Bike maintenance for idiots

During the winter I had to decide what sport I was going to invest in for the upcoming summer. If I had an endless pit of money, I would have all types of equipment, for any occasion, but the reality was more finite.

I enjoyed hiking but wanted to explore more of the Yukon. It was a decision between a kayak for the rivers and a mountain bike for the mountains. And, most certainly, Steve Reid convinced me to opt for the mountain bike, “You can just go from your home,” he said. There’s lots more logistics with driving to go use your kayak.” (I wondered whether he was biased because his summers were spent mountain-bike guiding.)

Sold on the idea, I started looking at how I was supposed to afford the sport (mountain biking isn’t cheap). I walked into Icycle Sports and saw bikes worth more than my car. But there were financing and somewhat-affordable options available, and over the winter months I paid off my mountain bike, which has now been dubbed “Grasshopper.”

Excited to take Grasshopper home, I walked to the bus stop and took a picture of him to tell the world on Facebook about my new “toy,” and that was when I noted there were no pedals. Umm … how was I supposed to ride a bike without pedals?

Apparently, bikes these days don’t come with pedals unless it’s a bike from Canadian Tire. The last time I had a bike was 20 years ago, so times have changed and things have gotten a lot more technical.

My next trip to Icycle Sports was to gather items needed for fixing my bike and for general safety.

What I got:

  • Helmet
  • Multi-tool (apparently I need this)
  • Pedals (cause this seemed kind of important in the actual use of my bike)
  • Bike pump
  • Spare tube
  • Backpack and bike lock

With half my rent gone in a single purchase, it was time to learn to use these tools so that when I started riding I would not be stuck in the middle of nowhere. For example, my first-ever flat tire on my car was in Banff and, having no idea where my spare tire even was (not to mention that half an hour later I would be begging for help and succumbing to male chivalry), I was still determined to do this myself.

First step: open my bike pump and use it. Simple, right?

Ten minutes later, I still couldn’t figure out how my nifty little bike pump opened. As I muttered in frustration, I “YouTubed” the product and found a video. Voila! I could actually open the bike pump. However, the bike pump had two options for sizing … how would I know which one was for my bike?

I thought, I have it! So I tested the pump and started to inflate the tire … but it didn’t seem to be working. As I checked, the bike pump was stuck on the little tube. I started to pull but it wasn’t coming off … Oh crap, what have I done?

I eventually got it off without breaking my tire. By this point I was on the cusp of having a breakdown at the fact that I was so incompetent I couldn’t even pump the bike tires. I called Icycle Sports to get some over-the-phone assistance. They explained how the pump should work and how to let out the air. It had been half an hour and I was still not 100 per cent sure I had actually inflated any part of the tire. Swearing at myself, with tears welling in my eyes, I succumbed to defeat and put—actually, threw—my bike equipment away until I could get some help.

Bike 1 – Kylie 0

The 60 Degrees Training Introduction to Bicycle Maintenance event popped up on my Facebook page and immediately I paid the 50-odd dollars to get a professional, Steve Reid, to actually explain how these things work.

It was a windy Tuesday evening at Icycle Sports … five others showed up for the training event, all with different bikes—mountain bikes, road bikes, fat bikes—some with previous skills, and me with the lowest level of skills.

The training was a great introduction to understanding my bike and being less intimidated by it. We actually practised on our own bikes and each other’s by taking off both tires, changing a tire tube and learning all of the basic necessities needed to keep us riding. The hours flew by, and my brain was swimming with bike-maintenance information. My confidence was up and I finally felt in control about taking my bike out and being able to fix it.

Bike 1 – Kylie 1

Mountain biking … I haven’t even started the sport and already it’s highly intimidating. It’s been a while since I started a new sport, and I forgot how overwhelming it can be. So many people use fancy technical words and it seems as though everyone is much more experienced. I may suck at this sport, or I may love it—or love it, but suck at it like skiing. But I’m looking forward to exploring the trails (and hoping not to die).

I would like to thank the Icycle Sports staff who answer all of my dumb questions in person and over the phone, without treating me like the “idiot” I am. And also Steve Reid, from 60 Degrees Training, who “annoyingly” knows everything.

Keep an eye out for “Mountain Biking: Part 2 – Learning how to ride and not die.”

Read the whole series: Learning How To Ride And Not Die

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