The Zen of maintenance

There are two ways you can get exercise out of a bicycle: you can “overhaul” it, or you can ride it.  On the whole, I am not sure that a man who takes his pleasure overhauling does not have the best of the bargain.  He is independent of the weather and the wind; the state of the roads troubles him not.  Give him a screw-hammer, a bundle of rags, an oil-can, and something to sit down upon, and he is happy for the day.  He has to put up with certain disadvantages, of course; there is no joy without alloy.  He himself always looks like a tinker, and his machine always suggests the idea that, having stolen it, he has tried to disguise it; but as he rarely gets beyond the first milestone with it, this, perhaps, does not much matter.  The mistake some people make is in thinking they can get both forms of sport out of the same machine.  This is impossible; no machine will stand the double strain.  You must make up your mind whether you are going to be an “overhauler” or a rider.  Personally, I prefer to ride, therefore I take care to have near me nothing that can tempt me to overhaul.  When anything happens to my machine I wheel it to the nearest repairing shop.  If I am too far from the town or village to walk, I sit by the roadside and wait till a cart comes along.  My chief danger, I always find, is from the wandering overhauler.  The sight of a broken-down machine is to the overhauler as a wayside corpse to a crow; he swoops down upon it with a friendly yell of triumph.  At first I used to try politeness.  I would say:

“It is nothing; don’t you trouble.  You ride on, and enjoy yourself, I beg it of you as a favour; please go away.”

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men on Wheels (1900)

Anyone who has ridden knows the curse of the amateur mechanic. H.G. Wells identifies him in my earlier post, but Jerome K. Jerome pretty much nails the type. The thing is though, most of us have shared the pleasure of fine-tuning a well-made bike and savouring the anticipation of actually riding it. Jorgen Leth perfectly captures the feeling in the opening scene of his documentary on Paris-Roubaix, A Sunday in Hell, featured in an earlier post.

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