All Lubed Up and Rolling Backwards

Today is Mrs. RW’s birthday, so be sure to make a big deal about her finally being able to buy her own alcohol. However, today’s post isn’t about Mrs. RW; I’m just contractually obligated to mention her birthday in every form of communication for the next 24 hours.

I have been bicycling home almost every day this school year (I skipped riding in the Hellacious Thunderstorm of 2010) and I must say that I’ve been having quite a bit of fun doing it. Riding is of course fun, but I have found the incredulous exclamations of my coworkers to be even more amusing. People who are in better shape than I have expressed doubt that they could manage the apparently superhuman feat of riding a bicycle for a couple of miles over completely flat streets in really nice weather. This worries me a bit because when Godzilla’s grandchild rears out of the Atlantic intent upon devouring us all and the streets are instantly gridlocked with panicked tourists trying to flee town, they might completely forget that they have bicycles in the garage and attempt to flee on foot which will no doubt cause some seriously painful shin splints.

My point is that if someone with a passion for carbohydrates and a fondness for “multimedia meditation,” (otherwise known as staring at the television until I fall asleep) can bicycle  that far can it really be that hard? I will admit that I’ve made some modifications to my bicycle to make it more user-friendly, but these were hardly major operations that probably could have been performed by your average chain-smoking chimpanzee.

So far this year, I’ve managed almost all of the upkeep and changes to my bicycle myself; a fact of which I am inordinately proud. (I passed shop class in school because the teacher didn’t want me to risk further injury by having me repeat the course) I have installed a new set of handlebars that look like the aftermath of a carnival strongman show and I even managed to tape them myself. (If you squint a bit and only examine them in the dark from about 10 feet away, they even look really well done!) I have even installed wider tires on my bike to provide more shock absorption and slightly better control on the potholed roads of our fair town. A few triathletes expressed concern over this move because wider tires mean more friction with the road, but I assured them that the width of my tires has much less to do with my speed than the aforementioned love affair with pastries.

For most things, however, I still turn to professional help. Recently my gears started skipping and I was at a loss to correct the problem myself so I stopped by the local bike shop on my ride home. The mechanic fiddled with a bunch of knobs and dials and was still unable to solve the problem when he decided that the only thing for it was to add a lot of lubricant. I’m not sure what role, if any, lubricant actually plays on the inner (and outer) workings of a bicycle, but after applying roughly a quart of the stuff to every conceivable surface, he pronounced that the problem was undoubtedly fixed, but just in case it wasn’t it was probably something I had done.

As I was leaving the bicycle shop the mechanic asked me, in the kindly tones one normally reserves for the elderly found wandering grocery stores in their pajamas, “Do you know that you’ve installed your tires backwards?” Visions of shop class began flashing through my mind and that old mix of panic and shame started creeping up the back of my neck, but I’m an adult now and so I was determined to survive the situation. “Of course I do! It’s just that I do most of my riding in reverse so I installed the tires that way!”

I’m not sure, but perhaps the mechanic decided that when a large guy wearing a watermelon helmet with a certain manic look in his eye says these kinds of things to you, it’s just best to let him go on his way and hope that he doesn’t hurt himself.

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