Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In Pursuit Of True

The wheel in the thingie goes round and round, round and round, round and rou---scraaaaape.
Currently, I am in the thick of it at work so I can't really be lengthy here. (Because I need sleep. So so so much sleep.) But this week's class was on wheel-truing and we trued the wheels. Or, um, tried to.

Turns out I hate wheel-truing. I think because I suck at it. What you do is you feel the spokes, like squeeze the ones that are parallel to each other, to see if any are more loose than the others. Apparently, like a 5-pound difference in tension is WAY noticeable, to anyone not named Beth. Seriously, man, they all felt about the same to me, even when there was like a 10-pound difference. So the idea of being some Master Wheelsman (or whatever they call themselves) who can adjust the tension just by feel? Pshaw. Not gonna happen.

Bridget and I - wait, did I mention Bridget is my classmate, and she's at the workstation next to me so we share tools when necessary and frequently mutter things under our breath to each other, usually about what complete spazzes we are when it comes to threading? (Not eyebrow threading, ladies, I mean the threading on, like, things that screw in to other things. I often get the direction wrong, and so does Bridget, because rightie-tighty lefty-loosey doesn't always apply to bikey things. It's embarrassing.) Anyway, Bridget and I spent the class hogging the single tensiometer so that we could use actual objective measurements instead of just going by feel. It worked, we got the wheels true. But I didn't exactly have a great time.

So I'm not a fan of this particular task, which is a real shame since I had previously been hoping to build my own wheels at some point. But screw that, man, I will pay someone else to build them. And to true them. Godspeed and good riddance. I seriously have no interest in it anymore. How sad is that?

Another thing I learned is that Elspeth's poor bike was not just forgotten for quite some time, it was downright criminally neglected. I mean just look at the petrified salt and corrosion freezing this sucker up:

Dear Elspeth:  Your wheels are shitty. Sorry.  Love, Beth
(Oh, another thing: I had to un-attach the 3-speed cable and the coaster brake, which was not EXACTLY a walk in the park, okay, especially with all that rust and all. And the wheel rims are steel, so it all weighed circa 30 metric tons, is all I'm saying. ANYWAY.)

Despite the shape it's in, from having sat outside through at least 3 out of 4 seasons of a year (before being moved inside for another year or more, to just sit and rust over), it's not a terrible diagnosis for the bike. Since it's not a primary form of transport and since it's really only going to be used for a mile here, a mile there, take her to the train in the morning, maybe pick up some groceries on occasion, etc, it'll do. It's not worth sinking money into it to improve the bike, though. It's functional, and she can ride it til it dies, as should be done with any good old rust-bucket.

Let me just take a moment to say that in my experience - both in riding bikes and in learning about them - it's worth investing time, effort, and money into your wheels. I mean, if you have to choose just one thing to really worry about and/orconcentrate on, make it the wheels. Be cavalier about other parts, but not the big round ones that make you go.

Aaaaaand, I'm off. Have to skip next week's class (subject: brakes!) because I will be working out of town, so I'll pop back in after that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

No News Is Not Exactly Good News

Bike class was cancelled Sunday, so I have no tales of wheel truing to share.

I did, however, replace the grips on Olivia - got rid of the horrible painful plastic things the Pashley factory put on her, and replaced them with lovely cork grips. I've shellacked them and am quite anxious to give them a whirl.

But apparently I have chosen the worst summer ever to try out bike commuting. Every single day is either a freaking heat wave or a violent thunderstorm. I can't even keep up with the weather alerts anymore, and I swear my leg muscles are turning to jelly as we speak. Bah.

I said BAH.

So... When I can haul Olivia out into the sunlight without developing heat stroke, I will take a picture of the new grips. Mind you, that may not happen until sometime in November at this rate.

In the meantime, my bike-life is boring. Days full of bad weather and sharp longing. Oh woe. Woe is me, people.



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hubs Are Harrrrrrrrrrrrrd

This is a hub that's been disassembled, cleaned, bearings packed back in, in the process of adding more grease, and prepared to be adjusted.  Please be suitably impressed, thanks.
Sunday night's class was All About Hubs and, while there is ever so much to learn and do and see and discuss about hubs, allow me to condense it all down for you into one succinct statement: Hubs are freaking hard, and I suck at them. The end.

The hub is the center of the wheel, see, and it doesn't LOOK like it should be so hard. But it is! I swear to god, and I can't even say exactly why they're so fiendishly difficult. They just are. Apparently every hub is a little different, so that adds to the stress. It takes a lot of practice - you do 10 hubs and then you'll start feeling more comfortable, apparently, more familiar with the assembly of innards. But even if you get good at it, it's terribly time-consuming and there are a lot of rotating bits all coming together in one little centralized spot and it's just complicated.

Do you have an internal gear hub? Then I can't help you, that's a whole other class. Were you under the impression that the scary cassette thing (above, to the right, all them teeth) was the hardest part? You're wrong, it's pretty easy - and might even be fun if you get to use a chain whip.

Yes! A chain whip! It sounds and even looks like some sort of advanced AP sex toy:

I feel like this should be part of a Halloween costume.

Anyway, I found it all very complicated and confusing and I just need to do it several more times. You have to adjust the hubs so that they're not too loose or too tight (and you should really check yours, because that happens a lot), and the adjustment is just a bitch. Plus, none of the ball bearings are caged, so that's always fun when you open everything up and ping ping pingpingping there go your wee little silver balls everywhere.

Also apparently if you have long hair, it is absolutely inevitable that your hubs will have hair in them. It's just a law of bicycle physics: long hair + spinning wheel = hair wound up in hub. Gross, yes. But at least you know.

Overall, this is the one thing we've done where I am not 95% confident I could do again on my own without supervision. I think I'll come in and practice on other wheels, to get used to it.

I feel like I need to admit that I now want to basically be a bike mechanic. Or at least I want to take apart people's bikes and put them back together again, a lot. Aside from me generally being a Little Mis Fix-It by nature, I think it's super addictive because of the huge variety in bikes and parts and potential problems - and the vast array of goofy-looking tools. So anyway, consider yourself warned: if you're around me and there's anything I can detect wrong with your bike, I will undoubtedly beg you to let me take it apart.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Scolded By An English School Marm

Yesterday while riding in to work I found myself thinking just relax. Relax relax, don't push, take it easy. This has to be pounded into my head because I find myself fighting with Olivia.

That's not to say that my bike and I don't get along, it's just that we're getting used to each other. I'm pretty sure she finds me exasperating, the way I'm always pushing and trying so hard. It was a few days ago that I realized I was struggling like this unnecessarily - that no matter how hard I push, I can only make a few minutes' difference in my travel time. The Pashley has its own pace, and that's all there is to it. It's mostly a very agreeable pace and, as I've mentioned before, it's not a slow pace - it just feels slow to me. I guess because it's such a smooth and solid ride, and so effortless, that I can't imagine I'm going as fast as I did on Pepe.

With Pepe, I always felt like I was urging him on. Like the bike would only go fast if I pushed it to. The speed with Pepe was directly proportional to the effort I was expending. In contrast, Olivia goes just exactly the speed that she feels I should go, no more nor less, and she'll thank me very much not to think I'm in charge of everything.

Seriously, when I fight against the pace, it's like I can hear my bike talking to me. The voice I've given to her in my head is the same voice I conjure up when reading Bertie Wooster's Aunt Agatha, in the Jeeves books. (Jeeves, incidentally, is a great name for a bike. If you felt like keeping the bike impeccably clean and always feeling inferior to it, that is. But I digress.) I can just hear her saying things like, "Kindly do not treat me like horse, young lady!" And, when I find myself  pumping hard, hunched over, trying to beat a traffic light, I can clearly hear "Unseemly! Sit upright and stop sweating, you vulgar young chippy."

And so on. Olivia has no patience for my impatient ways, and so I've learned to go at her pace. Which I was going at anyway, I just kept fighting to go faster. Even though, with all that effort, I rarely if ever went faster on Pepe.

This is Olivia's kinda scene. (That is to say, all bucolic and shit.)
As we ride along the lake front path, it's like I can hear my mom hissing at me to sit up straight, young lady, shoulders back, chin up. And so I do relax my grip and stop mashing the pedals, and I suddenly feel absurdly proper and downright stately. And I must admit that Olivia is really on to something, because it all becomes terribly pleasant the moment I let her just do her thing without my attempts at interfering.  When I do it her way, I suddenly notice the breeze, and how pretty the light is on the water, and are those snapdragons over there, and isn't this just a lovely way to start and end a day... I just glide along feeling like the Queen Mother herself and resisting the urge to wave at my imaginary subjects.

It's pretty awesome, even if it does require lots of admonishments on Olivia's part. That's me, a headstrong young lass needing to be whipped into shape. By a bike.

(Let it never be said that my imagination gave out in my old age, people. The voices in my head are, as you can see, as alive as ever.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

From The Bottom of My Bracket

This is a one-piece crank in all its glory, with a side of caged bearings. 
 Last night we learned bottom brackets. Which, FYI, rather scare the everloving crap out of me for some reason but now that I've disassembled and reassembled two (two!!) of them, they only scare some of the everloving crap outta me.

Side note: I walked into work, saw Elspeth (who like most people finds much of this terminology to be about as understandable as ancient Aramaic), and I was so excited to tell her about my latest disassembly of her bike.
Me, bursting with pride: "I totally took off your bottom bracket last night!"
Her: "Shouldn't you, like, buy me dinner first?"

Anyway, back to the class of scary bottom brackets. Why are they scary? I guess because they usually require a lot of force to get off, and you're levering all your weight in very close proximity to the sharp teeth of the chain ring. (Which, you'll note, looks not unlike a buzz saw.) Also, the bottom bracket, like the headset, has a lot of pieces and not all of them are intuitive and I worry about putting it all back together the wrong way and causing Massive Damage in the long run. Or even in the short run. But it's also a bit nerve-wracking because there just seems to be a lot of variety in the bottom bracket community - species and sub-species, and oodles of tools to match - so I felt like I was doing a lot of guessing and hoping I was right. I was, generally speaking. (Yay!) But still, I won't feel remotely confident until I do it like 10 more times.

So there were 3 bottom bracket types that we went over - I don't know that there are only 3 types, but they do seem to be the most common and we had examples of each in the class. The first was the easiest and, frankly, most boring: the cartridge. Once you pull the crank arms off (crank arms are the metal sticks on the ends of which are your pedals), you just reach in and voila: there's a cartridge. It's all sealed up inside a cylinder-ish thing, nothing to see really, and if it's damaged then all you can do is throw it away and slide in a new one. (See? Boring.) This is the more modern kind of bottom bracket and it seems to be pretty standard anymore.

The second type was more interesting, complicated, and a pain in the patootie: the adjustable bottom bracket. And hey, I don't know why it's called that, I can't for the life of me remember anything that you could really adjust in there. Anyway, it's got all these stupidly complicated bits holding it together, so you have to use all these fussy tools to get in there. And when you finally do, there are ball bearings and a spindle (a.k.a. axle) to take out, inspect, clean, pack with grease, etc. Since my bike doesn't have this kind of bottom bracket, I pulled apart a Jamis Commuter that was just hanging around the shop. Even though it was recently fixed up and all freshly greased, it was still pretty damn time-consuming. Stupid lockring wrench thingie. Stupid pin spanner. WHATEVER.

Then we come to the third kind of bottom bracket, which is the kind on Elspeth's bike: the one-piece. It is what is pictured above and, as you can see, it is aptly named. It is all one piece. Which makes it fun to wiggle  through the hole in the bottom of the bike, but it's generally pretty simple. I have to say that I am a fan of the one-piece. I know it's a low-quality component, but I am all in favor of any bike part that does not require special tools. I just grabbed a big adjustable wrench and that was it. Like the headset, there was nothing but the dried up residual memory of grease, so I slathered it all over.

It's a very satisfying business, packing bearings with grease and smearing it on threads and whatnot. But it's also what makes last night's class the messiest by far. I mean, look at my hands - and this is after three washings!

The horror! THE HORROR!
Good thing I'm not all about my manicure or anything. Especially since I rather enjoy getting my hands literally dirty. It's just a sign that good honest work has been done. Or so we tell our white-collar selves.

In other bike-work news, I've decided I have to get new grips on Olivia. I think the handlebars are low enough, because my forearms aren't all tensed up and fighting anymore - but my hands are so damn sore after riding and I realized that at least part of the problem (if not all) is the grips. I can't imagine that anyone could be okay with the hard, cutting, plastic grips that come stock on the Pashley, they're such uncomfortable crap. Ya hear me, Pashley? Shabby job, old boy. Shape it up.

So I think I'll buy some cork grips. Cork is cheap and softer and has a little give to it, so it's worth a shot. I could take it to the shop and have them put it on, but after my bottom bracket adventure I am flush with  confidence, so replacing handlebar grips seems downright piss-ant. Of COURSE I can do it myself, pshaw! Nothing easier.

And with those famous last words, I will go browse cork grips in various online shops. Fun!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bike Commuting in Chicago: Tips!

Olivia v. The Big Bad City

I was talking to Dawn the other day about bikes and biking, and she shared that her city (Indianapolis) is trying to get more cyclists on the roads, create an infrastructure of some kind, and educate drivers on how to share the road. Having lived in Indy and visited often, my hat is off to them - this is not so much a modest initiative as it is a monumental task. The drivers there are not well-disposed toward the idea of sharing the road with other cars, much less with bikes. People think of Chicago as having terrible drivers, but in the city (not to be confused with the many expressways around the city, which is what most outsiders experience) the driving is not bad, once you understand the rhythm of it. There is generally more patience and caution here than there is in less-huge cities, which I attribute to the presence of cops who love to write tickets for Very Large fines, and the presence of pedestrians everywhere.

Thinking about how bike-lucky I am to live here, and how every place has its own cycling personality, so to speak, I thought I'd share a little about the act of bike commuting here. And since everyone at work knows I commute by bike (most days -but of course not in this wretched dratted dashed beastly sonofabitch heat wave, grrr), I often get questions about safety, clothing, and isn't it sweaty? That sort of thing. I think all bike commuters get this, especially women. Anyway, since I find myself saying the same things about it all the time, I thought I'd share the bitty bit of wisdom I've thus far attained. It IS only a bitty bit, but here's the stuff no one ever told me that I seem to be sharing lately.

Tip 1: Beware the Impatience "Hot Zones"
I've noticed that drivers in the city (those who drive cars, that is) are generally pretty careful of everything on the roads, including bicycles. When you drive in a densely populated city in rush hour, you just tend to be more alert and cautious. Plus, everyone's usually going pretty slow anyway, what with all the traffic.

But there are some places where drivers get careless, and I've learned to be super-vigilant. I call them the hot zones of driver impatience, and they are all places where the most patient drivers tend to just say "screw it, I'm going, I don't care!" because they just can't stand waiting anymore. These are:
  1. Entrances/exits to parking garages downtown
  2. Stop lights/turn lanes to get onto the expressway
  3. Anywhere that a delivery truck is blocking the lane and everyone including cyclists are just trying to get past the bottleneck.
Mentally put yourself behind the wheel of a car in any of these hot spots, either when you're just trying to get to work on time or just trying to get home after a long day, and you'll immediately understand the impatience and momentary lapse of caution that happens to drivers at those spots. There are probably more than just these three, but these are the ones I bike through on every commute. It's just a matter of slowing down, being aware, and making eye contact with the oncoming driver whenever you can.

Tip 2: Free and Semi-Secure Bike Parking
Finding bike parking downtown can be challenging in the summer even if you're just wanting to lock up on a bike rack. But what if you have a super-pretty, very nice bike (named Olivia) that you want to keep as safe as humanly possible? Well, if you're like me, your office building offers a locked bike room. If you're luckier than me, that building won't charge $35 per month for a spot. (SERIOUSLY. Highway robbery.) Luckier still if, when you're willing to spend the money, there actually are spots available to rent.

But luckier than all that is a nearby parking garage with a bike rack inside. This is like some kind of Advanced Biker Knowledge or something, or at least not anything obvious that would ever have occurred to me until I was walking by a parking garage a block from where I work and noticed a bike rack tucked inside, in a corner of the ground floor. I asked the parking attendant about it, and she told me it was free and that yes, there was always an attendant on duty and they can see the bike rack from where they are. The only kinda-bad thing is that this particular garage locks up at 6pm (I work til 5:30, but overtime is not unheard of) and I suspect that particular bike rack was only intended for people who actually work in that building.

Then my coworker Matt mentioned he'd seen a bike rack in the parking garage across the street. So I went and asked and yeah - free, several racks, open til 8pm, and THREE attendants are usually on duty (they do valet parking). So that's where I lock up know, always making sure to say hi to the attendants and thanking them for keeping an eye on my bike. It's so much more reassuring than leaving your bike on a random rack out in the open, a block away all by itself. The only bad thing is that they're those slotted racks like this:
So the best I can do is lock the front wheel to it. But since the attendants are there and I'd think bike thieves would target easier-to-plunder environs, I don't worry so much about it.

So there's my tip: ask around parking garages about potentially free, surveilled bike parking. (With a roof, even!)

Tip 3: Don't stress over clothes
This seems to be the first question most people ask when they learn I bike to work. "What do you wear?" they ask me, as though I should be wearing anything other than what's on my back. Honestly, if I said that I got to work via skydive, or teleportation, I wouldn't get this question, but somehow bicycling is some magical form of transportation that requires extra special clothes, according to most people.

Yes, I sweat. But honestly, if I do anything more strenuous than sit on my couch, I sweat anyway. Aside from cycling in Extreme Heat, I've never sweated on a bike commute the way I've sweated during workouts, because - and here's the key - commuting is not working out. Or at least it doesn't have to be. Here's an analogy: walking for 30 minutes is not the same as running for 30 minutes, even if both are good exercise and both use your feet, you know?

Anyway, I feel like people think they need some special clothes, or some kind of Clothing Master Plan if they want to bike to work. Instead, you'll see every kind of outfit on a bike in this town, from full-on spandex to stretchy pencil skirts to jeans and t-shirts and sundresses and bathing suits and mukluks. If you're worried you'll sweat-soak your favorite blouse, then don't wear it - bring the blouse with you and wear something more casual and comfy, same as you'd do if you didn't want to walk from the train in high heels. Ladies can invest in a pair of bike shorts to put under a skirt/dress. Suit jackets can be folded and rolled and strapped to the back rack or tossed in the basket. Really, people, it's not rocket science.

Most importantly - at least I think it's terribly important, stuck as we seem to be in the false dichotomy of Athletic Cycling vs. Cycle Chic, is this: You don't have to look cute and picturesque, like some sort of fashion plate. You don't have to looks sleek and sporty like that classic image of Cyclist we all have stuck in our heads. You don't have to look like anything at all, you just need something that doesn't unduly restrict your legs. That's it. People really need to stop overthinking this.

Tip 4: Pedestrians Win. ALWAYS.

These are people. Not obstructions. Not speed bumps. PEOPLE.
You're supposed to stop at stop signs and stop lights - why? Because there is cross traffic, yes. But also there are human beings walking across the street. That crosswalk is theirs and they deserve to walk or run through it without you bending the rules so you can zip on through. Even when they don't have the WALK signal and they are jaywalking or whatever else, you STOP for them, okay?

Why? Because you just do, you big jerk, THAT'S why. You are a wheeled vehicle. Pedestrians have the right of way. Even when they're wrong, you try not to hit them. No matter how much smaller you are than a car and no matter the narrow little nooks and crannies you can zoom in out around through, you don't do it when there is a pedestrian there. Aside from being very dangerous, it's just rude.

This goes for the bike paths too, believe it or not. I know it's awesome to have these nice little places without cars where you don't have to worry about getting knocked down or mowed over or just buzzed a little too close for comfort. People who are walking on those paths want the exact same freedom as you do. So if the couple in front of you is blocking the path and walk soooooo slow, what do you do? Do you shout ON YOUR LEFT from several yards back and then maniacally plow through the 16 spare inches that have opened up (all the while cursing them for being in your way) so you can maintain your speed? No, you don't do that, because you're not a complete asshole. Instead, you slow down a bit, maybe ring your bell if you have one, and ask them if they don't mind letting you pass. Here is a direct quote, from me, of how you say it: "Excuse me, do you mind if I can just get by on your left please? Sorry, and thanks so much." They inevitably look back at you and that's your chance to flash them a friendly smile. They smile back, move aside, and you move gently on your way. This scenario happens to me 2-5 times every commute (I go through Lincoln Park) and it works out quite well for all involved.

Because I am never in so much of a hurry that I can't be a decent human being, that's why. If you think this kind of exchange takes too long, then leave 5 minutes earlier. Call these 5 minutes your Anti-Asshole Buffer Zone and feel free to tell everyone that you make a point to devote at least 5 minutes a day to being a better person. For God and country, y'all.

There will always be some times (they could even happen every day in some spots!) where it's not just a couple of people blocking your way. Maybe it's a swarm of kids heading into the museum. Maybe it's throngs of people heading to/from the beach. Maybe it's masses of joggers who are training together on your bit of path. So what do you do then? Well they're not going to part like the red sea. Here's my radical suggestion: get off the damn bike and walk it past the crowd. Sure, you could slow to a just barely-balanced speed and weave through. But that's rather assholish and it's not like you'll be going any faster than walking, anyway.

Tip 5: It Gets Less Scary
It is scary, to be on the road with cars and pedestrians and delivery trucks and there are traffic rules and what if the stuff you put on your back rack is falling off and oh god a lane closure ahead, etc etc etc. But you really do get used to it, so you should at least give it a try. If you find yourself wishing you could bike to work, or over to that one shopping center, or across town to that one pretty river path, or whatever - if you keep wishing you could, then you really should try it. Maybe not the whole ride and maybe not alone. But try it.

Stick with it a little while and suddenly you're not scared because it's not all new and different. You'll get used to it and you'll get comfortable. (and then you'll be in danger of riding like a jerk, what an evolution!) But it will never get less scary if you don't even try. Just pick out a street that makes you nervous and go one block on it. After a few times, you'll go a few more blocks. Maybe you'll like it, maybe you won't, and maybe it will always be too stressful to enjoy that particular stretch of road - but you'll find a way to not be scared, if you just go looking for it.

There, those are my long-winded tips. Now if only I could employ them myself soon, instead of riding the train and allowing poor Olivia to languish away in the basement, poor girl. The heat wave will allegedly end tomorrow, so fingers crossed that I can get back to my own commute.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Headsets and Heat

Oh for godsakes. The humidity is at 85% and as fully determined as I was to ride to work today (I'll bring ice water! I thought. I'll stop for a slurpee! I'll say many prayers!), there's just no way that it could possibly be a good idea. I have to veto my own decision to ride today. Turns out I've developed a good inner mom voice, which pipes up when my everyday risk-taker self gets all stubborn. It's obviously the endurance training that has brought out this self-caretaker side of me, since I learned that you really can't mess around with some things, heat exhaustion being at the top of the list.

This is a smart decision and I know it. But still. Arrrrrrrrrrrrgh. It figures that as soon as I buy a bike I love and just want to ride all the time, we get a nearly 3-week heat wave that leaves me faint and gasping if I'm out in it more than 10 minutes. And it's not supposed to let up til AFTER this coming weekend. It's just so damn unfair, I could cry. Or at least pout extensively.

At least last night I got some bike-time in the form of my class. Instead of bottom brackets, we broke from the calendar and did headsets.

So look, here's the bike I am working on:

My project bike. Blurry enough for you?
In case you don't know bikes - or, like me, have had only the vaguest notion of exactly what a headset is - let me explain a little. The handlebars (horizontal bar with grips) are set in the stem (vertical silver bit just under the handlebars), and the stem runs down the head tube (short bit of tube largely hidden by the tag there) - well really there's another tube hidden in there called the steering tube, which leads to/is part of the fork (the part in front that looks like a fork and goes down to the wheel, see?) and this obviously all gets very confusing. Anyway, the headset is all the little bits that keep the stem connected to the fork, inside the head tube. Basically.

Last night, I learned how to take a stem out of the head tube. There are two different types of stems, threadless and quill. (Personal opinion: threadless stems are easier and just a smarter, cleaner design. But quill stems are far, far more attractive.) My bike has a quill stem, and look - ta-da!

Here's how it looks with all the bits of the headset removed. To get to this point, I got to smack the stem with a hammer and use a big-ass wrench to take off this rather hug nut and then there were washers and spacers and ball bearings to remove.  Then I cleaned them all off and greased them up and put them back together, hurrah!

I'd say the most important things I learned here were:
1. Never fail to grease everything. There was virtually no grease anywhere in this headset, except for some very old grease, dried to a sticky film, on the ball bearings. Where metal meets metal, Grease Is Good. So it was a good feeling to smear grease all over in there.
2. Have a system to keep all the bits in order as you take them off, because you have to put them on again. In order. It becomes a rather stressful puzzle to put together when you have no idea where everything goes.

Apparently a loose headset is a very common thing, so check yours. Or have it checked, because I can't describe how to tell when it's loose. (It's basically: hold on to the top tube close to the head tube, other hand on the stem, jiggle in a pull-apart/push-together motion, and see if you can feel anything. See? Rather a useless description.) Having a loose headset is really Not Good, so I'm all proud of myself that I learned how to inspect it, clean it, tighten it. Also I liked it because there were no special tools involved. I like things that I can theoretically do with the tools I already own.

And now back to eating lemon ice, riding the train, missing Olivia, and generally resenting meteorology. Nice life I've got going here.