undertake a search for the solution. My first instinct is to back off in the hope that the noise goes away. Then a few moments later I repeat the action that precipitated the sound. This could be getting out of the saddle or shifting into a particular gear, leaning the bike this way or that, or just applying maximum power. When the sound returns the feeling of dread settles in.

Basking in the glow of Carbon fiber...

Once the sound has repeated itself, I instinctively begin to baby the bicycle. I don’t pedal as hard. I don’t brake as late. I recall a passage in “The grapes of wrath” where Tom Joad is driving and is constantly employing all of his senses to monitor the function of the vehicle, which is on its last legs. While driving Tom was smelling for burning oil, listening for odd sounds from the engine, trying to sense unusual vibrations through the floorboards or seat that might signal any number of things. I recall my own brown Volkswagen bug that would leave a cloud of smoke when you floored it. Just the other day I found myself accelerating sharply and once all was under control in front of me I compulsively checked the rearview mirror for that cloud of smoke that hasn’t been there for thirty years.

My rain bike had developed a creak a couple weeks ago and I suspected the bottom bracket. I removed it, cleaned it, greased it, and reinstalled it using the proper torques. I then loosened and then tightened the headset. It still creaked. I concluded (though I was not confident in my diagnosis) that the sound was coming from the rear hub. I injected some grease into the hub’s grease ports (perhaps Jonathan Page or one of the many professional bike mechanics who follow my every word can deduce the type of hubs I have on my rain bike) but the sound persisted.

Last night I found a loose nut on the rear hub and tightened it as appropriate. Today as I rode, I was finally able to give my classical side the day off and enjoy a low key recovery spin. I threw in a couple bursts just because I could, and my bike was as silent as a stone and as solid as a rock.

If is isn't raining, it will be soon....

Today’s ride was much more typical of February. It was 42 degrees and raining. I was prepared; having cleaned my bike and lubed the chain with a lube from Pedro’s that was aimed at wet weather riding. To my great dismay, when I finished my ride my chain was black as if it had been lubed with 10/40w oil. I don’t mean the golden liquid you pour into your engine. I mean the black gloppy stuff that comes out of your engine three, five or eight thousand miles after it went in. I wiped down my chain. Although the rag was dirtier, the chain appeared no cleaner. Why, why do I stray from Pro Link Gold ?
I was, as always, glad to have ridden.

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