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Thursday, January 05, 2006

What makes bikes beautiful?

Simplicity. Bikes have few moving parts, and don't require much maintenance. For what little maintenance they do require, the average Joe can accomplish with a few good but simple tools. No extreme amount of brunt or might is required to maintain a bike as it would be for a car. Almost all bikes are essentially the same.

Reliability. There not many things that can go wrong with a bike to make it comletely un-rideable. But in case you wanted to see, here are some examples.

Freedom. Having a bike gives you great ability to go places quickly. Makers of the Segway state the average speed between any two points in the 20 largest cities in the world is just 9mph. I average about 14 on my bike.

Unlike cars, bikes parts are mostly interchangeable thanks to a design that hasn't changed much in 100 years. There's still idiosyncrocies in working with French, British, American, Japanese, and ISO standards.

In case you were wondering, Here's my top ten list that would come in handy for the home-bike-mechanic

1. Anything from the Park Tool Company

2. A patch kit and some spare inner-tubes. Old inner tubes can be re-used to protect metal parts from getting scratched, stretched like bungee cords to tie things down, and can prevent anything that clamps-on from slipping. Below is a picture of a thin strip of tube glued to the back of my cute little topeak whitelight bike-light so it doesn't slip, and to prevent it from scratching the bars.
topeak white-light with rubber tube glued on

3. In lieu of a an expensive workstand for you bike, hang it by the seat from a high object. Most bikes will achieve a natural balance in this position. Having a bike high up allows free-spinning of the cranks for easy lubrication of chain, derailleurs, etc. and it's much more stable and better for your bike than flipping the bike over.
makeshift bike-stand

4. Wheel bearing grease from any auto-parts store. Phil Wood brand lubes are the best (link to pdf), but heavy bearing grease from the auto-store is just as damn good and costs a lot less. About $1 for four ounces.

5. Needle-nose pliers (for pulling and holding cables).

6. Allen wrenches. 5mm, 6mm, and 8mm seem to be the most popular for adjusting things. Box wrenches are handy too in sizes 6, 8, and the entire 10-15mm range.

7. Truing stand and dishing tool, if you want to work on your own wheels. Building and truing wheels is probably the most advanced thing you can do working on a bike, but it's a lot more convenient to true your own wheels than to drop one off at the bike shop.

8. Chain tool. The cheap ones don't last very long. Be gentle and it'll last longer.

9. Odds and ends from the bike shop, like cable-ends, nipples, and spokes.

10. If you want to keep your hands clean get disposable latex or rubber gloves from the pharmacy (think bike-surgeon). But remember that latex gloves will fall apart if there's a lot of grease, so get at least one pair of non-latex gloves too. Latex and petroleum based products (i.e., grease) are not compatible.

Simplicty is beauty.

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