On Life and Love

The Bike Doctor

I’ll write on the new job soon, I promise. I’m in week 3 of it, and suffice it to say that I love it so far.

More, however, on the bike.

I got her (Rebecca, formerly [briefly and grumpily] Jezebel) all dusted off, oiled up, chain replaced, light batteries replaced, tires pumped, and ready to roll a couple of weeks ago. Deana and I went out for a nice little 5 mile ride around my area of town–on streets! Where cars are!

Bright orange helmet, a stop for a picnic with Greg (he drove), and no traffic incidents other than a stopped ambulance to avoid. A good ride.

She rode quite well, with the exception of me not being able to get her into the first gear on the front derailleur. There are hardly any hills around here that would justify me dropping down to that low a gear.

All was right until the final quarter-mile or so, when my back tire blew. I wobbled safely into the apartment complex, and then we walked the bike home.

I’m proud to say I didn’t hyperventilate even once.

Also, it’s not illegal in North Carolina to ride on the sidewalks. So hmph.

This past weekend, I took on the task of replacing the tube on the back tire. I got the wheel off, then the tire (that took a while, and involved one tire lever and a spoon handle). The new tube and old tire went on easy and inflated nicely, but getting the wheel back on proved problematic. I couldn’t get the alignment right–either one of the brake pads were stuck against the wheel, or the tire itself was rubbing on the frame, depending on how I seated it.

I finally got it into what I thought was a stable position, and called it a night. I checked over everything the next morning (and oiled the chain!), and went for a ride that afternoon.

And then… well.

After a long steep downhill, one of my back brake pads started holding to the side of my tire, making a whomp-whomp noise and slowing me down. So we stopped, and I broke out the tools and tried from my 5-years-ago memory and the shitty online manual on my phone to remember how to realign the brakes. No go, really, but I could at least get the brakes off the tire initially and get them to come back off the tire a bit when I released the brake lever.

Plus, we were only about 1.75 miles from home at worst. I will confess my hands were trembling quite badly as I worked. That certainly didn’t help me deal with the brake cable, and I both dropped it and got stabbed a couple of times.

We got another 0.25 miles down the road, and it was rubbing again, except this time my back brakes didn’t work at all due to the misalignment–one pad on the brake, the other too far off to the side to make contact with the tire.

We stopped in the parking lot of the best bakery in town, and I got to work again, ride essentially ruined. It was well into evening at this point, and if I couldn’t get going again within about 15 minutes, Greg was going to have to come get us. After some further shaky-handed repairs, I got the brakes to where I could slow down enough in the back to avoid catapulting head-first when using my front brakes.

Good enough. We rolled.

We got almost home–like 0.6 miles away–when I lost back brakes again and got a terrible drag on my back wheel. Done. Fuck this. Throw in the towel.

We started walking the bikes home when I realized that the drag was due to the true misalignment of the back wheel–it was touching the frame again, meaning the whole wheel had shifted during my ride. *shudder*

Then it started to rain.

Fer skerious.

So Rebecca’s in the shop now for both the front derailleur problem and the back… everything… problem. The bike doctor seemed to think a basic tune-up/alignment would be able to fix everything, but we’ll see when I get The Call tomorrow.


  • Imani

    I’m still not happy with the alignment on my front tire after having changed the tube in it. Luckily, my issue does not sound nearly as bad as yours. However, it has been enough of a pain that I totally feel for your calling in the professionals. Good luck with the riding when you get her back!