Pedaling My Butt Around Town (Reloaded)


Warning: This (freakishly long) post is about me, my bike, an omelet, and my mom.  If you’re looking for geekery and music stuff, skip this post.

Middle of last week, I had a terrible ride home.  I had driven a CAN car back to Rupert station, which is outta my way by quite a bit, but I was sorta looking forward to getting to see a different part of Vancouver, and riding North/South across Burnaby instead of East/West that I’d done for a year while at EA.  Somewhere at the 1/2 way point of my ride, my back sprocket sorta freaked out, my rear derailer wouldn’t hop the chain into any higher gears, and my back tire started rubbing against the fender.  Were I a richer person, I would have thrown my bike into the nearest dumpster, and cabbed home.  I didn’t.  I managed to limp myself home while stuck in 3:1 (3rd on the front gear, 1st in the back), and locked up the bike.  Took way too long.  I’d gotten cold.  I’d gotten hungry.  I felt wobbly and somewhat pukey after having my legs pumping around so fast for so little mechanical return.  Worst time ever.  55mins or something.  Longer than my very FIRST trip to our new home, some two months ago.

I’d also accidentally learned that Mary-Anne Hobbes Dubstep show on BBC Radio is a terrible thing to listen to when you’re just trying to get your late-30s beleaguered self home on a broken bike.  It’s the inherent bleak sadness in so much of the genre, which is attention-grabbing when you’re feeling good, but bad when you’re ACTUALLY having a crappy time.

After a frustrating evening of having my hybrid (which sounds cooler than it is) bike upside-down in the middle of the living room floor (my understanding and long-suffering wife is truly a Saint), and trying to convince my rear tire that it didn’t really *need* to have a little “play” at the axle, and reaching some sort of position that would mean my:

  1. brakes don’t rub against the rim of the wheel,
  2. …or the wheel itself, for that matter,
  3. new treads don’t rub against the fenders,

Much like the holy triangle of IT (cheap, good, fast: pick any two), I could get EITHER the brake to grab, but not to let go, or to grab AND let go BUT rub against the fenders, OR I could end up with the gears go psycho again.

I thought I was done. Everything seemed to be spinning smoothly, and I had some halfway decent grip on the back brake that would be capable of stopping me suddenly if I needed to. Excellent. Only 1am. My hands are all greasy (I’m not sure why, but we have a verbal tic in our house of having to follow the word “greasy” with an overly enunciated “grrreezee” instead of what everybody actually says, which should be spelled “greecey,” but I digress), and I’m only slightly worried about not having enough sleep before my ride tomorrow, so I crash out after reading a few pages of The Wee Free Men.

Next morning, I wake up at not-much-past the break of dawn and get dressed, mumble morning things at Arwen and the kids, mutter to myself, pack my stuff, get some water together, grab a granola bar, find my various nefarious keys and security fobs and thumbdrives (I’m carrying two these days, and I have no idea why), and scoot out the door.  Okay, feelin’ good.  Here we go.

I can see my breath – s’gonna be a chilly one this morning.  No ice yet, so I can still go for it on the way down the big hills.

Wrestle my bike out of the garage, check that I still have my brakes and everything in the right places, hop on, kick my pedal back and…


The tread is rubbing against the fender, and the brakes aren’t squarely hitting the rim any more.  What the hell?  I don’t have rear shocks or anything, so there’s no way there should be that much change in placement on the wheel between me working on it last night, and me sitting down on the bike this morning.  I know I’m a solid “240lbs of grunt” on top of this thing, but c’mon, the bike’s been fine since I bought it.  Some, uh… let’s see.  Three years ago?  Four?  I think we bought it right after I found out I was going to be working at EAC (the “MotherShip”) as opposed to EAX (“Blackbox”).

ANYHOO, the bike’s not gonna get me to work this morning, and I don’t have the time to fix it now.

So a bunch of mental leg-hold traps snap shut at once.  I go from “Whoo, chilly this morning,” to the following crappy ways to start your day:

  • I’m fat, and broke my bike because of it.
  • I’m an idiot for not testing the bike out last night before going to bed.
  • I’m an idiot for not knowing how to tune a bicycle’s brakes without screwing it up.
  • I’m going to be late for work (cycling takes about 35mins, transit takes 45-50).
  • There goes $5 we don’t really have (transit is $2.50 each way).
  • What am I going to do tomorrow?

So I (literally) dropped my bike into the garage, burst back into the house, did a quickchange, found some change, and flurried myself back out the door.  I pouted for a bit.  I read Twitter feeds on the way into work, and once I got there, tried to do something useful with my brain.  That part went well.

The next morning I was going into work a little later than usual (10am) so I hauled my bike onto the CanadaLine, which (brilliantly) has bike spots on every train, so I don’t have to try to muscle people out of the way.  This is Canada, so a little plastic sign is all the authority people need to acknoledge that they should maybe move outta the way.  Made it downtown, and limped the bike over to the folks at Bicycle Sports Pacific, where I’d bought the bike in the first place.  The woman who checked it out said that it just needed a tuneup, and that my tires were good, brakes seemed fine (I should hope so: they were both less than three months old), and that everything would cost “about 80 bucks or so.”  Okay.  Fine.  I removed my under-seat toolkit and lock, and I traded my bike for a little slip of paper, and wandered out into the brisk Fall morning.  Now what?

I was feeling like this was $80 I didn’t have, on TOP of the $5 in transit per day I’d be spending, but still, this is okay, we’ll figure it out.  I walked up to some weird mom & pop greasy (everybody now: “greeeezzeeee”) spoon cafe with six wobbly tables and a drinks cooler that made an egregious amount of noise, and bought myself what passes for comfort food at breakfast time.  Too-hot coffee and a ham and cheese omelet.  What better way to celebrate health and fiscal responsibility than buying myself breakfast?

Then I emailed my mom, who’d asked last weekend if I needed a new bike.  “Naaaaah,” I’d told her, “there’s nothing wrong with the one I have.”  Famous last words, I know.  Pretty much asking for trouble from that point on.

I emailed her, asking if maybe I could partially take her up on the offer, and instead of buying me a whole NEW bike, she could maybe pay for a tuneup of the one I have, since I’d managed to make mine worse by trying to do it myself (I used to be pretty good at this, when I was 18).  She immediately responded that she’d be happy to.  We figured out how to push money through the series of tubes and the next day I picked up my bike at the shop.

It was $155.  Thankfully, my mom, the psychic that she is, had sent me $150 instead of the “eighty or so” I’d quoted her.  She knew better, probably due to her many many years as a car owner.  The lady at the bike shop and I had an ever-so-slightly toasty conversation about “estimates” and “parts and labour” and “quotes” but after my initial panic, I finally got down to “so what the hell was wrong with it?”

  • Bike chain and gears bathed and lubricated. $15
  • Broken.  Rear.  Axle. Replaced.  $15 (Oh, well that would explain it)
  • New brake and shifter cables needed (okay…) $15
  • 5 minutes of making fun of (or possibly, being in awe of) my “humongous rack – is that from MEC?” $FREE
  • Reconstruction and Tune Up $75
  • Not stealing my chrome skull air nozzle caps?  Priceless.

They did a really good job.  Totally worth it.  Just wish I’d been asked/told BEFORE I got there that the total was about 95% above the original agreed-upon amount.

Rode home from the shop.  It was like new.  Smooth.  Silent.  Strong.  My thighs actually seemed to enjoy the hills now that I wasn’t fighting against my own brakes any more.  Rode most of the trip in 2:5 (2nd on front, 5th on the rear), which sets my cruising speed at about 22km/h while on flats.  Felt good.  Forgot to get water*, so didn’t really go for it, or I’d end up coughing all night due to sucking wind.

No more Dubstep though.  Maybe back to some nice happy Public Enemy.

Not that I ever listen to music while cycling.  No-no.  Of course not.  That’s almost as stupid as riding on a broken axle for a few weeks.

I packed up my stuff tonight, and even laid out my cycling gear for tomorrow.  Like first day of school or something.

I’ll try not to yell “WHEEEE!” on the way down Heather bike path tomorrow, but if I do, I’ve got my mom to thank for it.

* That’s not true, I was going to buy myself a new bottle with the extra money mom’d given me, but after the little “adjustment” in pricing, not so much with the $5.00 water bottle.  Besides, I prefer the wide-mouth “Sport Drink” bottle types, and most of them fit into my clip.

Posted on October 4th 2009 in General, Hardware, People
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