On day one of my 30 Days of Cycling, I figured out:
1. I both hate and won’t do without certain cycling-related things.
2. I’m a whiny, unappreciative bitch.
3. I spend way too much time wishing cycling was like it was in the good old days. You know, “when I was a kid.”
Here is a list of the things I’ve realized that I hate, but also am not willing to do without. Because, in the end, regardless of inconvenience, they have value. and provide conveniences of their own.
Filling tires before every ride.
For instance, I’m sick and tired of having to check my tires every single damn time I take my bike out, else I risk one (or multiple) flats.
Because when I was a kid (Go ahead, roll your eyes. I understand.) if my tire wasn’t flat it was good enough. And how many flats did I get by being completely oblivious to my air pressure? Less than one per year.
Now I get a flat every time I just wish I could ignore it. Which means that I probably have one right this moment.
On the other hand, I love my air pump, it’s cool gauge, and that I don’t have to walk my bike to a gas station to fill my tires.
When I was a kid I’d ride my bike all day long, every day of the week, all summer break, and never have an buttache.
There were no fookin’ cycling shorts, and if their were I would have scoffed at them.
I do appreciate the added comfort my cycling shorts allow me, and the fact that their skinny little pad actually protects my hinterparts better than any cushioned, springy seat. But it irks me no end that I need them, need to spend money on them, need to take time to put them on, need to wash them separately so they last as long as possible.
Why do I need one of these things? I never cared how far I rode, what the exact percent grade a hill was, my exact speed, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, when I was a kid. I just went.
Now I feel naked if I don’t have my Garmin with me. Or, God forbid, its battery should die while I’m out on a ride. Please, Sweet Baby Jeebus, forbid it.
And it’s worse than that.
When I got my first cycling computer just having it was good enough. Then I obsessed over knowing how fast and how far it’d gone, then about keeping typed logs of my progress. Now, a simple, basic computer is not enough. I. Must. Have. A. Garmin (until there’s some reasonably priced and reliable substitute).
Knowing that it’s pathetic I will continue to obsess over it, and continue to hate that I need it at all.
Oiling Chain and adjusting derailleur cables.
I actually did keep up with oiling my chain when I was a kid, because it helped extend chain life.
But now, instead of grabbing my dad’s oil can, which was full of car oil, and clicking a few drops onto the chain and gears, I need some stupid fookin’ special chain oil. Dry chain oil, wet chain oil. Because the Universe may come to an end if whatever kind of oil is better for whatever type of bike in whatever conditions isn’t used.
But what really irks me about all this is that it isn’t just my chain anymore. Now it’s my derailleurs, too.
Because in oiling the derailleurs I save wear and tear on the cables and increase the amount of time I need between tuneups / cable adjustments.
Ya know what? I never adjusted a derailleur cable when I was a kid. I’d ride my bike till the cable broke (usually 3 or 4 years), my dad would put a new cable on and adjust whatever needed adjusting, and blammy, another few years of riding ahead of me.
Why are cables and derailleurs made to such whimpy-arse standards that they have to be babied like . . . well, like babies? Why?
Which brings me to . . .
Cables and chains.
Modern cables and chains stretch like freakin’ Stretch Armstrong (who I’m pretty sure is no relation to His Deposed Holiness Lance Armstrong).
Yeah, the above mentioned oiling of derailleurs helps keep cables from stretching, but (say it with me), when I was a kid this was never a problem. There was no constant cable adjusting, no oiling of derailleurs because you trembled with fear over the possibility of your cable stretching and you might lose the ability to shift properly in the middle of a long ride.
And when I was a kid you didn’t have to so swap out your chain every year, two years at most, because they’d stretched so far that it affects your derailleur’s ability to adjust and to shift properly.
No, if you had a bike for 10 years, chances were you had the same chain on it the whole time. If it sagged you maybe pulled a link off of it (and cursed what a pain in the behindwards it was to do so, but that’s another story) and threw it back on.
The only time you ever got a new chain was when it snapped. Though they didn’t usually actually snap. They tended to brake on one side of a single link. Yes, due to lack of oiling, which quickly taught you to love your dad’s oil can full of car oil. See above.
There were no “platform pedals,” “clipelss pedals,” yada, yada, yada. It was just pedals.
Toe straps were an abomination.
Now I have these mechanical “clipless” pedals. Sure, they keep my feet from slipping off when it’s wet out or when the road or trail is bumpy, and once you get used to “clipping in” and “clipping out” (idiotic terms, considering that they’re called “clipless” pedals) they’re safer than riding platform pedals (which should just be called “pedals” and left at that).
It isn’t so much the fact of needing them that bothers me. It’s the additional expense, the special shoes (another additional expense).
And guess what? You have to fooking oil them to keep them operating smoothly! MORE oil for another prima donna, prissy, pansy-arse bike part.
But the thing that really gets me steamed is that all of this means that I can’t just roll my bike out the back door, throw my leg over the saddle and take off pedaling.
No, each of these things adds time and effort to the ride, BEFORE THERE EVEN IS A RIDE!
A few minutes to dig out my special cycling shorts and wiggle into them. A few more minutes to wiggle out of them later, and still a few more to hand wash them or to wash them separately on gentle so that I can get the greatest amount of use out of them (because they’re stupidly expensive and I can’t afford to replace them).
A few minutes to check the tire pressure and inflate to whatever PSI is needed.
A few minutes to get the oil out, oil the chain, the derailleurs, the clipless pedals.
A few minutes to get the Garmin off the charger, clip it into its cradle, turn it on, let it cycle through it’s start up and find satellites.
A few minutes to get out my special clipless pedal shoes, change into them, get the laces tucked away so the don’t snag on the chain.
More than the individual items themselves, it’s the time they require in advance of a ride EVERY DAMN RIDE, that really drive me bat guano crazy.
The benefits of all these things – bike shorts, cycling computers, light-weight cables, chains and derailleurs, clipless pedals – once they’re added up, come with a godawful lot of inconvenience and added expense. Yet, they bring enough good, enough of their own types of convenience to the table that I am not willing to do without them.
Instead I just whine and complain about them, while simultaneously being thankful that I have them (kind of).
Why can’t cycling be more simple and less costly? Like when I was a kid.