Bike Repair, 2-4-17

Fourth  Class, 2-4-17

Patti Smith and Annie Dillard.  Wait just a minute, isn’t this a blog on bicycle maintenance?  So what do these two artists have to do with bikes?  As one ages, you become more aware and certain of the things in life that you can do without, and things you cannot  do without.  A year ago, would have I have considered a bicycle maintenance class to be a priority in my life?  Likely not.  Sometimes chaotic thoughts cohere without any expenditure of energy –  at night, the subconscious weaves ideas together — and when you wake up, the sky is clear and the hills to the east and south are stunning, even in February.

Here’s the bike part, then I shall answer the question posed above.

Laurence began with a summary of what we would do:  review vocabulary – good because Missy and Finley were not at the last class —and then disassemble a hub.  Are you kidding me?  How many people these days take apart hub, and why?  I found this on Park Tool:

If your wheels feel rough when you spin them, it’s time to service your hubs. Usually the problem will be caused by wear in your bearings or by the ingress of water and grime. Wheel bearings also wear out over time which will introduce play to the hub, allowing the wheel to rock side to side on its axle.

If the wheel is out-of-true (moves side-to-side), or has a loose feeling, or  feels “crunchy” when you spin it, it may be that the ball bearings have been comprised.  If they break or are rusted, then your bike will lose its smooth ride, and other parts of the bike will fail until your beloved bike becomes unsuitable for riding.

First, we took off the axle using an adjustable wrench and a cone wrench (17 mm, blue one).  I had never done this before, and it was quite exciting to a woman of my age to be taking apart a bike hub.  It’s like falling in love in your 50s.

Tools we used.

We removed the cone, cups and axles.  Look at this great photo I found.

We made sure to collect all ball bearings – for instance, I had 18 (9 on each side), Missy and Finley had 20 – I had fewer, but mine were larger.  We used a solvent – alcohol is fine—bikers, according to Laurence, prefer the citrus variety. Solvent and rag we cleaned everything: cones, cups, ball bearings.  We left the axle alone.


Then we greased everything up and installed the ball bearings being careful to space them in the cups. Using the wrench, we tightened up one side, spun the wheel, tightened the other, spun the wheel again, did some more fiddling to determine if the wheel was listing to one side or another.  This is a wrench feel thing.

Laurence pointed out a slotted washer – there’s a groove into which the washer sits so it doesn’t move facilitating easier attachment of other components.


We also cleaned and greased a dismantled headtube, part of the headset.  Vocab, anyone?  See below.  The ball bearings here are in a ring.


Then Laurence gave us our homework.  “Take something apart. Use your wrench feel.  Think about how the parts go back together and what they do.”  Hmmm…Like life, I suppose: at times, you take it apart, see what it does, then put it back together so it works.  So you get a smooth ride, yes?  I knew there was a reason why I came out tonight: dark and windy, 20 degrees, no car.

To answer the question posed above: Patti Smith (goddess of punk rock) in “M Train” comments on buying a lottery ticket from a “rumpled straggler” at a bar in Madrid, and it occurs to her that the ticket  is “suspiciously limp” and may be worthless.  Later her friends tell her she paid too much for it.  To herself, she says, “I went along with the part I was targeted to play… He (the straggler) is happy, and I feel at one with the world –a good trade.”  To her friends, she says, “You can never pay too much for peace of mind.”

Annie Dillard, in her collection of essays, “The Abundance” writes that after watching a somewhat militaristic movie, “American The Beautiful” at Disneyland with a group of Chinese writers and the poet Allen Gingsberg (can you imagine!), a Chinese writer says, “The film we just saw was a Mickey Mouse film?”  Ginsberg shakes his head, says, “Hallucinatory.  Delusional.”  It’s a subtle essay and so unusual, that  I can never view Disney or Chinese people again in quite the same way.

For me,  I now think of my bike in a different way: I know it a little better, I know I need to take care of it, and listen to it.  Feel the way it rides.  I  want that smooth ride on my bike, because when I have it, I “feel at one with the world.”