It’s not you, it’s the valves: gear maintenance and learning curves


This week, a FB friend reported some problems with a deflated tire on their road bike. They didn’t know that there were two kinds of tubes and valves (FYI: Shrader and Presta) and accidentally deflated the tube by using the wrong attachment from the pump.

They said, “I’m feeling like an incompetent novice”.

Oh, no…

Sympathetic pink creature, saying “oh no”.

When I read this, I immediately thought: this is a perfect example of the gear maintenance learning curve.

It’s not us– how would we know that bike tires come in two different forms (and, btw, multiple sizes, for which appropriate tube selection may be a non-trivial process)? The answer: experience. Experience with gear involves a lot of steps, including

  • occasionally buying specialized gadgets (like a presta valve extender depending on how deep your wheel rims are and how long your tube valve is)
  • watching friends do repairs and maintenance tasks
  • getting help from friends in learning how to do tasks ourselves
  • trying things ourselves and then asking for help from friends or a friendly local bike shop
  • taking a class, maybe one for women in our sport, on common maintenance and repair of our gear

Of course, before checking off anything from the above-mentioned list, the natural thing is to just get out there– ride or skate or swim or paddle or sail or whatever it is that is filling us with joy in movement. Which is great. Once out there though, things will happen. Rigging breaks, tires get punctures, screws come loose. That’s life. That’s gear. That’s what activity friends and cell phones are for.

One more thing: we can choose how much we want to geek out on gear and its care and feeding. I freely admit that I don’t change my own rear cassette or do my own bike tuneups. For me, knowing how to change a tire, pack and unpack my bike for travel, do a few side-of-the-road adjustments with tools in my saddle bag, and clean my chain stands me in good enough stead. But it took a long time for me to get there. And I’m still a little anxious with dealing with through-axles. Luckily, there’a a youtube video for that.

Readers, are you gearheads or devoted mechanics for the activity gear you own? Is your mechanic on speed dial? Do you make a point of avoiding gear as much as possible? Do you just walk or run, avoiding most of the gear debate entirely (except for shoes, I guess…) Let us know in the comments.

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