Monday, June 25, 2012

Girl Grease-Monkey

This is me, cleaning off an extremely rusty, grimy pedal. 

So bike building class began last night, and in addition to learning some basics like how to use a bike stand, I also took the chain and pedals off of my project bike. The bike is crusted in many places with rust and ancient road salt residue, and it weighs a ton, and it doesn't look like much but I love it. Why? Because it needs me to get it all clean and oiled and working smoothly. And because it's just a humble little thing, some Sears-Roebuck Generic Ladies Bike that's probably as old as I am, and looks like half the commuter bikes I see being ridden every day on the streets of Chicago. If there's a general aesthetic to the bikes ridden in this city, I'd say it's pre-1980, solid, tank-like steel bikes, with spots of rust everywhere and mechanical memories of dozens of hard winters. Probably 75% of which are Schwinn. It fits here, that kind of bike. The look of them fits the look and the attitude of this city precisely. Not that there aren't other types of bikes around, but the ancient Schwinn is still the norm.

Anyway, this bike I'm fixing up is in that grand tradition, and I'm glad it's mine to fix.

Taking the chain off is tricky (unless the chain has a master link, in which case it pops right off with a quick squeeze of the right tool -  my project bike does not have a master link). You basically use the chain tool to push a pin out of a link, but you don't want to push it all the way out because it can't go back in. So I'd push it out, then wiggle to see if the chain would come off. Push again just a teeeeny bit as I cringe with fear it's too much, then wiggle. Cringe/push, wiggle. Cringe/push, wiggle. Over and over. It was slightly stressful. But I got it off.

Then we had to take the pedals off, and that was my work-out for the evening. This bike has been unused for at least 2 years, and a good chunk of that time it sat outside, soaking in our ever-so-pleasant weather. So it's safe to say that the threads on those pedals hadn't been greased in god knows how long. So I just wrestled with the pedal wrench a while. To get more leverage, I took it off the stand, put it on the floor upside down, and wrestled even more vigorously. At least 10 minutes or more, and neither pedal was budging even when I switched to the Great Big Pedal Wrench (yet more leverage). The girl next to me had the same problem. Then we realized we were pushing the wrong way. Because our bikes were upside down, see, and it's really hard to remember which way is which when your bike is upside down. So. Going in the right direction with the Great Big Pedal Wrench, they came right off. Imagine that.

Let's just call that my upper body workout.

Anyway, I had fun and came away with tremendously greasy hands, so I was pretty satisfied. What's super-cool is that I'm not the only female in the class - it's 5 girls and 4 guys. Makes me happy for the world of bikes, seeing so many of women there with grease on our hands. Girl power! Next week we're supposed to overhaul the bottom brackets, which I find wildly exciting only because I will finally learn exactly what a bottom bracket is, and can stop thinking of it as "everything down there by my feet".

In other bikey news, I went and got Olivia adjusted yesterday - seat raised, handlebars lowered, gears were slipping so a cable adjustment.
Bad news: it fits WAY better, but I still need even more adjusting, argh.
Great news: I get to keep the basket! At least so far, even bringing the handlebars down an inch or more left room for the basket. Yay!

1 comment:

Univegan said...

Schwinn's used to be manufactured in Chicago (for a very long time). This is probably why you see a million of them there!