I took my first bicyle maintainence class last night and discovered our local bike co-op (The Hub). In my mind, I had imagined some hole in the wall with old yellow bikes parked outside.
(Some background: at one point, the Twin Cities had a Yellow Bike program, where they painted a bunch of bikes yellow, and people were free to use them if they came across one. Nice concept, but it must not have worked.)
Anyway, The place was so* great, and had such a terrific feeling to it. It felt like home when you walk in, and it was the opposite of the typical bike shop, which they refer to as "sports shops".
They have a bay you can rent for $5/hour that has all the tools, books and personal assistance you need. This is a really cool resource.
Anyway, back to the class. This was only the first night, so we learned how to change a flat, adjusted the derailleur, and took the freewheel cassette apart. It dawned on me how many things I bring my bike in for that I can fix with a hex wrench! It really helps to have someone there the first time you do stuff, because there's little efficiency tricks that are good to learn right from the start, and you can get bailed out if you screw up.
I almost destroyed my back wheel, and would have if he hadn't stopped me. The bike I was working on was an old '81 SR, and it had a very early cassette that is somehow incorporated into the wheel. When the cassette needs replacing, I'll have to replace the entire wheel! Anyway, I was putting on the "locking gear" or whatever that is called, and I screwed it on backwards because I matched the grime level of the rest of the gears (one side was clean so I assumed that side was protected). Luckily he he stopped me, and he was either teasing me or it was really* hard to get off.
It was a fun* night, I made new friends, it was cheap, and I feel really* really confident now about the things I've learned.
I know a lot of you are mechanically inclined on this forum, but if you're not, take one of these classes! There was only 3 of us in the class. One was a guy with a nice road bike, one was a woman with a comfort Schwinn, and there was me with an 81 SR. Our cassettes and deraileurs needed totally different techniques, so it was like getting 3 for 1 in the knowledge department.
Another benefit to taking a class is when something goes awry, they have replacements there. My SR is old, so I needed a rubber strip in my tire and he just handed me one. One of my springs was rusty and broke, and there was another. My tires were dried out, so I decided to replace them and it was just a trip into the next room.
Plus, if you're into old bikes like I am, finding a coop is great because they have a "graveyard" there full of cheap old parts.
Sorry for my long, enthusiastic post, but this is going to make a huge difference in my life and save me tons* of money.