We are all familiar with the well-known saying spoken by Benjamin Franklin. Over and over again, it gets harped on topics such as maintenance and health, and we hear it so often that we roll our eyes when somebody tries to tell it to us again. The gist, take care of little problems before they become big problems. Easy, right? Not necessarily.
As amateur bike racers, we need to squeeze training and racing into a life packed with work and school, while also trying to not alienate our friends, family and significant others on the process. We dedicate our mornings and evenings to training every week, and entire weekends of leisure time to travel and race our bikes. In schedules that are already brimming, it is insanely easy to put off doing something as simple as washing the bike or lubing the chain and cables after a ride.
I fall into this trap all the time, and 99% of the time, it pays off with a few extra hours to nap on a Saturday afternoon. Not last weekend. All those extra hours that I saved by not taking care of my machine suddenly came back to visit me in the form of a snapped derailleur hanger. Bad luck, right? Things happen, no? It’s part of racing? I wish I could say that was the case this time. My broken derailleur hanger was the direct result of negligence on my part.
My mentors from back in Corpus, Donnie Orchard and Michael Lidwell used to harp all the time about keeping bikes clean. They’d say “You spend enough money on your shit, you might as well take care of it.” Their words obviously didn’t sink in. Brendan Sharpe, an experienced mechanic for the Brazilian National Cycling Team and head mechanic at Nelo’s Cycles in Austin, TX told me a couple of weeks ago that lubing the cable housing will make shifting easier, extend the life of shifters and reduce stress on my derailleur hanger. I took note, but immediately lost it. I’m a busy man. I can’t bother to take 5 minutes to get the bottle of Tri-flow out.
Well, he called it. This past weekend, I downshifted and ripped the derailleur clean off. Stranded 30 minutes outside of town, tail between legs, I called a teammate and got the sag. Then we went to brunch and got drunk, but that has nothing to do with my ineptitude at routine bicycle maintenance. A couple days later, a good friend Chris Trickey called to check in and we got into a discussion about maintenance:
Chris: “When you go out for a ride, do you make sure your ass is clean?”
Chris: “Your ass. Do you clean it?”
Me: “Yeah. All the time.”
Chris: “Then why wouldn’t you do the same for your bike? You’ve got to take care of your shit.”
And I finally saw where he was going with it. And then I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I’m a grown man, an experienced bike racer, needing to be told by other grown men that I need to do a better job of taking care of my equipment. It is embarrassing because it’s true, and I shouldn’t have to be told. These are the lessons that stick. You can bet I won’t screw this one up again.
So where am I going with this? It’s October. Last month was September. Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month respectively. A lot of people know about the former, not many are familiar with the later. This month, we’ll see some pink ribbons and maybe even some pink bar tape, and when I see them, I can’t help but think of my broken derailleur hanger. Of all the shortcuts I take in my life, not all of them are as inconsequential to my day-to-day life as embarrassing myself in front of friends and needing a ride home.
Moral of the story: Take care of things and get your shit checked.