Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bike cleaning = rider cleansing.

Road grime is symbolic. 

We are insulated from the world by our habits, anti-bacterial soap and most importantly:  air conditioning.  On the road, I am subject to the whims of nature...and the NC DOT.  While riding behind Barry on Sunday, more than once I pursed my lips to prevent the spray from his rear tire from going down my throat.  I wear glasses with clear lenses (which Coach HATES) to prevent the mixture of oil, water, grime, and seething bacteria from combining with the sterile tears from my lacrimal glands.  I am in the world and swimming in nature, but firmly drawing lines about my involvement when it comes to swapping spit with it.

All of this comes back to roost when it's time to clean the machine.  A clean machine is important and aside from the "ooh's and aah's" that follow the presentation of your pristine rig to the peloton, it is about safety. 

Just this past Sunday, my mom and her friend took their new tandem out for a spin.  First of all, this was their first ride on a bike they ordered online, and my mom's first ride on a bike of any kind in at least 20 years.  I vividly remember the last episode, and it involved her crashing to the pavement in the Clemmons Bicycle Shop parking lot after coming to a stop and losing her balance.  I went to her house Saturday (before the ride) to go over their bike and help them change tire tubes and get the gears and brakes in order.  As I had to leave before all the 'tuning' was done, I asked them not to ride it until I had a chance to check it out more fully. 

Sunday, while riding with Barry towards East Bend, I got a phone call from mom which, in brief, notified me that they rode the bike, crashed it, and she hurt her arm.  Turns out, the bike's handlebars were loose and the brakes were still poorly adjusted, leading to what was probably a very scary trip down the driveway.   Mom has an appointment with the Orthopaedist tomorrow, and we are all pretty sure she'll end up in a cast for a while.

This leads me to the point:  I check my bike all the time, and I clean it meticulously.  It has taken only one incident of carelessness to send me in this obsessive direction.  It was 1995.  I was at ASU, and my hair was long.  It was late at night, and I'd been rebuilding my mountain bike's handlebar / stem / fork assembly after taking it apart for cleaning.  I thought I knew what I was doing, and took the reassembled bike down to a parking lot for a trial run.  Well, at the first bunny hop attempt, I pulled the handlebars straight up and off of the steer tube.  This engaged the brakes, so that when my wheels hit the ground not only did I have no support for my arms, but the bike came to an abrupt stop and I ate some asphalt. 

Since then, I've done my best to learn about bike maintenance, but when I need to take it to the shop, I do.

Tonight, I put the Cerv up on the bike stand and began cleaning off 3 weeks of road grit, Gatorade splash and spit, plus some really infectious-looking mud from a dirt-covered road near a cattle farm.  It was a tedious process that included removing and regreasing derailleur bearings, cables, and cassette gears.  I didn't even get to the chain and chainrings as I ran out of degreaser.  The training routine has required some riding in less than ideal conditions, and I'm a little surprised as how nasty the bike can get when doing this.

But, as the title suggests, it is cleansing.  I can revisit the moments that may have contributed to the grime, and smile with satisfaction as I inspect, remove, degrease, cleanse and relube.  This not only improves my bike's performance, but gives me ample opportunity to scan the machinery for problems like loose bolts, cracked parts, or worn brake pads.  Tonight's inspection revealed that it's soon time for new pads and cables.  All else is well and I think the Cerv feels better with all that funk removed.

Since the Wolfpack Classic is coming up on Saturday, looks like spinning is all we got goin' on this week.


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