Friday, July 22, 2011

Learning to change a flat...

As you know my bike (I really need a name for her…) and I have just started to get to know each other. As with most new relationships, there was a getting to know you phase. Occasionally, my bike would get her chains rattled and she would fall over at a stop. I think most of you have experience that at least once, the slow motion fall to one side or the other as you realize your feet are still clipped in. We are past the getting to know you phase right now but I feel there is so much more I need to learn to keep our relationship going strong.

While I have done a few triathlons prior to this year,. My biking primarily consisted of riding the bike around the neighborhood maybe once, if that, before race day. That training strategy really didn’t seem to be working well so I decided things needed to change. While my biking is coming along by leaps and bounds (still hoping speed will magically come one of these days…), I still have the fear of some sort of mechanical failure on the ride. Yes, it is always safer to ride with a buddy but it isn’t always practical. Occasionally, I see the need to hit the road on my own. If I am hitting the road on my own, I really need to learn how to deal with minor mechanical issues.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for a Bike Maintenance class at REI. The class was held last night. I was a little sad about the timing because it was held at the same time as my regular Thursday night ride but decided it was a priority. My main goal for the class was to learn how to fix a flat. As I headed into the store, I was a little nervous. I didn’t want to be the only one but also didn’t want to stand out as a complete newbie either. Then I realized that everyone in the class was probably a newbie or they wouldn’t be there. Duh.

The class was packed. The instructor had three types of bikes set up and went over each of them (road, hybrid and mountain bikes). He showed us how to take off the wheels. I was expert at the front wheel removal having taken mine off countless times to get it in and out of the car. I had no idea about the back wheel. I thought it might be a little complicated but it really was not much more complicated than the front wheel. After the wheel came off, we got to changing flats. This was not a hands on class but the instructor was very thorough. Once he went through the whole process, including re-inflating the tire with a CO2 cartridge, I felt confident I could do this on my own. The class finished up with tips on cleaning the bike, lubing the chain and various other parts and we were done. A very worthwhile hour spent at REI. I stocked up on a few gels and bars @ 20% off and headed home with a lot more confidence in my bike maintenance abilities!

This weekend, my plan is to take some time practicing changing a flat on my bike. While I have seen someone do it, I think I will feel that much more confident after I have changed one on my own a few times. Wish me luck!


Debbie said...

I definitely recommend practicing. I did this and was so happy that I did. Sit in your home and go through the whole process a couple time. It's really very easy, but like any skill it takes a little time to get good at it.

Also practice taking that bike tire off, and more importantly, putting it back on. It used to be such a head game for me to get that #*&$ tire back on. My hands would end up all greasy and I'd get so frustrated. Then after some practice (it seems that the back tire is always the one that gets the flat!), it finally clicked and now I have no problem.

Kate said...

I took a tire-changing class, too. The nice thing about those classes is that most of the people ARE total newbies and you don't feel stupid asking "stupid" questions. I do still want to take another class and learn about adjusting brakes and so on. I've only been talking about that for a year or so...

That Pink Girl said...

Awesome idea! I'm going to check my REI to see if they offer something similar. My bike shop does, but it's kind of pricey. You're right, it's stuff you must know how to do!

Amanda said...

That was a great idea, it's always helpful to know how to fix these things yourself. Glad you found a class and feel more comfortable with the mechanics.

Good luck with your practicing.

ajh said...

Good for you! Hope it goes well.

Julie said...

For sure give it a couple of try's. I'm becoming an expert lately. :) It really isn't so hard although the back tire still gives me issues sometimes.

Colleen said...

Great class. My hubby taught me how to change a tire and for a while, every time we changed wheels for whatever reason and needed new tires, I would ask to do it. Although it'll take me an hour to do, I feel comfortable that I could make it work! :)

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NY Wolve said...

The whole bike thing I don't get. I have trouble enough mastering one sport; adding a bike would exponentially complicate my life.

So good luck!