Monday, February 20, 2012


My friend Charlene, who bought a bike at the swap meet last weekend, left her bike at my house because she couldn't fit it in her car. We made arrangements to get together this weekend and go for a ride and find her a suitable rack so the bike could live at her house. In preparation for our ride, and because I had no other plans on Friday night, I turned the kitchen into a makeshift garage and set to work sprucing up her bike.

After wiping off the dust and cleaning gunk off the rims, whitewalls, and spokes, I lubed the chain. No problems there. I flipped the bike right side up and gave the back tire some air. All cool, there. I gave the front tire some air. All good... no, wait. What's that hissing? Oh no, I killed her tire!

Actually, the stem had nearly ripped off the tube. There's no telling how old the tube was, but given the amount of cracks in the tires, I wouldn't call them new. Happily, my favorite bike shop had tubes to fit her tires and I rode over Saturday morning to retrieve those as well as buy the Dolce (more on that later).

I've decided that if you have to fix a flat, the absolute best scenario is to do it in your own home with all your tools available and to work on a fairly inexpensive bike which belongs to someone else. The front tube was an absolute cinch to replace and I felt pretty proud of myself for managing on my own. The back tire seemed much more complicated because, unlike Scott's and my bikes, there's no cassette or derailleur: there's just a hub and a coaster brake and some other contraption. Scott didn't feel comfortable monkeying around back there. I, on the other hand, didn't know any better and forged ahead because, gosh darn it, my friend was going to have a safe-ish bike! And the contraption had only one little screw which, alarmingly, caused the contraption to fall off when the screw was loosened.

I'd post pictures except 1) I didn't think to take any since everybody but me has changed a flat tire and 2) I'm too embarrassed that the Gentle Readers would identify the contraption as something perfectly benign and simple to manage, which it was...

Anyway, long story longer: I removed the back tire, much to Scott's amazement, and changed out that tube after realizing that I couldn't loosen the tire and old tube until I'd deflated that tube a bit. They don't cover that bit in maintenance classes. Well, I suppose they do as the instructor deflates the example bike's tire to demonstrate how to fix the flat, but the instructor never calls attention to the deflation part. I got the back tire on the bike as well as all of its associated bits and bobs.

So, with new tubes on slightly rotting tires, I then installed front and back fenders, a front basket, bell, and mirror on Charlene's bike. She was delighted. I also installed the rack on the back of her Scion. And before handing over the bike for good, I took a quick test ride to make sure that she wouldn't be the one to pay the price if my mechanical "know-how" caused pieces to fall off while in motion. (They didn't.)

Now all she needs are new tires -- an actual bike mechanic said she could go a little longer on the current ones -- and new grips and she'll be ready to ride for miles and miles and miles. As it is, we got in a five mile ride on Saturday and she can't wait to go for another spin.

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