I have always known that I am not a person possessed of great ability or patience when it comes to completing practical tasks.
This is increasingly evident the more I try to master the art of bicycle maintenance and borne out in a surprisingly creative catalogue of errors and misdeeds.
Prior to embarking on the job at the local bike shop, my approach to cycle repairs, as to most practical tasks in life ran simply as follows:
Is it badly broken…?
No – fix with duct tape or zip ties
Yes – add super-glue to the above
Did that work…?
Yes – continue using bicycle, picture hook, curtain rail, cupboard door until part breaks again.
No – stamp foot, employ expletives, re-apply tape, ties, glue.
Is it fixed now…?
Yes – See above.
No – Can I live without object?
If the answer is….
Yes – Consign broken item to the back of cupboard/shed
No – Take to repair shop!
The downside to the above, usual approach, is that I am now the person at the end of this process. I work at the repair shop….And it seems they don’t countenance the liberal use of duct tape and glue as acceptable.
In an earlier post (Handlebar Dyslexia) I examined my lack of spatial awareness in dealing with machinery.
After managing to put on a fair few sets of handlebars the wrong way round, I mused whether this was a case of genetics, upbringing, gender expectations or just plain lack of experience.
A few more weeks down the line and I’m leaning towards the genetics!
Since then, despite getting to grips with handlebars (excuse the pun), I’ve still, embarrassingly managed to put several pedals on the wrong sides (despite being clearly marked left and right). In my defence the bikes were upside down at the time.
I’ve also managed to install stabilisers on a child’s bike that left the back wheel inches from the ground, spinning in the air.
Again, the creative part of me saw this as an opportunity for the first turbo trainer/exercise bike for kids. It also caused my colleagues to collapse in fits of hysterical laughter.
On the positive side I’ve more or less mastered the art of adjusting brakes, however there is one particular nemesis still looming large.
When it comes to setting gears, these tricksy pieces of componentry are, quite frankly, out to get me.
One of the first jobs when setting up gear system is to set the limits of this, basically so the chain doesn’t drop off either end.
It’s then a case of fine tuning via various adjusters to make the whole process run smoothly.
Sounds simple right? Don’t be fooled.
The derailleur comes with a pesky set of screws (Limit Screws), to set it in place. Tightening and loosening these devilish pieces of metal produces the correct placement of the derailleur.
Honestly though, the turning of these screws and the movement of the rest of the machinery has no logical connection.
For example, the top and bottom screws turn in opposite directions for the same action.
High gear is the smallest, low the biggest. This is all then reversed for the front gear mechanism.
Different brands of derailleur also have the opposite action and high/low placement.
Add into this the cable adjusters which always seem to pull/push things in the wrong direction and I need to lie down in a darkened room for a week.
I know the theory(ish) for each component, but putting it all together, visualising it, and making it work remains as mysterious as deciphering quantum theory, in Chinese.
When faced with the whole set-up, the part of my brain which connects the turning of screws with the movement of metal seems to short circuit, theory drops out of my head, to be replaced by a dense, impenetrable fog.
I hate not being competent at something. Usually, if I can’t learn a task quickly I’ll have a tantrum and walk away.
An inherent lack of patience and the concentration span of a gnat are also not conducive to learning.
But equally, I’m annoyed with myself that I can’t get this seemingly simple task right. It’s not helped when the mechanic I work with saunters over as I’m having a gear-induced meltdown, tweaks a few bits and pieces and hey presto, the thing works perfectly. Murderous looks abound.
But watching is no substitute for hands on experience, even though it’s easier to let someone who knows what they’re doing take over.
I’m here to learn, I need to swallow my pride a bit, grit my teeth and carry on making these mistakes until the fog lifts and Chinese quantum mechanics (aka the limit screw conundrum) falls seamlessly into place.