When it comes to bike repair and maintenance, I’m one of those people who knows just enough to mess things up. So last night, one other student and I joined Tori Bortman in the basement of her home in north Portland to learn the secrets of bike repair from a pro.
By day, Tori works at the downtown Bike Gallery. But by night, she becomes CEO of Gracie’s Wrench, the bike maintenance school she started just over a year ago.
I’m taking her course to brush up on my bike repair skills and learn those all-important tricks of the trade. Last night we started with the basics; tire changing, wheel removal, and flat repair. It was the first of a six-week course and even though the subject matter seemed basic, just being around Tori, and chatting throughout class, I learned several useful tricks.
Here are a few things I learned:
- It’s one thing to know how to change a tire and patch a tube, but the devil is often in the details. I realized that I didn’t scuff up my tube enough before applying the vulcanizing compound. Tori showed us that if you sand down a large area around the hole, the vulcanizing compound will dry very quickly and the patch will set up much better.
- My rim has a wear mark! I never realized this, but most rims have some sort of grove or dimple right on the braking surface. This is an indicator that tells you when it’s time to replace your rims. When you can’t see it, your rims are toast.
- You know those little springs on your quick release axle? I can never remember which way they go. Tori said just think of a bow-tie (smaller side toward the center) and you’ll always get it right.
- When putting your tire back on, and the going gets tough right at the end, use the fabled “gorilla grip”. Tori learned this from another mechanic and it’s essentially a kneading motion that not only gets a stubborn and tight tire back on the rim, but does it without pinching the tube.
- I’ll never have trouble removing pedals again. Tori said she never uses the popular, “right-tighty, lefty-loosey” mantra. Instead, in the case of pedals she told us to remember that you always move the wrench forward to tighten and backwards to loosen.
Next week we move on to brake and cable repair.
If you want to learn more about Tori’s classes, drop her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (503) 839-1880.