Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Easy Does It

I had an experience this afternoon that I suspect is common to folks who work on bicycles, or any intricate mechanical devices. I started what I imagined would be a fairly simple task, only to find myself embroiled in what became a significant project.

Yesterday, while on my weekly grocery run, I sat back on the Columbia on a smooth stretch of bike lane (rare around here) and noticed an odd, rhythmic bump from the back wheel. These things can be hard to notice in San Diego due to the overall wretched condition of the streets, but I don't think this had been going on for very long.

Yesterday was a busy day, so when I got home, I put the bike away and didn't think much more about it. I figured the wheel just needed to be trued (see also: terrible condition of the streets), and I made time to do it this afternoon. When I went to the garage this afternoon, I flipped the bike over (no work stand) and started checking spokes, figuring on maybe a ten-minute task. But then I found the culprit. Not just a rim out of true, but a broken spoke, snapped off at the hub flange. Arg.

Well, it just so happens that one of my idiot neighbors in the building behind us had thrown away a perfectly good 26-inch wheel simply because the tube had gone flat. Right, the whole wheel for a flat tube, I know.

So anyway, I had some extra spokes. Of course, it's no small thing to change a spoke, especially in a rear wheel. First, the wheel comes off, which on a three-speed involves messing up your carefully-adjusted shifter cable, then the tire and tube, then you have to fish out the broken spoke, then take off the sprocket in order to get the new spoke laced in because it's in the way.

The better part of an hour later, I'm sweating, grumbling, aching, my hands are a peculiar shade of blue-black, and I've finally got the whole mess back together with the new spoke laced in. Whoo. So then, with the wheel back in the dropouts, I start tightening it down again. But now I'm having trouble getting the bearing cone adjusted properly and the hub is running stiffly and noisily. The wheel went on and came off about three times, and I kept noticing more little problems. They seemed to be snowballing as I worked. Things that hadn't been wrong before were now mysteriously going wrong.

By now, without realizing it, I was in full crazy person mode: walking around stooped over, smeared with grime, muttering and swearing out-loud. An innocent pedestrian walked by (our garage is right on the street), shot me an apprehensive look, and made a distinctly wide berth around me.

I suddenly became aware of just how badly I was working. Because I had experienced some setbacks and some things weren't going as smoothly as I thought they should, I had started working quickly and sloppily, I was irritated and not enjoying what I was doing. That, of course, is why things seemed to be going wrong; I was causing problems by being careless.

I checked myself, straightened up, wiped some of the grime off, took a drink of water, and adjusted my attitude. This is, after all, supposed to be something I enjoy, not something that turns me into the kind of person others avoid. I had lost sight of my goals, I was focusing only on the problems, and I was getting wrapped up in all the niggling details. As soon as I slowed myself down, the incomprehensible problems before me seemed to sort themselves into distinct categories, and the solutions became obvious.

That moment of pulling back, stepping away, collecting yourself, is all-important, because it’s then that you can literally put some distance between yourself and the problem you are confronting. It’s a moment we often neglect in other parts of our lives, but working on a physical, mechanical problem forces us to acknowledge the need to relax our tight focus somewhat, and to revisit the larger world in which we are functioning, hunched over, covered in grime, swearing under our breath.

I'll not claim to have discovered the secret to happiness while changing out a broken spoke, but this kind of work does lend itself to self-reflection, and I'd like to think I came away with more than just a fixed wheel.

The Wheels of Justice...

Edit: I've been re-subpeonaed for early September. 

...need their bearings cleaned and repacked.

I've been promising a few folks that I would blog about the car v. bicyclist road rage incident I witnessed last year, but the case (in which I was scheduled to testify this morning) has been continued, which means it will come up again, and I'll be subpoena'd again. I don't want to compromise my testimony in any way, so I'm not going to give the details of the incident yet. Mind you, this happened about ten months ago at this point. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, July 24, 2009

See, I told you...

...that old bikes are just as good as new ones. This caught my eye in a story at the San Diego News Network about two environmental advocates who bicycled from Vancouver to Tijuana to raise awareness of the plastic pollution in the North Pacific Gyre:
“Our bikes are both reused bikes,” Eriksen said of the bike he just rode for 2,000 miles. “The point is that it doesn’t take a huge investment to get a bike and to start riding it.”
I agree.

Another Year Older

The OBB is TWO years old as of yesterday! I celebrated the event by taking the Columbia, my first restoration, on a grocery run and then I made another one today. Huzzah for transportational bicycling! Thanks to all my loyal readers (81 Followers as of today, plus all the other feed-readers and lurkers), you folks rock!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bicycle Chic(?) San Diego

I've been away on vacation, so haven't been posting for a while. Now I'm back, so I'll try to get a post up every once in a while. Summer is a hard blogging season, 'cause I'm out actually doing stuff and have less time to write about it.

Thought I'd share this photo of my wife and I taken on this month's Mid-City Bike Blast ride, which toured community and private food gardens in the City Heights area of San Diego.  It was a great ride. In the photo, I've gallantly offered my cycling cap to my wife, who was worried about sunburn, flipped up my collar, and soldiered-on. We actually look pretty happy, no?

Original photo (and others from the ride) here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Reader Project: John's 1955 Huffy/Raleigh Sportsman

I'm a bit slow in getting this posted, but John and I have been exchanging emails as he has been busy resurrecting this lovely 1955 Huffy/Raleigh Sportsman he found on Craigslist-- just like mine, only red.  Notice the Raleigh-style fork that has been added to replace the original. John finished his work very quickly, especially considering this was his first old bike project. He has lots more photos of his process here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

There, I Fixed It

Just came across the blog There, I Fixed It, which seems to be some sort of cousin to FAIL Blog. In any case, I thought my readers might appreciate some of the "fixes" that people come up with. I like this one. Fire bicycle. Very clever.

I recently wrote a post at The World Awheel that's sort of relevant to the idea of creative solutions to problems, which readers here might also find interesting.