You Can Do It! (Brake Edition)

In my last post I touched on how my front brake has given up the ghost.  I put it off for a little while but was getting really itchy when I couldn’t get out and ride my bike.  True, I did one trip out and used Ryan’s hardtail and then swapped it for our friend’s full suspension downhill monster bike (talk about opposite ends of the spectrum!).  Both were fun but I was on new trails and I was missing poor Jenny.  It was time to take the matter into my own hands!

I decided that I had enough money to replace just the front brake.  I would’ve loved to do both at the same time but I’ll have to wait a bit on that I think.  I was also super keen to put my new mechanic skills to the test and actually take it home and install it myself.

This journey starts with a bit of research but I decided which kind of brake I wanted and headed into the shop.  My history with bike shops has been pretty good, actually, but I’ve found that I spent a lot of time beforehand studying what to say and how to say it to make it seem like I have some idea of what I’m talking about.  Mostly I’ve just given up on that endeavour as it’s always better to just admit when you don’t know something and ask for help, but I still get a bit nervous that I’ll be looked down upon for my ignorance.  I headed into Dunbar Cycles and, luckily, was mostly just tired having come from work and didn’t have time to feel nervous.  I walked up to the service desk and, astoundingly, found myself saying words like I knew what I was talking about…. wait a minute… I DID know what I was talking about!  There wasn’t a panicked text to someone about a question I didn’t know how to answer or even much of a pause in the conversation for me to think!  Honestly, it felt so good to be asked a question and know exactly what the answer is.  It’s quite the turning point in my biking career and I loved the feeling of it!  Hell yeah I can tell you about my bike and its parts!

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So I get the brake home and look at it.  It looks familiar.  There’s nothing too foreign about it in comparison to the brake I had already.  I can do this!  I must say without help of Ryan OR Youtube I changed the pads (swapped organic for metallic), changed out my rotor for a gently used one, installed the brake, routed the cable properly, and got the lever on in the right spot.

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I must say the moment I put the wheel back on I was holding my breath a little bit, worried it would somehow not fit… or explode… or something dramatic that ruins my entire bike. But it slid right in, fit like a glove and I felt so proud that I used what I’ve learned and that I have the confidence to just tackle it without second guessing myself (too much)!

I’ve already taken it out for a ride and had a blast.  It took about half a lap for me to get used to it but after that it felt totally fine.  I think it may need a bleed so I’m going to get a kit and do it myself rather than go to the shop.  I’ve got this!

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I know sometimes these things can feel incredibly daunting and intricate.  It feels like somehow you’re going to do one little thing that will absolutely ruin the entire mechanism or even bike itself.  My only advice for people like me who get nervous about this stuff to seek out and take a bike maintenance course.  If you’re in BC and can make it to Abbotsford, I really do recommend taking the UFV Bicycle Mechanic course like I did.  I feel so much more confident because I got to play with bikes, screw up, realize it wasn’t a big deal, and learned how to fix what I’d done.  That alone is worth so, so much.

What about you folks?  What are your home mechanic victories?

New Summer Challenges

Last summer I really challenged myself with my 45 days of mountain biking.  This year I was struggling to come up with an idea of what to do as a new and fun challenge.  Suddenly it came to me . . . last year I participated in my first ever race (the NSMBA Fiver) and I thought I’d keep the fun, competitive spirit going!

I have signed up for a number of enduro races this summer and have created quite the fun schedule of trips around BC and Alberta to participate in the sport I love and really test myself by being pushed to the limits.  Will I win?  Absolutely not!  Will I finish?  That’s the hope.  Will I have fun?  That’s a given!

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The races are all part of the Canadian National or BC Enduro Series as of now.  So far the schedule is as follows but there may be 1 or 2 more races added and I will update when I add more:

April 21st – Kamloops Beaver Classic

May 13th – Fraser Valley

May 20th – Kelowna

June 3rd – Kamloops

June 24th – Crowsnest Pass

July 8th – Canmore

July 21st – Squamish – Hot on your Heels

Of course I will be riding in between these as well.  Maybe participating in some Fivers again or just getting out there for some no-competition fun.  I also can’t imagine a summer would go by without a trip to Coast Gravity or Whistler as well but time will tell for those.

Naturally, Ryan will be joining me on this adventure.  He is registered for the races with me and is going to be a great cheerleader . . . waiting at the finish line for hours for me to be done.  So far we’ve managed to negotiate which races we should register for, figure out accommodations, and estimate any expenses that we’ll come across.  There was some debate over camping vs hotel vs Air BnB and while I absolutely love camping I got a bit nervous about riding a billion hour race and not having an actual, comfy bed to return to.  Luckily, Ryan could see my point and we have some rooms booked up with some lovely local folks at each stop.

An exciting addition is a new logo made by the lovely Kristina at Sketchy Trails.  It is absolutely beautiful and I love that she captured my “popsicle nightmare” look of colourful gear.  I have an order ready to get some custom jerseys printed to wear to the races and maybe one or two extra to give away.

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The other issue that is at hand is training.  Other than the mountains being covered in snow at the moment, I’ve also run into a snag of my front brake giving up the ghost (just before a descent no less) and me scrambling together money to replace it.  In the meantime, I’m hoping Ryan is okay with me borrowing his hard tail.  At least my legs will get an extra workout that way!  Pretty soon I’m going to be kicking it into high gear and getting out on trails as close to every day as I can.  I have a long way to go before being in form for racing.

I will be documenting the whole experience.  I plan on having my trusty GoPro on me for every race so you can all enjoy my suffering and my triumphs.  I will also be writing all about it in my blog series which will be called:  (Drumroll, please!)

The View from the Back of the Pack.

I’m not saying I won’t be giving it my all.  I just know how many wonderfully talented riders are going to be out on the same trails as me and I know that just finishing each race is an amazing goal for me.  I fully intend to get to know some of the trail sweeps and to fall over, exhausted, at the end of each race.  But through this I’m going to learn so much, meet new people, and have fun experiences to remember forever.

Wish me luck, all . . . I’m going to need it.

Off Season

Living in Vancouver makes it a bit tricky for the “off” season.  For the most part, our weather is temperate to ride all year long.  This makes it hard to make excuses as to why you’re not getting out on your bike but, as I’ve discovered, riding shouldn’t be a chore or a box you should feel like you need to check.  It should bring joy!  I’ve definitely had days where I felt less than enthusiastic about the ride I’m on but I never want to get to the point where I feel miserable getting out on my bike.  To that end, I’ve (mostly) avoided riding when there’s a lot of snow on the mountains or if I really, truly feel like it’s just too much.  Unfortunately for you, dear readers, that means my updates have been VERY sparse.

We did get out on a lovely ride on New Year’s Day which, luckily, refuted something I was very afraid of happening.  I haven’t lost all of the progress I made last year!  Sure, I may have gained the weight back (sigh) but the skills are still kicking around in muscle memory.

While I wasn’t out on my bike a lot I did find ways to stay active this winter.  For Ryan’s birthday, he wanted to go snowshoeing with a group of friends which we did.

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I went for some runs, some rides, and some hikes.

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For the most part, I worked a billion hours a week and went to my mom’s house for the holidays where I ate a massive amount of food and indulged in a bit too much wine.  Obviously, the training needs to start again…. as soon as this pesky snow melts!

As far as indoor training goes, I was lucky enough to borrow a bike trainer for a friend of mine (as seen in the Port Moody excursion) to keep moving while the weather is bad.  I’ve also enjoyed some much needed yoga.

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The other big event was my bike maintenance course.  I did write about it at the time, but it has come in handy SO much in terms of feeling comfortable with taking care of my bike (and the bikes of my friends) and saving some money on mechanic fees.  I highly recommend taking one if you have the chance.  Getting to know your bike feels so freeing.

NOW, what’s on the horizon?  After the 45 day challenge last year, what could be coming this summer?  That, for now, will remain a surprise.  Stay tuned for updates on this year’s exciting challenge!

Sarah the Mechanic?

I have to start this by apologizing for not posting more than I have been.  The weather’s been awful and I’ve been working non-stop which leaves precious little time for bikes (or sleep) BUT I have had the fantastic opportunity to go to the University of the Fraser Valley Bike Maintenance Level 1 Course.  This course ran once a week for 6 weeks and taught us the basics of bike maintenance.  After this class I can do a full tune up on my bikes as well as some more advanced skills like brake bleeds and hub overhauls.

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My first try at wheel truing.  Does this look straight to you?

The (more than qualified) instructor for the class is Bruce Wenting, owner of Wentings Cycle & Mountain Shop.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that this man knows and loves bikes.  He had awesome stories about every kind of biking you can think of from road races, to cyclocross, to old school mountain biking.  We were all definitely in good hands.  He taught us so much and was able to answer all of our questions, and even solved the mystery of my constantly breaking spokes!  We worked on a variety of types of bikes and the last couple of classes we paired up to work on our own bikes!  Jenny has never looked so good!

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Dirty brake fluid from my gnarly summer of hard riding.

Now, I know you all don’t just come here for stories about me learning things completely successfully without any bumps along the way.  We all know how awkward of a person I am and this class wasn’t an exception.  There are a couple of things I’ve learned from this course (parallel to and outside of the curriculum) and they are:

1.)  No matter how many times I’m told not to, the only thing I ever want to do is squeeze the brake levers when the wheels are off on hydraulic brakes.  This is a no-no as it can cause the pistons in the calliper to get stuck which means you need to reset them.  I did this no fewer than FOUR times when working on my partner’s bike and eventually stopped apologizing and just pulled out the brake pads to fix my blunder yet again.  It was funny the first 2-3 times.

2.)  If you’re going to crouch down to take somebody’s picture in a quiet room filled with cool, bike people, make damn sure you aren’t going to fart.  It happened… loudly…. people noticed.  *sigh*

3.)  When throwing out cables and housing in a metal garbage can, either don’t coil them at all or make sure they’re secured well when coiled so they don’t spring open in the garbage can with a loud crashing noise and get yourself called “rowdy” by the teacher.

Another cool thing I’d like to note about this program is that it’s held in the UFV Aerospace Centre in Abbotsford.  This is where people learn to work on planes.  Planes!  How cool is that?!  So we were all fixing our bikes next to empty planes in a hangar.  Not to mention the bunch of them outside.

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Bikes were also made to fly.

 

This is also the home of Paul Brodie’s Bike Frame Building Course where you actually design and build a frame from start to finish, all the while being guided by the legendary Paul Brodie.  You walk away with a bike frame that you get to build.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to do that for a hardtail frame.  But one thing at a time.  I will most likely be taking the Level 2 of the bike maintenance course when it’s offered in the new year to learn things like suspension maintenance and wheel building.

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Jenny ready for her makeover.

I’m so excited to not have to take my bike into the shop for everything anymore.  Working on your bike may seem scary at first but it is honestly so fun and accessible!  I encourage anyone out there with a bike to take some sort of course to at least know the basics of how to take care of it.  It saves you money and gives you a deeper understanding of your bike and how it works.

Happy trails and stay dry!