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Compulsive Bike Repair

Old 08-05-16, 11:55 AM
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Compulsive Bike Repair

I have teenage daughters and last night one of them had some friends over. One of the boys showed up pushing a bike and asked me if he could leave it in the yard. I invited him to put it in the garage instead. While they were hanging out in the basement, I was doing something in the garage and took a peek at the bike. The rear tire was flat, the front brake was disconnected, the spoke protector had broken loose and was free to flop around behind the freewheel and the derailleur hanger was bent about 30 degrees.

Normally I'm the kind of person who minds his own business, but this was too much for me. Instinctually, I turned the wheel to see if the cause of the flat was something obvious. It was.





How do you even keep enough air in the tire to make a hole that big? My best guess is that it was worn down to the threads and the tube blew out and tore the hole.

I had a couple of old Specialized Ground Control tires in the garage so I grabbed one of those and replaced the tire. While the bike was on the stand I fixed the front brake (cable was attached incorrectly at the lever, preventing it from releasing properly), oiled the chain and did what I could with the shifting. I thought about trying to straighten the derailleur hanger, but it seemed pretty likely to break in the process and I didn't have the correct spare.

Now you might be thinking that I'm a Good Samaritan or something. The truth is I really wasn't motivated by the desire to perform a kind act. I honestly just couldn't stand to have a bike in that condition in my garage. There may be something wrong with me.

Does anyone else have this problem?
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Old 08-05-16, 12:06 PM
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Andy you're a nice man and I would tend to do the same.
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Old 08-05-16, 12:11 PM
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can't help myself either. my neighbor left their bikes on the porch, and of course I looked at them. very poorly assembled and adjusted BSOs, I already rebuilt 1 and the other two are currently in my garage . . .

my old neighbor had a pile of kids bikes in the basement of the apt complex where I used to work on my bikes. I also did a bunch of maintenance on those bikes, and I saw the kids riding them, but I'm not even sure if they know I did anything lol.
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Old 08-05-16, 12:22 PM
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My neighbors (kids) once stopped by when I was working on my bike in the driveway. They brought along a bike that didn't work for some reason (don't remember why, easy fix). Then I got to looking at their other bikes. The one had brake pads worn down to the metal backing plate, so after scrounging around in my parts buckets, I found some old ones that didn't brake well, but wouldn't ruin the rim. I replaced them and sent them on their way, sad that I couldn't do more.
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Old 08-05-16, 12:26 PM
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It makes me wonder about the bikes I rode as a kid. I don't remember them ever having problems, but I also don't remember ever doing any kind of maintenance so there's a good chance that there were all kinds of things wrong with them that I ignored just because I was happy to be riding a bike.
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Old 08-05-16, 01:57 PM
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I'm told my bike hoarder grandad stopped doing this because he felt like the neighborhood kids were taking advantage of him and not appreciative enough... this was before I came along, so I didn't see it for myself.
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Old 08-05-16, 02:04 PM
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My wife asked me to fix her nephew's brakes on a Trek mtb. By the time I was finished, it had a complete tuneup. About the only thing I didn't do was switch it over to Campy. Its a compulsion and I couldn't stop myself.
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Old 08-05-16, 03:29 PM
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My SO is like you guys. He rides with me to work and a few weeks back we noticed a new bike at my office's bike park. It's a really old rusty BSO. He's been begging me to find out who owns the bike so he can ask his permission to work on it. This bike could really use some TLC.

Sometimes we come across people with a flat or some other mechanical problem while riding the bike path. SO usually stops and offers help. If it's a flat, he ends up fixing that AND other stuff (adjusting brakes, saddle height, etc).

What goes around comes around, we've been saved ourselves by strangers when stranded on those rare times we didn't have a spare tube.
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Old 08-05-16, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by kuroba View Post
My SO is like you guys. He rides with me to work and a few weeks back we noticed a new bike at my office's bike park. It's a really old rusty BSO. He's been begging me to find out who owns the bike so he can ask his permission to work on it. This bike could really use some TLC.
I know that feeling. In the case last night I didn't even ask the boy if I could fix it. I left the broken spoke protector on there in case that's some kind of goofy teenager trend or something like baseball cards in the spokes used to be. I really wanted to put sticky notes on it explaining what else needed to be fixed and advising him to bring it back, but I try to limit how much crazy I let people see. If he comes back and mentions it I'll talk to him more about it.

The funny thing is when he first came to the house he came in the back door because apparently he was afraid of meeting me. I only even saw him because I sent word downstairs that anyone who wanted to stay needed to come in the front door. I wasn't around when he left so I don't know what his reaction was.
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Old 08-05-16, 04:08 PM
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He probably didn't notice the change, or maybe he did when he got on the bike and suddenly it was *easier* to pedal LOL

If I knew how to work on bikes I'd probably have done the same. I'm pretty OCD but I know crap of bicycle mechanics.
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Old 08-05-16, 05:03 PM
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Kid was lucky. Some dads of teenaged girls would have made other mods, involving hidden electrodes and fuses.
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Old 08-05-16, 05:22 PM
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The neighbors down the street from one of my old homes had about 8 kids, and the youngest used to come over some times when I was in the garage asking me to fix his bike or his toys from time to time. He pushed his bike up one day and asked if I could put air in his tires when it was beyond repair. I explained that he needed a new tire and tube with the offer to put them in if his parents bought the parts. His dad stopped by kind of embarrassed shortly after that and apologized for his son being a pest. I told him not to worry about it as I didn't mind it.

Another time after I'd resumed riding many years later a guy with some "issues" stopped by and asked for air as I was putting air in the tires for one of our bikes and it was kind of the same thing. The guy was known for things like stealing the sugar packages/crackers/bread from restaurants etc... as well as buying beater bikes at garage sales that were used until they were trashed. And then repeating the same with another bike. I was able to get the tube to hold enough air to get him on his way again, but I doubt it held air for too much longer after that.
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Old 08-05-16, 06:44 PM
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I still have a bunch of accessories in my garage from the seven years I ran a bicycle recycling program, so any time I take in a friend or neighbor's bike to do a minor repair, it goes out the door with a brand new water bottle cage and a bottle to match, new front and rear reflectors, a bell or horn, some type of frame or saddle bag, a kickstand, and maybe even a new set of tires. If it's a little girl's bike, I always add a basket and a set of streamers. Sick man. Sick man.
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Old 08-05-16, 07:58 PM
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You did the kid a solid cause your a decent human. Your neighbors are lucky to have you in the hood.
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Old 08-07-16, 08:02 PM
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In 2010, I was taking the train to work, and saw a guy riding an old Raleigh with a severely rusted chain. The next day, I brought along a bottle of lube and asked him if I could oil his chain. Come to find out, he was deaf.

That began a really cool friendship. The last time I saw him (it had been several months), he ran up to me and gave me a hug.
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Old 08-08-16, 10:06 AM
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I was "that guy" when I lived in New Jersey. We lived in a suburb full of single-family homes, and my daughters were in their teens. I fixed their friends' bikes in the same way. Sometimes they asked me to, and sometimes, I just told them I would do it. They were all grateful. I also fixed neighbors' bikes. It was a nice outlet for me.
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Old 08-08-16, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
I was "that guy" when I lived in New Jersey. We lived in a suburb full of single-family homes, and my daughters were in their teens. I fixed their friends' bikes in the same way. Sometimes they asked me to, and sometimes, I just told them I would do it. They were all grateful. I also fixed neighbors' bikes. It was a nice outlet for me.
And sometimes you help a friend who's bike needs a little TLC. Old habits die heard. Thanks!
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Old 08-08-16, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by NYMXer View Post
And sometimes you help a friend who's bike needs a little TLC. Old habits die heard. Thanks!
Oh yeah, I forgot I'm still fixing people's bikes. I was thinking those days are done, but I guess not completely.
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Old 08-08-16, 04:51 PM
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Yup a friend brought over her bike to ask how to route a computer cable. I ended up overhauling the wheels and headset and would have obsessively cleaned the whole bike and overhauled the bottom bracket if she had been there longer
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Old 08-09-16, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
How do you even keep enough air in the tire to make a hole that big? My best guess is that it was worn down to the threads and the tube blew out and tore the hole.
That looks like the bike I had in college. I dinged the rim going up a curb, as a result the rear brake always grabbed in the same spot. Eventually it wore through the tire, then finally wore through the tube. Amazingly it never punctured from debris, just plain wore through. With the lower pressures the tubes are much less prone to poking through.
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Old 08-09-16, 11:41 AM
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You guys are crazy.

CRAZY AWESOME!!
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Old 08-16-16, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
The funny thing is when he first came to the house he came in the back door because apparently he was afraid of meeting me. I only even saw him because I sent word downstairs that anyone who wanted to stay needed to come in the front door. I wasn't around when he left so I don't know what his reaction was.
Hmmm, teenage daughter, plus visiting boy, maybe he knew about your compulsion, went out and found the crappiest bike he could, and brought it to your house to act as a decoy, you know, like throwing a steak to the guard dog? I mean, why did he push a bike to your house? Wouldn't it have been easier to just walk?

Anyways, cool story, I totally vibe with your fixing/helping compulsion. I fix little tweaks on other peoples' bikes all the time.

I have a chinese-american (naturalized citizen) co-worker who rides a bike to work a lot, I went and looked at his bike once, and neither derailleur was operable, one of the cables had housing hanging away from the cable stops, it was terrible. I asked him if I could ride his bike home so I could tune it up for him. On the ride home I immediately discovered that his handlebars were backwards! Swept forward instead of back, I thought my hands were going to fall off from being twisted the wrong way for a few miles!

He was super grateful when I got the bike back to him, 'so much more comfortable!' I bet, having handlebars bend the way they were designed to fit the human body!

I am also in the habit of giving away bikes as my kids outgrow them. I've probably given maybe 4-5 bikes away to families with smaller kids.

Also, whenever anybody mentions their kid needs a bike, I tell them I enjoy looking at bikes on craigslist, and send them a super long email with a bunch of links for them to check out, and if they buy one I'll be happy to go over it, make sure the brakes and shifting work ok.

One think I'd maybe like to do with my life, retire a little early, and found a bike co-op in my town. Try to get a little civic funding, distribute flyers soliciting donated bikes, conduct workshops for bike maintenance, safety, skills, etc.
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Old 08-16-16, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
Hmmm, teenage daughter, plus visiting boy, maybe he knew about your compulsion, went out and found the crappiest bike he could, and brought it to your house to act as a decoy, you know, like throwing a steak to the guard dog? I mean, why did he push a bike to your house? Wouldn't it have been easier to just walk?
Now you're just making me paranoid.

I seriously did wonder if it was an abandoned bike he picked up on the way. Your story about your co-worker's bike is interesting. It makes me sad that so many people don't realize how little work it would take to make their bikes much better.
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Old 08-16-16, 06:40 PM
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My teenage daughter would fix the tire herself... then drop him on the next hill.
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Old 08-16-16, 06:54 PM
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Not to go off on too much of a tangent, but has someone ever asked you to "just get a bike in riding shape" for them and you give them the whole above and beyond, soup to nuts treatment just to find that they never ever get on the bike after that?

I have gotten literally dozens of bikes ready for people who are chomping at the bit to get back into bicycling. And I don't just oil the chain and pump up the tires; I give them a new chain and new tires and new just about everything else (left over from my old bike recycling program) and never charge them a penny. To me, payment is to see someone actually follow through and get back into bicycling, as I did in my mid-30's. But almost 10 times out of 10, the person either rides once and puts the bike away forever, or never gets on it at all. Not only am I disappointed that they miss out on the cycling experience, but I am often pissed that I gave away so many good, brand new parts that will never get used.

Any other compulsive fixers have a similar experience?
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