During the time I have been cycling it has been necessary to step out of my comfort zone. Cycling has taught me quite a bit about life, forced me at times to suck it up, whether that means simply to keep pushing along or whether that means to ignore that little voice that tells me I am not good enough or intelligent enough. In cycling, as it is in life, I have had to remind myself that it is not necessary to have the best to be satisfied — it’s more important to be content and do the best with what God has provided. That doesn’t always refer to the quality of the bike I am riding or the components on that bike. More often than not, it means that my satisfaction comes from what I put into it.
Sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it?
People who ride love to talk about their bike(s) and the different components, whether said cyclist is a roadie or a mountain biker. Naturally, we are proud of the machine that we ride. The machine does make a difference. When I started mountain biking a few years ago, I rode a 20 year old beast of a bike, a heavy Trek that had seen it’s better days. It did the job and I enjoyed the trails, not thinking as much about the bike as I did about the fun I was having. I replaced that Trek out of necessity as it fell apart underneath me, my “new” ride a one year old Specialized Hardrock for around $200, a bike intended more for riding in a civilized environment than it was for riding dirt single track. It was the best I could afford at the time, my responsibilities as a family man took most of my financial resources. That bike beat the snot out of me (literally, at times) and, since it really was a bike that wasn’t meant for hard riding, I wore that bike out in one season.
It took a lot of sweat to keep that bike and any other bike I have had in working order. My passion is to ride, not to tinker with bicycles, but I just did not have the money to have a professional bike mechanic perform maintenance and repairs for me. As a result, I did what I had to do to keep riding, stepped out of my comfort zone and fixed my bicycles. Sometimes I had to invest in a tool or find a friend who had the tool that I needed. Once in a while, I have had to ask for help, even have a professional correct my screw up. I used old parts, often parts or components that friends were going to throw away. There has never been a time when I couldn’t ride due to lack of a working bike to ride.
Three years ago, I was blessed to be able to buy my first new bicycle in over 20 years, a bike still modest by some standards, impressive by others — a 2014 Specialized Camber FSR mountain bike. It had been the shop test bike, a loaner for a year, so the bike shop sold it to me for about a $1000 less than it had retailed for a year before. Had it not been for the discounted price and the bonus my boss gave to me, a bonus he had promised to me when he hired me, I would not have been able to afford such a nice bike. The bike was and is a sweet ride, 29″ wheels with full suspension and hydraulic disc brakes, subtle gray with black wheels and decals. Three years later, even with the plethora of plus bikes and impressively technical bikes available, I still get compliments on the bike. It’s possible that bike is the reason mountain biking has grown to become my favorite thing to do.
Up until now, the majority of maintenance and repairs have been done by the bike shop. It’s too much of my baby, too much of an investment for me to risk messing up by doing my own repairs. But my enthusiasm for riding that bike has meant that I have worn it out. It has new wheels now, new grips, new shifting components. I ride it enough that the rear air shock has to be maintenanced at least once a year — until now. Last week, I started getting pedal strikes during a ride, looked down to see very little piston showing on the shock. It was time to replace the seals, definitely a repair that I fear. A new shock costs nearly $300, so doing the repair myself is a decently huge risk.
One problem — the shop always closes one day a week, plus it would take a few days for them to do it. I steeled myself, looked up the seal kit and oil needed for the maintenance, ordered them. They arrived the next day. With much trepidation, I watched online videos and printed the maintenance instructions, step by step to disassemble and assemble the air can and piston. Friday evening, I carefully removed the shock from my bike, took it inside and took it apart. An hour later, I put it back together, pumped it up, reassembled it on my Specialized, took it for a quick spin around the block. Amazed that it held charge for the test ride, I put it in the garage with hope I could ride it in the morning.
I awoke to a thunderstorm Saturday morning. I was not able to test the shock on the trails, so I went out to the garage to check it. Still holding charge. No pop when I put full weight on it. It auto sagged properly.
Last night, I rode for two hours. Impressed, but still crossing my fingers!