I decided, sometime before Christmas, that I wanted to start riding my bike again. Given my orthopedic issues, my options for injury-free movement are pretty narrow, but bicycling seemed like something I could do, and I already had a bike. The bike I have, however, I bought at least 14 years ago. And because I live in a place where EVERYTHING is prickly and trying to stab you, the first two times I ever took the bike out, I ended up with a flat tire. So we decided to replace our regular inner tubes with foam, solid ones, so that even if the desert did its worst, we’d still be able to get home.
I’ve used it on and off, but in recent years I’ve noticed that the tires were kind of mushy (the foam precludes increasing the pressure), and the tires hadn’t aged well over 14 years that included 14 Tucson summers outside in the heat. And when I decided to start riding it again, I realized it needed an entire overhaul: new inner tubes (the normal kind), new tires, and a serious bath, since it was covered in dust and the chain was all gunked up with oil and dust.
It’s not like I go into these DIY projects unawares. I read how-tos on the internet. I watch videos. I print instructions. I buy special tools to do it right. The directions seem straightforward and simple enough. And I think, “I can do this!”
And then about 3 1/2 minutes into the project, I learn (again) the first rule of DIY: No plan survives contact with the enemy. “Insert the tire lever,” the directions said. And then the tire just laughed at me. Even as the tire lever slipped and the spokes shaved little bits of knuckle off of every finger on my right hand, it laughed. The tire had been so cooked in the heat over the years that it was NOT budging. Not even a little.
So I got out the flathead screwdriver and tried that. And while it put a nice little hole in the whitewall, there was still no movement, and I could not, for the life of me, get the bead of the tire up and over the rim. At this point, I’m thinking I’m going to have to replace the rim, too, if I can’t get the tire off, and that’s not cool, because by the time I buy those, on top of what I’ve already spent for tires, tubes, tools, and tchotkes to pimp my ride, I could’ve bought the pretty new bike I really wanted at Target, before I decided instead to be all responsible and spruce up my existing bike, which I thought just needed some love. (That was before it decided to be a jerkturd.)
But then I remembered the second rule of DIY: Happiness is a warm hacksaw.
And I showed no mercy, because I was already pissed at this tire for not following the directions I had so carefully researched. There was black rubber flying everywhere! But as I was replacing both tube and tire, it was a viable option. (Disclaimer: It should not be considered SOP for tire or tube replacement unless you’re planning to trash both.) Then I got out the foam tube, and still couldn’t get the tire off. So I slowly cut at the rubber and fibers and yanked it out until I found out why: The rubber was kind of melted against the rim, and there are actually metal hoops inside the edges of the tire.
So if one blade is good, two blades are better (Rule #2.5 of DIY), and I ran a box cutter blade around the edge of the tire on both sides, and then reached in with a pair of cable snips to cut the metal bead, and I was home free. I was also late to my appointment, because of course everything was taking twice as long as expected. (That really should be rule #1 of DIY: Everything will take twice as long and cost twice as much as expected. But we’ll call it #3.)
Having learned all the lessons the hard way on the first tire, I knew exactly what to do with the second tire, and I was the one laughing at it. Never mess with a woman with a hacksaw. Or any saw, really. (I own, in ascending degrees of menace, saws jewelry, hack, pruning, band, and circular.) I’m just sayin’.
After that, it went pretty well, and those tire levers did come in handy once I had a tire with actual pliable rubber.
After that it was a lot of WD-40, a lot of cleaning, some Simple Green to clean up the works, reoiling, and putting on the new foam grips that were a serious arm workout I’m pretty sure I’m going to feel tomorrow. (Note my attempt to MacGyver skids out of shish kebab skewers to help them along. I think they helped. Eventually I got them on.)
Finally I finally got to the fun part: Putting on my new basket that I decorated with leftover fake flowers I had lying around. Because I don’t do “plain.” Plain wicker. Ha! As if.
AND the adorable little bike bell I bought in case I need to warn people I’m coming up behind them, or to scare off a coyote, or because it was adorable. You HAVE to click on it and listen.
And the fourth rule of DIY is that when it’s all said and done, when you’ve washed your hands and bandaged your booboos, you forget all the hassle and just appreciate what you did. Look how she gleams!