Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Unseated by the forces of nature

Today I experienced the consequences of falling behind on bicycle maintenance. My seat had been getting loose for some time. Had the bike shop tighten it once but it got loose again right away. Since I was very busy I hadn't given it enough priority to dig out my tools to readjust it myself. I assumed since I'm sitting right on it the weight must be going straight down and nothing bad will happen... right?

Well, in reality the cylinder the bike seat attaches to comes up at an angle and the seat meets it at an acute angle, so there are significant leverage forces on that seat. When the bolt is lose those can be worse. So about a 3rd of the way to work this morning the bolt attaching the seat to the seat post was sheared by my own weight.

I managed to avoid collapsing in a heap, but just barely. I've never practiced dismounting from a bike while standing on the pedals instead of seated, but I pulled it off with with only some nasty scraping on my right ankle. So instead of being within minutes of being late to work I was very late to work, not having the stanima to run that distance without an inhaler (which I had forgotten in my other pack) much less while lugging a bike.

But now we come to why I'm glad I mainly travel by bike. Any kind of repair on a car that would take it from completely unusable to perfect shape would cost no less than 50$, but you count yourself lucky if its even as low as 300$. It took some time shopping around town for parts (mostly on foot since I only got a ride part way when a coworker tracked me down for a ride to the first store) but I was able to repair the bike for about 2.40$. My normal bike shop didn't have that bolt in stock and could only offer to replace the entire assembly for 10$. Second bike shop I visited was closed. The hardware store not only found me a bolt, nut, and washers that fit, they assembled them for me. I probably could have done it myself, but somehow I preferred to let the elderly mechanic, especially when he was rebending my seat brackets back into shape. He looked like he could be my grandfather, but I had no doubt he was better with tools than I am.

So now I am back in business on my bike, and the seat feels stronger in place than ever. Hopefully nothing else will unseat me anytime soon. No more surprises like the time I rear ended a car... one never thinks about following distance when most everyone is going twice as fast as you are...


Sean said...

So I bet tonight you are doing some of that routine maintence you've been putting off.

How many miles do you put on the bike in an average week? Is it a road bike or a street bike? Do you ride a bike out of nessesity or some feeling that you need the world greener for your children?

CrouchingOwl said...

The only real maintenance left that its been missing is a good wash. Last time I had the gears adjusted they told me the biggest thing keeping my gears from working was the entire shifting system was gunked up in grime. Now, not having my own hose they suggested I go to a do it yourself carwash. Haven't done that yet.

I normally put about 20 miles a week on my bike. About half of that is commuting to work, about half of it is errands day. I really wanted to buy a hybrid bike, which is mostly a road bike but with a few few trail features so it wouldn't be completely out of place on a casual forest path or the local things they call roads but really more resemble gravel pits... But when I flew into town for college and didn't have any roommates with cars there was only one bike shop within walking distance and they didn't even carry standard road bikes let alone hybrids. So I'm stuck with a mountain bike that only ever leaves pavement long enough to cross gaps in sidewalk. City has this thing against consistent sidewalks.

I ride the bike really because its cheaper not to own a car, and we live in a small enough town that unless I'm going out of town or trying to bring back home some over sized purchase like a bookshelf I really don't need one. I estimate not having the car is saving me about 300$ a month, maybe more gas has gone up since I sold my car. On those rare occasions I need a car borrowing or renting is easy enough. People find my carlessness so disturbing that they offer me rides or to borrow their vehicle readily.

Not that I mind walking into the grociery store and having some random middle aged guy in a giant SUV telling me he appreciates my contribution to the energy crisis.

Its kind of funny, at work they have been so squashed for parking lot space they have gotten enviromentalist all the sudden and offering incentives for carpooling. They mention they'd like us to investigate public transportation or bicycling, but there aren't any incentives for it. I'm considering complaining to HR, I've been green since the parking lot was empty from driving away good employees with bad policies, they should give me incentives too. Maybe a walmart card instead of a gas card like they give everyone else.