Friday, July 23, 2010

A Beast On The Bike

Also, I’m becoming a bike nerd. (Do they have bike nerds? It’s kind of borderline.) I’ve had bikes since I was old enough to crash them, but until I came to DC I only used them for fun, not transportation. For the past four years, though, my bike has been like a trusty steed of fire that bears me across all manner of terrain.

My current bike is named Arnold Widowmaker. I call him Arnold for short. I got him from my piano teacher at Howard, and I’ve had him about a year and a half. This is me on him. I looked a little skanky in the photo, so I changed it to black and white. Even the skankiest things look classy in black and white.

But it’s only been in the past month or so that I’ve decided to become a bike expert. I always wanted to be one, but that’s easier to do when there are resources around me (there weren’t at Howard). Once I graduated, I got two things that set me on a path to cycling greatness. First, I moved into a house full of bikers, one of whom is pretty serious – more serious than I, anyway. Between her and me and the other two bikers in the house, we’ve transformed our dining room into a bike parking garage/repair and maintenance shop. She also hooked me up with people she knows who love to go touring, which is a fancy way of saying they like to go on long-ass bike rides.

The other thing was that before she left to be all that she could be, my lady friend got me one of those omnitools that you can use to fix just about anything on your bike. And she got me some tire levers and a pump. Once I had those rudiments, I was ready to do just about anything. I decided to embark upon a season-long project: I would slowly make Arnold Widowmaker into the pimpingest bike ever to touch pavement.

These are the things I’ve done to him:

1. Singlehandedly changed his tires and tubes.

6. Installed a mirror and a taillight.

2. Singlehandedly changed front tube again when it went flat on a day-long bike adventure two weeks later. It got punctured on this crappy trail. I was pretty mad – but I had everything I needed to do the job in my little bag. Dudes on the ride came over and gallantly offered help, but I shrugged them off.

3. Cleaned and relubricated his chain. It was insane how much quieter he ran once I did this. It made me feel ashamed that I hadn’t done it before.

4. Taken apart and cleaned the pedals. That’s a lot harder than it sounds because, as I found out, each pedal has two sets of thirteen miniscule ball bearings, which are basically just tiny-ass balls that roll everywhere.

5. Taken apart and cleaned the rear hub and axle. This was also harder than it sounds, for the same reason. Who knew a bike had so many ball bearings? Counting both hubs and the pedals (and wherever else there might be bearings that I haven’t discovered yet), that’s almost a hundred ball bearings.

When I was fixing the hub I had to go to the bike store to get some heavy grease and some quarter-inch ball bearings. The dude at the store looked at me skeptically and said, “If you’re doing something to your bike and you need to buy ball bearings, you’re probably in over your head.”

Really? I think what he meant was, “If you’re doing something to your bike and you have a vagina, you’re probably in over your head.”

Fool. Arnold is running like a dream as I type. (Well, actually he’s parked downstairs. Unless he’s up to something with my housemate’s bike Cecilia again.)

I know the more expert I get, the more I’ll have to deal with dudes trying to do shit for me. I hate it when dudes try to do shit for me. The author and historian Liz Stanley (whose book and research I might talk about in my next Book List post), has this to say about dudes doing shit for you:

“Chivalry depends upon and derives from inequalities in power, privilege, and material possessions and resulting images of the social groups involved. It is an important way of oppressing people, because it denies the existence of oppression under the appearance of service to the oppressed group.”

It’s one thing when a dude opens a door for me. That’s just being polite. I could do without it, but I’m not gonna give him a dirty look. But when a dude asks if he can fix your bike for you, that just shows that he doesn’t think you can do it.

Anyway. My next mission in the pursuit of expertise will be to go to this bike coop in DC and learn everything by doing things for other people’s bikes for free.

I’m pretty much ready to enter The Tour (which is what cool people who know about bikes call the Tour De France). Except yesterday I found out that I can’t enter it as a rider because people with vaginas are barred from it permanently. I’m not making this up!


Andrew said...

La Tour n'accepte pas des femmes? Wackitude.

You've come a long way if you've stopped giving men dirty looks as they open doors for you. And that picture is still kinda classy-skanky, but it's a very good look for you.

lexichronicles said...

For real? That's so lame.

I'm getting a bike in Japan. It's going to be my second major purchase (after a fridge) and it'll be pretty sweet.

The Witty Mulatto said...

You totally need a bike, Alexis! It will be THE coolest thing that ever happened to you. It will become your steed of fire!

Yeah. No ladies in the Tour. And thanks, Andrew. I have come a long way. Really a lot of it was from reading that book about the drag king that I posted about a few posts ago.

anyu said...

so, you're giving me a master class next time you're here, right?