SSSSSSSSSSSSSSsssssssssssssshhhhhhhh.... "Bummer"
June 29, 2005 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm new to biking and I need some fundamental advice about bike repair and maintenance.

After making a rather ill considered bar bet I've ended up purchasing a touring bike. The initial problem I had was re-learning how to ride a bike, but after a few false starts I'm gaining confidence and agility (I've not been on a bike in 5+ years.) Yesterday I got my first flat. I went to the bike shop, bought a pump and proceeded to ruin my tire tube. (I have presta valves. The pump got stuck on the valve and I kinda of, um, yanked it off. This action did release the pump from the valve, but it also removed the valve from the tube. SSSSSSSsssssssssssshhhhhhh....... dead tube. I think.) Now I'm faced with changing the tire tube. Are there good websites, books or visual aids that could help me not only fix my tire, but get a better understanding of bike maintenance in general? Any level of sophistication is okay, but please understand I'm a high-functioning idiot.
posted by elwoodwiles to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This high-functioning idiot found that this was exactly the book that I needed, and that you now need. It was recommended to me by a serious cyclist and now that I am a semi-serious cyclist I recommend it to everyone, and everyone is pretty happy with it.

It appears to be out in a new edition authored by a fellow named Todd Downs; can't comment on that.

Presta valves just do that from time to time, by the way. It's annoying. When you're installing the new tube, remember to spread it out in your sink and dust it well with talcum powder (gold bond, baby powder, whatever.) This is important enough that if you don't have talcum around, go get some. While you're at it you'll need some of those special tire-change thingers which I forget what they're called (tire levers, apparently); 2 is minimum, 3 is better.

Performance Bike stocks everything you need, really cheap, but it's so much nicer and better to visit your local bike shop and interact with lots of bike-friendly humans so you know you're getting what you need, instead of what you think you want.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:35 PM on June 29, 2005

Bicycling Magazine's book is excellent, but I often find it easier to see what's going on in Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance's line drawings than the former's black & white photos. I tend to consult both while doing repairs.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:56 PM on June 29, 2005

Bicycling Magazine's book: left brain. Zinn: right brain. Naming himself a 'high functioning idiot' and using a complex series of modifiers like 'ill considered bar bet' suggest the original poster would do better with the left brain book, Zed :)
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:05 PM on June 29, 2005

Zinn is good, Bicycling book is good, Hayes Manual is fine since they all cover rudimentary stuff. Sheldon Brown's web site is good as is Park Tool for simple pictures and clear instructions.

ikkyu2, not to nitpick but Presta vales need never do this. There is a technique to getting a pump head on and off without damaging valves.

elwoodwiles, you can find Presta valve tubes that do not have threaded stems and are much easier to get a pump head on and off. A tiny drop of lube in the rubber o-ring/seal inside the pump head will help the pump head go on and off without much fuss.

Keep spinning.
posted by fixedgear at 3:09 PM on June 29, 2005

What fixie said. Links to two of his recs:

Sheldon Brown's web site. He's also a senior statesman of sorts on the newsgroup, which can be a good spot to check out from time to time.

How do I work on my bike? Park's tools are generally good as are their instructions.
posted by Opposite George at 3:23 PM on June 29, 2005

Jobst Brandt seems to explain pretty well why he thinks the talcum powder thingie is nonsense. Anyway, Presta valves are a little bit fragile, you just need to practice and handle them carefully.

Tubes are cheap (like $1 each) if you don't get the fancy ones -- I recommend you just get a half dozen and practice changing / inflating them until you get the hang of it. You want to be familiar enough such that you can do it with your eyes closed, because one day you will end up flatting on the side of a dark road with only your little LED blinker for a light source.

Finally, I swear by tire liners such as Mr. Tuffy, at least for the rear wheel. I have not had a puncture flat in the more than 3 years since I installed one, though I still occasional get a pinch flat.
posted by randomstriker at 4:23 PM on June 29, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the links. I just got back from the shop, but I forgot to get tire levers. I guess it'll have to wait until tomorrow. I just looked at Parks's tools website and found it pretty helpful.
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:33 PM on June 29, 2005

Where can I get tubes for a buck each? Three bucks is about the rock bottom price hereabouts...
posted by fixedgear at 4:55 PM on June 29, 2005

randomstriker: that's not why I use talcum powder. I use it to make it easier to slip the half-inflated tube in (and, later, out) of the tire. I also am allergic to latex and if the tube is talcumed up for some reason it aggravates my hands a lot less.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:01 PM on June 29, 2005

I don't really like the Bicycling book, because it doesn't give you anything past the basics, for the most basic bikes. I long for a book that has more troubleshooting type advice if the basic approach doesn't work, something that feels less like a chilton manual.
posted by craniac at 6:13 PM on June 29, 2005

I've gone from relentless hamfist to peaceful, competant bike mechanic with Zinn and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance.
posted by recurve at 6:21 PM on June 29, 2005

ikkyu2, I've used MTB and road wheels of all types for years and I can't imagine how installing or removing a tube is so difficult as to necessitate talcum powder to ease the process. The hardest part is getting the bead on or off the rim, the rest is always a cinch. Could you please elaborate?
posted by randomstriker at 6:29 PM on June 29, 2005

randomstriker - it blows my mind that someone needs a book to change an inner tube. compared to that, a little powder here or there is irrelevant.

in other words, different people apparently need/like different things. who'da thought it?
posted by andrew cooke at 9:20 PM on June 29, 2005

If you are allergic to latex do not use talcum. It enhances transfer of latex proteins to your body. If you are truly allergic to latex I would be quite wary around tubes, even going so far as to have the bike shop perform this most simple of repairs. Every time you contact latex you increase the possibility of getting a severe latex allergy. You do not want to be there - any contact with latex could be life threatening. If you must change your own tubes then get yourself some non-latex rubber gloves to wear while handling the latex (tires are latex as well). You can get a whole box pretty cheaply at the drugstore or at a medical supply house. In any event - DO NOT USE POWDER! Minimize your exposure to latex so that your allergy stays mild and does not move on to a severe, possibly life threatening stage. There are many sources of latex in the environment and it pays to educate yourself about them to keep this as an annoyance rather than a potential killer. OK, enough ranting.

Both Bicycle Magazine's book and Zinn are great, as is Sheldon's site. For tough issues, will generally come through; it is frequented by some very experienced bicycle mechanics. As for your current problem, what kind of pump do you have? It sounds like you may have a Pista. They have push-on, pull-off style attachments. As fixedgear said, there is an o-ring inside which you can lubricate. Usually there is also an adjustment on the head/attachment which compresses the o-ring to make a tighter seal. You can back this off a bit to make a less tight seal. When I first started using this type of pump I had some trouble getting it off of the stem, just like you seem to have. The technique I use now is easy - put your palm on the tire with your thumb on one side and fingers on the other and then push the head away from the valve with your thumb and fingers. You have much better control over the direction of the force and are less likely to bend or ruin the valve stem.
posted by caddis at 9:55 PM on June 29, 2005

I agree with the recommendation for the Sheldon and ParkTools sites.

elwoodwiles, a couple of things:

Firstly, why not try some self-sealing tubes? I have them on my bike, and have yet to be stuck in a situation where I've had to pull out my tyre-levers in order to continue my journey. You can also get goo to put in your existing tubes that work in the same way as self-sealers, but I'm not sure if you can do this for presta valves.

Secondly, how about using a presta to schrader adapter? They're cheap, and could solve your problem.
posted by veedubya at 2:28 AM on June 30, 2005

I long for a book that has more troubleshooting type advice if the basic approach doesn't work, something that feels less like a chilton manual.

Sutherland's or Barentt's, both expensive at ~$100 USD. I was given Barnett's as a Christmas gift, four big volumes. It is great, but a lot of the information is available on-line.

veedubya: You can Slime Presta tubes, but they need to have removable valve cores, which not all of them do. I've had no luck with Slime tubes so I avoid them. A Presta/Schraeder adapter is a good idea for ninety-nine cents, keep one in you seat bag.
posted by fixedgear at 2:53 AM on June 30, 2005

Ikkyu2, here is more info on latex allergies. The allergy enhancing effect of powdered gloves may not be analogous to powdering the inner tube due to how the powder is applied, the type of powder and the nature of the contact. Then again, it may still be analogous. In any event, I suggest you take your apparent latex sensitivity seriously and minimize all future latex exposure.
posted by caddis at 4:55 AM on June 30, 2005

Response by poster: I don't know if anyone's still reading this, but thanks for the advice. I'm not very mechanical and I have of history of making a mess of things, so I've been pretty intimidated about working on the bike. I looked over the pictures, bought the Zinn book and talked to some friends about cycle maintenance over the last few days. This morning I got everything together and managed to remove my rear tire, change the tube and put everything back together again with minimal problems. Riding was great, knowing I had learned something useful about the bike.
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:39 PM on June 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, nobodies here. Today I road downtown for the first time. I was always afraid of getting into the thick downtown traffic, but as it turns out, it's pretty easy. There are so many cars it's either a sprint or a standstill. I pretty much just sprint from light to light, stopping on red lights and then sprinting again. Cars around here are used to bikes and no one caused any troubles, but then again I followed the traffic rules to better ensure my chances of survival. Yea!!
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:07 PM on July 1, 2005

Response by poster: My butt is very, very bruised. Yesterday, after going downtown, I took a "shortcut" through the industrial/warehouse area that leads right up to my house. It turns out that such areas are all traintracks, broken glass and pot-holes. My ass took a total beating. To top it off I managed to slip out of the pedal clips when trying to cross an intersection and bruised the inner, inner, part of my thigh. I rode home standing in the saddle.

I might take today off.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:49 PM on July 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Long ride today. I went up Mt Tabor and then just headed south until I got lost. I got very, very lost. In a way it was pretty fun - like I was exploring. I did run into a few problems, like ending up on a busy, un-bike friendly road for a mile or so. I just rode as hard and fast as I could until I found an exit. Then I ended up on top of some thourghfare bridge that dropped me down into Sellwood. I pulled over for a moment to view my options (none, as it turned out, but continue on until I found a better route) and my chain disengaged. It was easy to slip it back on, but it kind of spooked me. It's a brand new bike and the shop dude did say I would have a few problems. I'm supposed to stop by for a "tuning/tightening" once I've properly shook the bike out.

Oh, and I need to figure out the Springwater trail. That's how I got lost. It forked and I evidently took the wrong trail. I ended up in a gravel parking lot. The tires are pretty skinny - it turns out that gravel isn't a good surface for the bike. I did, on the bright side, find a lemonade stand. I made a few minutes of small talk with a seven your old over a 25ยข cup of lemonade. She knew what she was doing, setting up right near the bike trail. Smart kid, she'll be running the world someday.

That's enough rambling. I got pretty drunk/stoned last night and my brain is still out to lunch. I'm pretty straight most of the time, but holiday weekend and all.
posted by elwoodwiles at 6:22 PM on July 3, 2005

Glad to see you are enjoying the bike.
posted by caddis at 7:21 AM on July 6, 2005

Check out this book, you might find it useful.
posted by dial-tone at 8:01 PM on July 10, 2005

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