In my day-to-day life I think of myself as a person who is somewhat technically inclined. If you are having issues sorting out how to do something with your technology - your iPhone, your Mac, and yes, even (grudgingly) your Windows or Android device - odds are good that I can help you out with that. I’m even somewhat mechanically inclined, or at least I was in a past life. For much of my 20’s and early 30’s I did the lion’s share of maintenance on my own vehicles - oil changes, spark plugs, brakes - and only went in to the mechanic for more involved activities and repairs (Honda timing belts, for example, were beyond my ken).
Bicycles and other HPV’s are relatively simple machines. Yet despite my technical history, I am often surprised - and frequently stymied - by how little I actually know.
Some of this is simply due to experience. As a kid I learned to do things like raising and lowering my seat, and adjusting bent handlebars, both from necessity (the former due to growth, the latter typically due to misadventure). I got considerable practice with re-seating slipped chains as well. But when it came to other skills, like changing tires, and certainly when we move on to the more mechanically intricate components of a derailleur system, I confess to have been largely mystified.
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As a kid, issues with these components would simply have to wait until I could get my Dad to help. As an adult, returning to cycling after a hiatus borne by focus on work and schooling, I found that it was generally preferable to let the local bike shop handle the areas where my knowledge base and skills were lacking.
This worked out fine when I first started back riding. While I was enthusiastic and enjoyed it, in those early years of return my riding time and distances were relatively modest. My need for LBS intervention was largely limited to annual checkups and occasional rear wheel straightening on my relatively ancient Cannondale SR400.
However, a couple of related factors have caused me to have a change of perspective on this front. The second of those factors is the fact that my riding time and distances have increased considerably over the past two years. My records in Cyclemeter go back to 2011, and before 2017 my highest mileage year was 752.47. What’s more, that was in 2014, and my mileage dropped in 2015 and 2016 to 547.18 and 260.49, respectively.
Come 2017, however, my mileage increased - to 937.51, followed by another bump to 1372.14 miles in 2018. I’m on track to do a similar distance (and hopefully further) for 2019.
That increased distance is undeniably due to the first of the factors: In June of 2017 I got my recumbent trike - a 2012 Catrike Pocket. As I’ve detailed elsewhere here, while I’ve always enjoyed cycling, the recumbent trike really kicked that into high gear.
I’ve realized, though, that the trike does provide some interesting implications from a maintenance perspective. About a decade ago we made the call to move to a rural setting. This is a great thing when it comes to going riding - instead of piling things into the car and driving to a trail, most of the time I literally just head out of my driveway - it’s miles and miles of riding pleasure at my doorstep.
However, living in the boondocks also means that everything is far away. While I talk about my LBS, in reality the localest bike shop is a half-hour drive. And while they are great and always helpful, the Pocket is somewhat of a specialty item, and the nearest Catrike dealer is nearly an hour’s worth of travel time distant.
None of that is to complain - I knew what I was getting into when I moved out here. What it does, though, is help to refocus my attention on the need to learn some things about maintenance and repair. Realistically, now, if I can’t fix it myself it means that I can’t ride the trike, at least not until I can fit in a trip to the shop. It’s a different situation than back when I lived in a city with a bike shop nearby, and amplified a bit by the specialized nature of the trike.
(I do still have my Cannondale as a backup, but in general, I’d rather not take that option).
So - I’m learning. I’m quite certain I still have a ways to go. As I detailed here, a couple of weeks ago, I managed to successfully change a tube myself for the first time, along the side of the road. But I’ve now also had to change that tube twice more since, leaving me trying to figure out what the unknown unknowns are about the situation, and realizing how little I actually know about wheels and tires. With the help of some of the very friendly folks on the Facebook recumbent trike groups I’d gone through and done my due diligence in terms of inspecting the wheel and tire itself for debris. But I’ve now also realized that I didn’t ever know what rim tape was or what it was for, and it appears that mine is in need of replacement... (more on that in the near future).
Making that particular potential issue now a known unknown. And if that fixes the recurrent problem, it will move the the known category. If it doesn’t, well, then clearly there’s another unknown unknown...
Bottom line, however, I have to gain a wider base of knowledge and practice - remove the unknowns - if I want to continue to ride and ride further distances.
And I do.