Two-wheeled troubles

It’s been a rough couple of months, bicycle fleet-wise.  Our stable, which has held as many as five bikes, has seemed bare with just two or three bikes at any given time, between planned maintenance and unexpected events.  As of this week, we are down to ONE really, truly functional bike between the two of us!

Matthew’s Giant hybrid
As part of the conversion to a kid-hauling bike, and due to general age of the previous wheels, Matthew invested in some new, heavier-duty wheels for his back-up bike.  No sooner did he get the new wheels (and install a front rack, to address weight balance issues with G on board) than he noticed some handling issues (well, he’d noticed them before, to some extent, but dismissed them).

Another visit to the bike shop revealed a bent fork (probably due to a crash, and has been bent for some time now).  There’s been some delay in getting the correct replacement part, so this bike has been at the shop for a couple of weeks now.

Matthew’s Salsa road bike
In mid-September, Matthew took this [barely year-old] bike in for a regular tune-up, not expecting any issues.  He was rather surprised when a guy at the bike shop called and told him the rim of his rear wheel was cracked.  Despite the fact that the bike was just barely out of the warranty period, and that this rim seems to have some track record of trouble, it was very hard getting anyone to take responsibility for it (turns out most bike warranties cover the frame, but often exclude “components”), but in the end, customer assertiveness prevailed.*

Matthew purposely waited until he had the Salsa back to take the Giant in for the fork issue, so he wouldn’t be bike-less.  But of course, after barely two weeks of riding (and after he’d taken the Giant to the shop), the newly replaced rear wheel on his Salsa went out of true.  So, until we deal with that, Matthew’s left using Big Blue for all of his bicycle trips and busing on days that I need Big Blue.

When I replaced BUB’s tires last month, I noticed that he was in major need of a tune-up.  In the end, I got the tune-up, plus a new chain (I think these replaced the original components, so I was due for the new parts).

Turns out, I should have checked the bike over more carefully before taking it home.  My first ride out, I discovered that the front brake was rubbing the rim on one side.  My assumption was that the brakes were not adjusted correctly, but Matthew suspects that I have a wheel out of true.  I’ve still been riding it for short trips, but, if it is a wheel truing issue, it looks like I’m headed to the bike shop yet again.

Of course, I still haven’t replaced Baby Jake, so on the days that Matthew takes Big Blue, my options are pretty limited, bike-wise.  Gabriel and I actually walked to a park (that I would usually choose to bike to) yesterday, which was a nice change of pace.

I guess it’s good that our one functional bike is the one that we can both operate, but I’m ready to have a fully functioning bike fleet again!

*Clarification from Matthew: Most bike warranties cover components, but only the ones that break, not the ones needed to install the replacement part, nor the labor involved.  My rim broke, but since they discontinued that exact rim, I also needed new spokes to fit the new rim, as well.  The spokes, plus the labor of building the wheel, were the lion’s share of the cost here.



  1. Tom says:

    Since I am a bike shop guy by trade, my first inclination is to suggest learning how to fix some of these things yourself. I’ve taught the Park Tool School classes before (although my current employer lacks the space to do this right), and have had good results with many of my students.

    I recognize, however, that not all of us have mechanical aptitude. Or the desire to build a tool kit for such tinkering. Or space to do/have the above.

    Keep in mind, though, that for many adjustments, the idea of “small increments, gently done” goes a long way. If your adjustment takes things the wrong way, go back and go the other way. There isn’t much you’d do to your bike that a good mechanic won’t be able to undo, should things go far awry.

    1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      Tom, yes, we’ve had the same thoughts as far as DIY bike maintenance, especially since taking a bike to the shop usually involves going out of the way (both time and distance-wise, to make it happen). Matthew’s dabbled in it a good bit. He’s comfortable replacing brake and derailleur cables, and tinkering with the shifting, at least a bit. We did invest in a shop-quality bike repair stand. I’ve had brief, basic lessons on adjusting brakes and shifting issues, but I haven’t done it enough to feel comfortable with it. At least I can change a tire!

      Not sure that we know where to start with truing a wheel, but perhaps it’s not terribly difficult, given the right tools and a bit of time with a YouTube tutorial 🙂

      1. EcoCatLady says:

        CatMan bought me a truing stand and a spoke wrench for my last birthday – The truing stand lets you tell if the wheel is true or not, and how bad it is if it needs fixing, then it’s just a simple matter of adjusting the spokes. Well… “simple” in terms of doing it. For a spatially challenged human such as myself, figuring out which spokes need tightening and which way to turn the darned thing to tighten rather than loosen is a bit of a challenge, but fortunately it’s something you can tinker with. I also got a chain breaker, a chain measuring tool and a new chain so I can replace them when the time comes (the measuring tool says I’m still good at this point.)

        Guess the message here is that if I can figure this stuff out, I’m quite sure you can. YouTube is an incredible reference for this sort of thing, and I’ve also found that the guys at the bike shop are happy to answer questions and help you find the right tools. Here’s a good tutorial on wheel truing:

        Anyhow, life’s a LOT easier when you don’t have to haul bikes to the shop all the time!

      2. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

        Good for you, and good to know that I, too, might be able to learn how to true a wheel! We have a chain tool and a pedal wrench in our arsenal already; maybe we’ll look into the gear needed for truing wheels . . . . There’s part of me that would like the sense of freedom and accomplishment of doing all this on my own, and another part of me that wishes we just lived around the corner from a bike shop!

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