The Mechanic

In order to ride as many miles as I do you need a working bike that you can rely on to work every day of the year with the exception of the a few unforeseen mechanical issues. So most people would expect that someone covering so many miles and at the mercy of their bike might well know quite a lot about what they were riding so that they could make sure they could fix anything as soon as it broke.

Unfortunately, I really haven't learnt that much about fixing bikes. I've never been very good at hands-on activities and when it comes to fixing my own bike anything more than a few simple activities usually results in my bike falling into a million pieces and me crying for the mechanic to come and fix it for me because i'll miss my next big ride that's happening tomorrow.

I can fix the little things like adjusting the brakes, changing the brake pads and adjusting the gears so they don't jump but after that I simply can't fathom how things work, or don't have the time to fathom them.

Headsets - replace them more than every 20,000 miles...
Headsets - replace them more than every 20,000 miles...

Time. Something we all seem to have less and less of these days as work, family and things like riding the actual bike take over the majority of our time. To me there is nothing worse than knowing at the end of a day at work I need to go home and patiently dissemble and reassemble part of my bike in the faint glimmer of hope it might one day work as smoothly as the day it was built. I'd be kidding myself if that was ever going to happen because I'm usually too tired to be patient or just want to ride and prioritise that anyway.

So I made sure I learnt just enough to scrape by and take the grief some of my friends given me for being mechanically inept. As I mentioned above I learnt how to adjust and fettle the brakes of the bike and the gears which in my eyes are two of the most important parts of the bike. Equally I know how to change a tyre and tube and what tools I need to carry to do those tasks. The latest trick in my book is knowing how to fix a snapped chain with a power link which could be pretty vital on a ride far away from home. I think if you know those things you're pretty much sorted for most everyday events but it always surprises me how many people still can't change a tube.

Just enough to keep the bike on the road.
Just enough to keep the bike on the road.

It's the bits after that like truing a wheel or replacing gear cables and stripping the bike down that I really don't have the mind or time to do. People will always tell you it's "Dead easy" and "You should really know that" but in all honesty I can't see the point for most club riders. It's so much easier to get your local bike shop or mechanic to do the job for you. Quite often you can drop your bike off on the way to work and then collect it on the way home ready to ride. Yes it costs a bit more but it saves the time and hassle, keeps someone else in a job with a good skill set and means you'll probably save yourself some lost skin and an angry run in with your chainring.

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I'm quite lucky that I know a mobile mechanic called Hopey Bicycle Repairs that recently setup in Leeds and will come to your house and collect your bike, take it away and bring it back in perfect working condition. This means I can relax knowing all I have to do is finish work and head out on the bike. He also told me a bike mechanic would much rather you called them with the initial problem than made it twice as bad and then called them out.

So in a nutshell, it's not a bad thing if you don't do your own mechanical work on the bike, although there are loads of people out there that seem to love a good snigger and thing you're somehow inferior if you can't, I could learn everything but right now I don't need to. Right now I want to ride. People always say a mechanic is expensive but I think that depends on how much you value your spare time...