I’m sitting in my mother’s living room, my daughter and nephew are playing hot potato with a green ball while dinner settles.
Before supper, my sister-in-law, my mom and I had an interesting conversation about my dad and brothers and how things turned out for the lot of us. I read a post the other day in which a woman wrote about how she worried that the poor behavior of a mother she’d witnessed would leave her son mistreating women for the rest of his life… This all ties in. My dad wasn’t exactly Ward Clever, until it was too late.
For me, such hypotheses, that we’re bound to act in the manner that we were raised for one, simply don’t make sense, they don’t compute. My dad, while he was a great provider and a good father, was not what you could call a good husband. The example he set as a husband would have left his sons with dozens of excuses to be less than stellar in his wake… That is not how we turned out though. My brother Joe is as good as a husband gets, and this comes from his wife. I turned out a whole lot better at the husband thing than my dad and my brother Chris seems to be doing quite well by his wife too. If you went by common logic, that you’re a product of your environment, at least two of us should be in the midst of, or headed for, a divorce. Or at the very least in emotionally abusive marriages.
Technically, going by the nurture rule, I should have died an alcoholic’s death a decade ago, there’s enough alcoholics in my family tree that I shouldn’t have had a chance… Yet here I sit quite sober and leading a productive life. Going by nurture, all of my brothers and sisters should be overweight and barely able to jog to the mailbox. Instead, if you were to look at a picture of us (all five of us), we’re in pretty decent shape.
You see, when people talk about nurture over nature, we three brothers all bust that stereotype to smithereens in all aspects of our lives – except when we chose to keep the good traits: Where we do follow the mold though, pertains to work ethic. The three of us, in our respective fields, all do very well for ourselves – this trait definitely came from my father.
So what does this mean? We took the best traits of my father and emulated them while we took his worst traits and improved on them or completely discarded them and started from scratch. Even my mom, a staunch ‘nurture’ supporter, ended up nodding in agreement when I explained how we’ve turned out in that context.
In short, nurture may very well be an influence, but the choice to rise above or improve upon negative traits trumps it. In our case, every time.
Don’t get me wrong here, a nice excuse to be repugnant from time to time would be awesome. Say my wife complains about my losing grip over my anger issue – I could simply say, “Hey, look at my dad. What do you expect?”
That’s really the joke though. Put in that position, no intelligent person would accept nurture as an excuse to actually bear abuse. In real life, when we’re not making excuses for faceless people, we do expect better. Some may stick around and live with a certain amount of abuse for a while, but eventually that house of cards is coming down. While my brothers and I do have our fleas, we are living, breathing proof that it simply doesn’t have to be that way, that it is possible to rise above poor circumstances in upbringing. If it wasn’t, the three of us (and our marriages) would have gone the way of the dodo long ago.
If you have a bike that you don’t respect, chances are it sits in the corner of your garage, unattended to, for years on end. If it’s lucky it’ll see a spritz of W-D 40 once or twice a year (one if the worst things you can put on a chain according to every bike mechanic ever – obvious exaggeration). In fact, from the looks of it on Tuesday night, some of the advanced guys treat their high-end bikes like that too. This is how my bikes were treated when I was a kid – my dad didn’t know any better and to be frank, didn’t have the care to know any better.
Today I own what was, at one time, almost a $3,000 bike. I do everything I can think of to keep that bike in tip-top shape. I clean and lube everything at least once a year. Seat post, saddle bolt, quill stem, crank bolts, chain ring screws – everything. I even store the expensive bikes in the house – not in the garage, in the house.
But there is always the question of just how far to go – and with that comes the factor of time or money. Maintaining a bike is actually easy and inexpensive as long as you know what you’re doing. The problems start if you don’t because the items that need attention get put off until there’s enough time to tinker with the bike. If you’re like me, that’s usually between 8 and 9 pm on Sunday or between 5 and 6 am on Tuesday. As these items are shelved for a more appropriate time, they add up. Before you know it, you’ll need five hours that you don’t have to do all of the tinkering so you take your steed into the shop and drop $125 on a tune-up. There is hope though. It took a significant amount of time, but by throwing 30 minutes to an hour each week at working on my bikes, I eventually became very fast and efficient at working on them. What used to take a half an hour (if I was lucky enough not to turn the task into a mess), now only takes 5-10 minutes. I can do a full clean and lube job on my bike in less than a half hour without breaking a sweat. As I’ve learned from my mistakes I became efficient. Now maintaining my bikes is quite simple and painless.
With the amount of time I put into working on (my bikes and taking my bike to the shop to get my mistakes fixed) it took about a year of messing stuff up before I finally started getting a good understanding of how things worked so that I could fly around the adjustments and cleanings to keep my bikes in tip-top shape (one I ride daily, one every week or two, and one occasionally). My daily bike obviously takes the most work, every other week, while my mountain bike and the back-up road bike only need attention every couple of months or twice a year respectively.
So here’s what I have to do to love my bikes and keep them rolling (relatively) trouble-free:
1. Chain degrease/relube and drivetrain clean and lube (20 minutes every 200-300 miles) including cleaning of the cassette and pulley wheels on the rear derailleur. I also use a bit of chain lube on the exposed cables to keep them like new.
1a. Once every year or two I take the pulley wheels off the rear derailleur of the mountain bike to get rid of the grime and dirt build-up that comes with single track riding to keep them working smoothly.
2. Wipe down (10 minutes, as needed) or complete wash/dry (30 minutes as needed).
3. Clean and relube quill stems (both road bikes 10 minutes every 3 months to 1 year each).
4. Clean and relube seat posts (5 minutes each every 3-6 months).
5. Complete disassembly, clean and relube chain rings and crank. Once a year on the mountain bike and backup road bike. Same for my daily road bike unless it starts creaking, in which case, as needed (45 minutes to one hour).
6. Rotate the tires. Yes, I rotate the tires. They’re just like your car tires. Rotating them will extend their useful life (once or twice a season). Oh, and I pump up my tires before every ride. Some deride this behavior as unnecessary but I’ve found that if I don’t, the tires develop a flat center.
7. Clean the cables, cable stops and, if necessary cable housings. I also coat the exposed cables with a thin layer of bike or chain lube.
There are reasons for each of these items and to keep this post to a semi-reasonable length, I won’t go into each in depth. For example, if you sweat (buckets in my case) when you ride, the droplets frequently blow back and hit the seat post… My seat post is aluminum and my frame is carbon – the two have molecular corrosion issues anyway (really they do), but add the salt from sweat and the seat post can corrode to a point where it can’t be removed. Same applies to the cable stops (different materials, same salt).
Also, one item, taking apart the crank and chain rings to clean and relube, probably isn’t all that necessary but I just like knowing that I’ve done everything I can to make the seriously expensive components properly maintained (cranks run upwards of $200-$500).
There are a few reasons I like to love my bikes. First, I just like having a quiet bike and a clean, well lubricated bike is a quiet bike. To me, there’s nothing better than sitting there on my used bike that I paid less for than an entry-level ride, and it is cleaner, and quieter than a brand new $2,500 bike. That’s when I know I’ve done my duty to protect my investment. Second, I like to ride almost every day. If I’m constantly taking my bike in for general maintenance issues I can’t. With everything that I’ve got going on, the only way I know to keep my bikes on the road is to keep them well maintained. Finally, after all of those years of neglecting my bikes as a kid, it’s nice to have bikes that I don’t have to leave sitting in the corner because I’m too embarrassed to take them out.