Twisted handlebars, slipping gears, sticky brakes, and flat tires – the wonderful world of bikes is all too often fraught with setbacks. To make matters worse, who knows what kind of funny-looking tool actually fits in that groove and – wait a minute, isn’t that thing screwing in backward?
Yes, for all their elegant simplicity and uncelebrated capacity to save the world, bikes can be a major pain in the toot. Even the most experienced DIYer or auto-savvy mechanic will be at a loss with their own toolbox.
Why So Furious?
Bikes are a special beast. Some quirks, like how each pedal screws on differently (left pedal is reverse threaded, right is standard), are the result of ingenious engineering and careful forethought (and, in all likelihood, past failure). By having both pedals tighten toward the front of the bike, you won’t accidentally unscrew one of them as you pedal forward.
Other idiosyncrasies seem like a blatant attempt to sell new special tools. Take bottom brackets, those wondrous unseen assemblies into and around which your cranks fit and spin. Many bottom brackets screw into your frame (maddeningly, in the opposite manner as pedals) and use two square-shaped spindles to fit into square-shaped holes in your crank arms.
However, there are also bottom brackets that screw onto the outside of the frame and they require an entirely different tool (and cranks). Let’s not forget that still others press and snap into the frame with no threading at all, and yes, it has yet another tool for reaming a proper fit.
Bike manufacturers seem to have learned that bottom brackets, because they bear the brunt of the work, consistently need to be replaced (not repaired). So, if they make one unique to their brand, they can also make new, expensive, and endlessly frustrating tools.
Totally Worth It
Like a faithful pup, who still barks at the rain and eats off your plate when you’re not looking, a bike ultimately is more than worth its weight in gold, despite its stubborn reluctance to make more sense.
And like a dog, a bike is only truly happy when it is outside getting dirty, going fast, splashing through puddles (and sometimes chasing cars). If your bike sits alone in a dark, cobwebby garage waiting to be called into service on a few summer afternoons, its wheels will wobble, its saddle will sag, and its cranks will creek. And you may be tempted to forswear that blasted contraption.
But if you love your bike – if you take it out to play and feed it grease and listen to its chain sing as it takes you anywhere you want to go, any time, for free, it will love you back.
If you choose to understand its language, you and your bike will be best friends forever.
Adam wore the Sea Turtle Men’s Organic Cotton T-Shirt
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