Cyclist v. Bike Rider


I am not a cyclist, but a guy who rides a bike. Well, a guy who races and rides bike. A cyclist is better at washing his machine, can true his own wheels and doesn’t get stressed out about replacing his brake pads. I do, but mostly because I’ve let them go so long that my brakes have adjusted be barely stopping my wheels, so I’ll have to readjust them.

A cyclist doesn’t think my rear derailleur doesn’t seem to be working right, most because a real cyclist thinks I have to fix this and then promptly fixes it. A cyclist won’t do all the hemming and hawing about his inability to fix it with minimum fuss. Adjusting the my rear derailleur should take less than two minutes, that simple task takes me at least five, which is, by my estimation three minutes too long.

It’s not totally my fault, I’m not mechanically inclined, for whatever reason the fates decided that I would not be one who handles tools well. I’ve gotten better, I really have. I’m just not the type of person who sees a problem and quickly figures out how to fix it. Which is my main reason for staying away from Campy. Someone like me, who is suddenly possessed with five thumbs as soon as I pick up a wrench of any sort.

But like I said, I’m getting better. My cluelessness, if we can call it that, has come out of necessity. Last week I trued, or worked on truing my wheels four times. I spent all day Tuesday, between phone calls at work, or when I should have been answering phone calls. Then I learned how tightening one spokes pulls the wheel one way, then up or down. Which, after spending two hours (with help) detensioning and retensioning spokes I still only have a small grasp of how that works.

I worked with a messenger named Masson, who turned to me one day, as I complained about my headset being loose and said “You aren’t a real cyclist if you can’t fix your wheel”. Yes I was talking about my headset, but maybe I was talking about my wheel its hard for me to remember because so much went  wrong with my bike that I’m sure he was the one on track and not me.

Even still, what he said it true. The bike is a simple machine, with ostensibly simple parts. Figuring out how it works shouldn’t be hard.

But since we’re being honest here I have to say that I rarely really try. Normally it takes about twenty minutes before I’m red faced and spitting with anger. Well, frustration, not anger. By that point someone, since I’m always at work because that’s where the tools are, steps up and educates me.Then things aren’t so bad I find a way through the problem and my bike starts running smoothly again.

A bike is simple machine, which is part of what makes it a beautiful machine. Maybe it’s simplicity is what makes it so damn fickle. A bike, neglected won’t run well, at least not for long. Parts need to be cleaned, they have to be prepped, spokes need to be locked down, brakes, not just your chain, need lube, and after thousands of miles your bottom bracket probably needs some work.

People who like to ride bikes may think that they love their bikes. But for me love means knowing not only how your bike works, but how to fix it as well. That’s part of being a cyclist. That’s part of cycling.


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