Put the Fun Between Your Legs

Graphic Jayde Norström

“Yeah, I fix bikes.”

It’s a great pickup line, but it helps if you can actually walk the walk—or, in this case, change the tire.

Bicycles are universally loved and used for many reasons—a major one being that they’re pretty easy to fix! Professional bike mechanics exist for a reason though, and there are a few things you ought to leave to them. Here are a few that might go wrong, and what to do if they do.

First of all, your bottom bracket. There’s probably something wrong with it if you find that your pedals aren’t turning like they should, or make a “ka-clunk” sound every few rotations. Although it’s not impossible to do yourself, you need a special tool to take the bracket out—not to mention a replacement of the actual part—so I would suggest taking it to a shop.

Brakes are sometimes shifty little devils that decide to not do their job properly in the direst of situations (say, when it’s pouring rain and you’d rather not hit that pedestrian stumbling down Crescent St.). As long as you have a screwdriver handy, it’s not all that difficult to make adjustments, both to the cables and the brake pads themselves.

Your chain will also probably come loose sometimes, so you’ll just have to hope that it doesn’t take your shoelaces with it when it pops off. If it becomes a mangled mess, you’ll need a chain breaker. Make sure to add some grease every once in a while if you’re not getting regular checkups on your ride, especially if you tend to bike in particularity grimy places.

Sometimes tires pop! It may make a really loud noise and scare the shit out of you or it might be a slow leak, which is why you should check your tires frequently. The majority of the time it’s not the tire that gets a hole, but the tube inside. You can replace or patch it; just use your best judgment depending on the state of the tube and the size of the hole. To put your tire back on the wheel you’ll need tire levers, or really strong biceps.

If you’re going to be using your bike as your main mode of transportation, I would suggest buying a bike multi-tool as well as a pump.

Bike Safety 101

1. Wear a helmet. A very scientific study revealed that helmet wearers were found to be 90 per cent more appealing as mates than those who throw caution to the wind and go helmet-free.

Okay, that may have been an informal poll at The Link office, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Although it’s not illegal to go without a helmet in Quebec, it’s stupid, especially considering the state of our roads and most of the drivers on them.

2. Lock your bike. Over 2,500 bikes were reported stolen last year in Montreal. Gone are the carefree days of your youth when you could prop your bike outside the corner store to run in and buy penny candy. Or 10-cent candy if you were born after 1950. Get a U-lock. A solid Kryptonite one will set you back $50-$120, but it’s seriously worth it because it’ll take a lot more than a hack saw or some chain-breakers for someone to break through it easily.

People will also try to steal your wheels, and your clip-on lights, and maybe your seat. Lock your wheels to your frame if they’re quick release, and even if one day you come back to your bike and it has turned into a unicycle, those dastardly evildoers will not be making off with half of your ride home. It’s also a good idea to write down the serial number of your bike, because you can’t file a police report without it—and are that much less likely to ever see your precious two-wheeler again.

3. Lights! White for the front, red for the back. You could shell out between $15.00-$150 at a bike shop for a nice set, or pick some up at the dollar store. If you go with the latter and forget to take the cheap-Os off and they end up getting taken, at least you’re only out a dollar.

What to Do When You Fall Off Your Bike

You’re headed down the bike path without a care in the world, scolding your past self for ever taking a cab home from the bar when, WHAM. A tree, or a pothole, or a curb—but hopefully not a pedestrian or a car—comes out of nowhere, and you’re suddenly on the ground, bleeding from the knees and elbows. Here’s what to do:

1. Reclaim your dignity—no one saw you fall. Kidding! Everyone did and it was probably hilarious.

2. Your chain has probably fallen off. Put that greasy bugger back on. If you don’t know where it goes chances are you’re too drunk to continue, so lock up your mangled piece of steel and take that cab you previously thought you were too sober for.

3. Check to make sure your front tire is facing forward when your handlebars are. Those bad boys are supposed to intersect at a 90-degree angle, duh. If they’re not, put the tire between your legs while facing the handlebars and adjust it. When you’re home, tighten the bolt on your headset, which is what holds your fork and handlebars to your frame.

4. RIDE ON INTO THE NIGHT. Or don’t—seriously. If you’re too injured or won’t stop bleeding, go see a doctor or take a cab. Or else you’ll go home, fall asleep, and ruin a blanket and sheet set with your bleeding wounds. Or worse.