Good Bunny Times: The 2nd 2011, Muddbunnies’ Bike Maintenance Clinic

By: Amber Ballard

This is the second bike maintenance clinic that I’ve taken with the Muddbunnies and I’m feeling pretty good about my new found skills.  Here’s a conversation I recently had after getting a flat on the North Shore:
Random boy: “Hey- are you alright?”
Me: “Yes – thanks.” (he pulls his bike closer to mine and watches me)
Random boy: “Are you sure?. . . Are you running Presta or Schrader?”
Me: “Schrader.”
The boy is silent. I am silent.
Random boy: “Hmm- I know girls who carry their own tools, but don’t actually know how to use them.”
Me: Smile (finished and placing my back tire on properly)
Random boy: “Do you want to go for a ride sometime – what’s your number?”
Me: Smile. “I’m sure I’ll see you on the mountain soon!”

Before joining the Muddbunnies in April of this year, I couldn’t change my own tire, didn’t know what a derailleur was or really had any idea how to check if my brake pads needed changing and no clue how to change them.  The Muddbunnies’ clinics are not only about getting hands on experience on some necessary bike maintenance skills but enjoying the hallmark of any good event; fellow Muddbunnie camaraderie, food, alcohol and toys – the bike kind that is!  And the 2nd Muddbunnies Bike Maintenance Clinic did not disappoint.

I arrived a little earlier than I intended and proceeded to help Dorothy (aka Dee – the Muddbunnie Riding Club president) with preparations – but because she is fantastic and already had everything prepared all I really could do was wait for the others to arrive and enjoy the lovely spread of wine, cheese, prawns and a mouth-watering lime tart that Dee had made and brought from home.

Soon after our teachers arrived.  Jaclyn Delacroix (Muddbunnie racer, calendar girl, club board treasurer and our favourite, all-round, crazy Aussie) and Jason Louden, Cycles Lambert (fantastic host, Muddbunnie sponsor, bike guru and all round good guy) set the precedence from the get-go by reviewing the basics from the first maintenance clinic which included: taking care of your drive-train, cleaning and lubing for dry and wet conditions, maintaining your chain, changing your tire and straightening your handle bars).

Team J: demonstrating tire changes

I learn by doing and appreciated the built-in time to ask questions and try things out for myself.  We each changed our own tire and had the opportunity to use a pump designed to use C02 cartridges that pump up your tire in two seconds flat (picture below, top right).

So many fun toys to play with!

Let me pause to comment about this particular product: What a fantastic idea – nevermind being a handy tool on a Muddbunnie ride, this small but compact pump could be especially helpful for a racer needing to make a super quick tire change.

Watching and learning

Next we discussed the ins and outs of changing brake-pads; when to change your brake pads, how to properly care for them (e.g. use a fine-surfaced, sand paper if they’re contaminated) and how to properly place them back in.
After taking the brake pads out Jason pulled apart the pads to show us how each piece fit back together.  We eagerly returned to our bikes to check out our bike specific brake pads.

I learned that there are four different kinds and that my brakes are a pain in the ass.  Where some brakes are loaded from the top, mine are loaded from the bottom and although when changing your back brakes it’s best to take the wheel off I won’t have a choice – but at least I’ll be able to do it by myself.

Again – Jaclyn, Jason and Dee were on hand to answer all of our bike specific questions.

Removing a brake pad is a breeze when you know how

After refuelling and chatting with the other bunnies about their next ride Jason and Jaclyn interrupted our chit-chat to introduce  us to derailleurs – a topic that seemed to be of great interest to a number of us who had damaged our own derailleurs while riding.

Jason (using Jaclyn’s bike) explained the mechanics of repositioning the derailleur by adjusting the top and bottom screws of the derailleur that correspond with the low and high gears of the bike.  We also learned that it’s crucial to align the derailleur with the chain so that the drive-train works the way it’s supposed to. I found it helpful that further adjustments can be made by manoeuvring the cable at the handle-bar end.

Jason explaining derailleur adjustment

My bike was already on the stand with a slightly skipping derailleur, (thanks to Jason!), and so I began to put my new found knowledge to practice while my fellow Muddbunnie buddies quietly but helpfully observed – again, thanks to the hands-on experience, I discovered that it’s best to realign a derailleur in your lowest gear to cinch the cable and ensure smooth shifting.

Hands on experience: it's the best way to learn!

At the end of the evening, eight happy Muddbunnies were full of new bike knowledge, good food, wine and smiles but as they say – all good things must come to an end – and so we’ll look forward to another Muddbunnie bike maintenance night next year!

All smiles at the end of another successfull maintenance night!

A big thank you to Jason, Jaclyn and Dee for all of your preparations, knowledge and for generously donating your time.  Also a special thank you to Berglind Hafsteinsdottir and Jaclyn Delaroix for the use of their photos.

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