Monday, December 13, 2010

On Bicycle Dirt and Bicycle Saviours

The bike family ready for their bath.
I'm a baby-biker. I've got a lot to learn about bikes and biking in general and sometimes my fear of what I don't know and what damage I could be causing scares me a little.

Case in point: It scares me to clean bikes. I'm a bit of a dichotomy in this way. I'm cursed with a touch (a touch!) of perfectionism so when it comes to taking on any task, if I can't do it perfectly, I then take the opposite stance and I slack completely. Bike cleaning falls nicely into this category. It didn't help that, due to a leak, I didn't have an outdoor hose to use at my house all summer. Cyclocross motivated me to take care of that problem. Once, this past spring, I took my Madone into Alter Ego and when I went to pick it up, my bicycle benefactor, Dave Chennell had left a nice note on my receipt that said: "Kermit would like to be kept cleaner."

And thus is the origins of my bike's nickname.

I'm a little embarrassed about how dirty my bikes get. I admire all those who show up at every ride with their bikes sparkling and shiny. So I am trying to learn. It's been about 2 weeks since the last cyclocross race and I've been walking past Dave's cross bike in my basement daily thinking I should clean it up good and bring it back. But now that it's snowed I can't use the hose again. Supercross was snowy so the dirt factor was minimized, but I had only done a cursory cosmetic clean up job on the bike after Provincials, 3 weeks before, and Provincials was wet and muddy.

There's dirt everywhere on the bike. There's dirt in nooks and crannies that non-mechanical me would never think to look at. I could hear dirt grinding in the brake mechanism when I took the wheels off so I could get at those "hard to reach" places. I could hear dirt in the skewers when I unhinged them to loosen them. The front one was so freaking tight, I didn't think I was going to be able to undo it. And I'm not really sure what other things I can pull on and loosen up to get at some of that griminess because there is a good chance I'll take something off and not be able to get it back on.

Like I did with my road saddle when I put it on my mountain bike for the Golden Triangle ride. (Trading saddles was NOT a good idea by the way -- live and ... ouch ... learn). When I tried to put it back on my road bike and go for a jaunt out to the gravel at the end of Roblin, I got basically around the block when the saddle tilted. My hands are just not strong enough to tighten things well and Trek uses this weird saddle mount system that I'm not familiar with. So the longer ride was aborted and I made the 4km jaunt to Alter Ego instead for a visit with Dave.

Or when I tried to put my own mountain bike tires back on..... Dave took one look at them the next time I was in the shop and says, "Uh, you know you have the tread backwards."

Damn. I didn't know there was a difference. It's a miracle that I can get the tire on myself, period.

I especially appreciate that Dave never laughs at me when I do these ignorant and silly things. I try. He just looks at me patiently and asks if I'd like him to switch them for me. Yes, please.

Well at least he never laughs at me to my face.

All of us who bike have "a guy" we go see, right? Well, Dave's "my guy."

I met Dave because of my ignorance about bikes. He came to one of our Tribalistic Christmas training camps a couple of years ago to do a bike fit session when James turned up sick at the last minute. I'd been riding for all of about 8 months at this point. Dave fielded quite a few difficult questions about aero position from some of the more experienced in our group, questions I couldn't even repeat now they were so over my head.

All naive-me really wanted to know was why I was having so many problems with saddle sores. Let me tell you, there is nothing like going up to a stranger, a guy for that matter, and talking about your saddle sores.

I discovered pretty quickly that, thankfully, Dave and I have the same warped sense of humour. He's also virtually unembarassable (trust me, in the time since, I've tried -- bon chance, mon ami, says Dave to that). So he sat me on my bike and watched me peddle on the trainer for a bit and just from eyeballing me announced I needed to drop my saddle about 3 cm (3 cm!!). He took a couple quick measurements and it ended up being more like 3.5 cm. And it worked.

It was the beginning of a beautiful biker-chick/bike-shop-guy relationship.

I could give a dozen, or so, examples of Dave saving me from my own ignorance but you see the point. I definitely play favourites when I go into the shop. The rest of the Alter guys razz me/us mercilessly. Nothing personal boys. I love you all too. I hope I'm not contributing to making Dave's "Ego" too difficult to live with.

So I want to clean his bike up right. I took the wheels off and scrubbed them up good in the bathtub. And then I flipped the bike over because I don't have one of those fancy bike stands at my house like Greg, here, does (I should get one) and I discovered more secret hidden dirt:

There is something about this view of a bike that makes me want to avert my eyes and give it some privacy.
See I don't even know if it is appropriate to flip a bike like this (no wheels remember). I fear the damage I unknowingly cause to my own bikes, but I suppose this position is better than sitting the bike on its own drivetrain.  It's a good thing Dave sent me off with his bike saying there was nothing I could do to it that he couldn't fix. I fear, Dave, that your bike is not coming back to you in the practically out-of-the-box clean condition you gave it to me in. Despite my best efforts.

Anyways. I'm thankful for Dave. I'm more than thankful. I'm grateful, and for the most part, flabbergasted. He's a good egg and he's becoming a good friend. I bring him coffee once and while but it hardly feels like enough. Yeah I've dropped more than a few bucks in the shop, because of it. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of a "tithe" -- to the church of the bicycle, of course.

I need Dave taking care of my bikes the way he does. I'd be lost otherwise. He's earned my trust and he makes me feel comfortable.  I, in return, try not to take advantage of the service I get. It's all about give and take and I'm happy to sing Dave's praises even if it might mean he'll need a "bigger helmet." I put a lot of kilometres on my bikes and somebody has to save me from myself.

My Bike Saviour Dave: (yet another great Stefan Isfeld Photo)

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