Home > Uncategorized > Week 6: I Learn to Change My Bike Tires…

Week 6: I Learn to Change My Bike Tires…

And Discover I’m not as Mechanically Inept as I’d Thought

It’s something of a miracle that I’ve never flatted on my bike. I regularly take 25 and 30 mile rides, and sometimes go as long as 50. I ride to work every day in the summer, averaging 80 miles a week. I’ve ridden over glass, skidded along dirt roads, and found myself unexpectedly crunching over newly oiled and chipped surfaces. The fact that I’ve never had a flat I attribute to two things: one, I’ve bought incredibly good tires, and two, I’ve had incredibly good luck. I’m due for new tires and I’ll buy good ones again (Armadillo, made by Specialized). But good luck you can’t buy. And sooner or later it’s got to run out. Thus, I signed up for a bike maintenance course for women at Bikesport  in Trappe.  This three hour course  focused chiefly on how to change a tire.

Some people think you don’t need a course. Those people probably don’t. And, heck, I’ve watched You Tube videos on the topic and even saw a demonstration last year at an LL Bean store. But, I’m a hands-on learner. And I don’t want to be sitting on the side of some newly oiled and chipped street on a 95-degree summer day, racking my brain, trying to remember how a dude in a You Tube video slipped the rear wheel away from the chain.

The class was taught by two women, the bike shop owner, Ginny, and another woman, Keri, who works in their service department fixing bikes. Lest you think a woman who services bikes is a tough grease monkey, think again. She was petite, attractive and also works as an adjunct professor at a college. She’s considering going back to school to get her PhD. So, changing bike tires isn’t by any means her major accomplishment in life. 

She began the class with a brief description of the parts of a bike. While she was doing this I sized up the other three women in the class. One didn’t even own a bike, having just ordered hers from the store.  Two others had newer models than I had, and so the first thing I noticed was, really, how dirty my bike was. Embarrassingly so. Gunks of dirt had settled into each of the chain rings. I had just ridden on roads covered in cinders, so the tires were none to clean.  Nor was any other part.

So, after the class I left my bike at the shop for a complete tuneup which included the derailleur cleaning. Another piece of good luck? The shop offers half-price tune-ups in February (it was just at the end of February, so I got in in the nick of time.)

The class itself did a great job of making me feel comfortable with not only changing a tire, but understanding a few basics about the mechanics of a bike–like what the heck are all those cables and how often to lube the chain.  We also took a short break, with a snack that included wine and cheese!

This is a dirty job. Mike Rowe's got nothin' on me.

The real challenge, of course, was this: could I do it myself, outside of the class. Luckily, or unluckily, I have a

I successfully remove the tire. My helper--my son--can be seen in the background

mountain bike which I keep mostly on a trainer. Trainers are tough on rear tires and last year, riding along to nowhere with my iPod blasting, I heard something pop. Sure enough, the tire had blown. I left it. Yup, for a year.  So, armed with a bit of new knowledge, I went online, ordered a pair of fairly cheap tires–deciding that both front and back were so worn I should replace both. Then, I put my newfound skills to the test.

The result? I hit a few snags, but within an hour I had removed both tires and replaced them. So here’s my advice. If you’ve never changed a tire and you’re not mechanically inclined, forget the You Tube videos.  You’ll learn a lot more in a three hour class than in a five minute video, and maybe you’ll also get a

Back on the bike!

good snack and meet some nice people along the way.

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