Facing my Fears — Bike Maintenance

I’ve always been self conscious of not knowing my bike. Not knowing how it works, or the parts and how to fix it. My image of an IM is someone that is confident and can handle any situation. When riding through courses, I’ve met a few triathletes that knew their bikes intimately, and could fix my flat with confidence, and quickly too. I felt like a total newbie and embarrassed because I couldn’t help myself. That’s when I decided I need to step out of my comfort zone and face this fear head on. No longer depending on others, I’ll rely on myself if anything happens during a race. If I want to do something i have never done before (like full IM), I have to be prepared to train like I never have before. This includes learning new skills, be it swim techniques, nutrition, pacing, and even bike maintenance. I vow to do whatever it takes to succeed, and I will not let something like a flat tire stand in the way.

One of the worst things to ever happen during training/racing is having a bike mechanical problem. I admit I’m not very mechnically inclined, and I don’t know my bike very well. Thinking back to my previous training seasons, I was always afraid to ride my bike early in the morning in case I had a flat tire and couldn’t get back home in time to go to work. Removing the back wheel of my bike was stressful. After watching numerous youtube videos, having lots of people babysit me while I change my tube, I can somewhat change a flat tire but it takes me 30 minutes. I remember being afraid to venture far from my house in case I had a flat tire. It was always a horrible feeling to rely on a stranger to help. Not knowing if I will get it fixed. It’s the uncertainty and not being able to depend on myself that bothers me.

Also during training, when I was riding the Muskoka 70.3 course, I had 4 flats during that one practice. Each flat required 30 mins to change, and multiple people coming by to help me, inflating a C02 cartridge improperly and popping my tire. Having a group of people help again, borrowing a tub from someone. A fear and horrible feeling that sinks to the bottom of my stomach every time a flat occurs. At first it was denial, and hope that it isn’t a bike mechanical, then more a nagging voice in my head that says fix it. Then frustration and helplessness associated with not being good at fixing my own bike. Other memories on rides… broken spokes. Not a flat (which I had a slight idea how to fix), no idea how to fix spokes, and I tried to ignore it during a race. It was potentially dangerous. I want to know how to identify problems and fix them. Want to know how to deal with anything that is thrown my way.

This has got to end. I can only train so much and prepare myself physically for this event. I refuse to let something as simple and preventative as a flat tire take me out of 8 months of training for Ironman. I will no longer be at the mercy of the kindness of passing strangers to help me. In the race, nobody can help me. I will have to wait for the maintenance van, and it can be the thing that breaks me and won’t be able to make the cut off time. It’s important to be able to fix the problem and get back in the race asap.

As an Ironman, I should be able to fix anything on my own bike. I have decided that I no longer want to be afraid. I don’t want to depend on luck to finish a race. If a flat happens, I want to be able to fix it. I don’t want to be at the mercy of everything going well, and living in fear that I might get a flat. Training this summer will consist of long rides in the countryside on my own. I need to be self sufficient and confident in my abilities to help myself. I want to be independent. I have taken a step and signed up for a beginner level bike maintenance course to start knowing my bike intimately. I want to know when problems arise, how it should feel and be able to fix minor things. I’ll know how to take care of my bike, because on the course it will be my best friend.

This is what I’ll be learning in my beginner’s course:

This is an introduction to bicycle mechanics in general and covers the maintenance procedures needed to tune up your bike. It is designed for beginners with no mechanical experience but also offers an in depth and comprehensive foundation for the intermediate mechanic.
Even an advanced mechanic could probably learn a thing or two from our highly trained technicians. You will learn proper mechanical techniques along with how to adjust brakes, gears, all major bearing systems, and wheel truing.

Here is the list of topics that are covered in my other course that I have registered for.

Terminology, Parts, and Systems of the Bicycle Mechanical Foundations Thread-less Headset Removal, and Reinstallation Square Taper Crank Arm Removal and Reinstallation Sealed Bottom Bracket Removal and Reinstallation Cassette Removal and Reinstallation Freewheel Removal and Reinstallation Chain Sizing, Removal and Reinstallation. Brake Caliper removal and Reinstallation Brake Pad Removal and Reinstallation Brake Cable and Brake Housing Installation Brake System Set-up and Adjustment. Front Derailleur Removal and Reinstallation Rear Derailleur Removal and Reinstallation Shift Cable, and Shift Housing Installation Shifter Set-up, and Adjustment

I would take the more advanced course if I could! I have the option of taking less advanced courses, and I polled one of the triathlon boards. Here are two responses that stuck out and convinced me to take the more advanced course:

As an iron (wo)man I feel should be able to fix anything their bike that may require fixing in case it needs fixing during a race. And if you know how it works you’ll know what to fix if it’s not feeling right etc etc etc class.
Bike maintenance courses taught me more about my bike and cycling than anything else. I’m never going to true my own wheel or anything, but I have a much better understanding of how my bike works and how to maintain it. I learned the importance of regular maintenance on my bike by the pros as well as how to take care of her on my own. It gave me a lot of confidence as weird as that sounds.

I’m not leaving anything to chance. I hopefully this will make me a more well rounded athlete.

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