Lesson Learned, Again. For Now.

workstand.jpgLast November, I bought something bike-related, but have not yet mentioned it in this blog. Since I generally over-share all of my bike-related life to (and often beyond) the point of ickiness, you are no doubt curious what that thing is.

It’s a bike stand. Specifically, a Bontrager ProWrench Repair Stand. Which I suspect is a terrific bike stand, though I must now admit that I will probably never really know. Because, if things go well and I keep my head, I will use this bike stand primarily as a combination clothesline / vanity bike stand / scarecrow.

Let me explain.

Mechanicus Inepticus Maximus, Defined

I suffer from Mechanicus Inepticus Maximus (MIM), a disease that prevents me from successfully executing even the simplest bike repair and maintenance. When I work on my bike, my hands get clammy. I sweat profusely, I forget the meaning of “righty-tighty-lefty-loosey” (except in Australia).

I strip bolts. I drop and lose small parts. I scratch paint, dent metal, and splinter carbon.

I start talking to myself, and not in a very nice way. I will say things like, “You, sir, are a buffoon. An addle-brained, senile, and uneducated buffoon. You are fit to handle neither wrench nor screwdriver. Hex keys scatter in your presence.”

As I work, my failures cascade. After trying to replace brake pads, somehow my wheels have come out of true. After I flail around for a bit with the spoke wrench, somehow my left crank has become loose. When I tackle that, somehow, mystically my bike chain shortens by two links.

Let me use last weekend as an example. I have lately become very comfortable with disassembling bike chains, since I have completely disassembled four of them in the past month. So I thought to myself, “It’s high time I remove the chain from my Waltworks, give it a thorough degreasing, and put it back on.

Naturally, I went a turn too far with the chainbreaker tool and popped the pin out altogether.

So I thought, “Well, I have a new chain just sitting in the garage. I’ll put it on the bike. Except I made it one link too short. So I added a link back in…except I must have added two, because then the chain was flopping around like it was a foot too long.

So I adjusted the limit screws and the dropout. Evidently, though, not the same amount, because now the wheel wobbles when it spins. Not that it spins very much, of course, because of course it rubs against the brakes.

At this point I abandoned the project before it got worse. And believe me, it would have gotten worse.

MIM: Is it a disease or a curse? I cannot tell. Maybe it’s some of both. Like syphilis, but more embarrassing.

What Triggers MIM?

MIM can remain dormant for as long as the one affected doesn’t try anything stupid — like working on a bike. In my case, however, I’ll occasionally get the urge to improve my bike wrenching skills, thinking that I could save myself a lot of time if I knew how to take care of the basics.

So I’ll go and buy the tools for my project. Last week, for example, I got a torque wrench and some hex bits, thinking that I wanted to have everything I need on hand to adjust the settings on my new Superfly Singlespeed. Maybe swap out the handlebars, maybe practice changing the tire with those Chris King Funbolts installed.

You know. Try to become more self-sufficient.

I’ve already mentioned how well the bike chain project went. I have not mentioned, however, that I first stripped the adjustment bolt on my new bike’s seatpost. I’m sure this information surprises you. A lot.

I believe I will donate all my tools to a worthy bike shop before I once again get the impression that I have any business doing anything with a bike but riding it.

Secret Shame

I do my best to hide the fact that I suffer from MIM. It’s not easy, though. When neighbors — who have seen I have a ridiculous number of bikes in my garage — ask me to help them repair their kids’ bikes, I have to come up with a diffierent excuse each time. When my bike’s broken down at the side of the road and another cyclist stops and asks what the problem is, I have to make something up. When I ride by people suffering from a mechanical on the trail, I have to pretend I am deaf and have not seen them.

But I am not the only one who suffers from MIM. I know this for a fact, because a few months ago, I stopped by Dug’s house, and found him in the garage…muttering over a chain (a purple one, which indicates an entirely different disease).

I offered help. It shows you just how desperate he was that he accepted that help. From me.

Eventually, we did in fact get that chain on the bike, but we twisted one end of it 180 degrees before connecting, creating a bike-chain mobius strip.

And also Dug lost a finger.

The First Step

I am convinced that before a MIM sufferer can hope to be cured, he must first acknowledge his sickness, and then publicly vow to never harm a bicycle again. Toward that end, I hereby declare and swear myself to the following:

The MIM Sufferer’s Oath
I, (Your Name Here), have no ability with tools. I have never had such an ability and freely confess that I will never have such an ability. Nothing but harm and sadness will ever come of me trying to convince myself otherwise.

As a cyclist without mechanical skill, I now promise that I will no longer pretend to have the ability to do anything with my bike beyond inflating a tire and lubing the chain. I will not change brake pads. I will not true a wheel. I will not try to fix that creaky noise coming from either the bottom bracket or stem, I’m not sure which.

I will not even pretend to think about setting up disc brakes.

I promise to sell — or if necessary, give — all my tools to someone who can use them without causing irreparable harm. When my bike is broken, I shall confess as much and bring it straight to the bike shop before I make things worse. And I shall tip the mechanic generously, for he has a skill that I have not.

From this day forward, I will ride my bikes with renewed understanding as I embrace my limitations. Specifically, if my bike ever breaks even a little bit and I’m by myself without a good cel phone signal, I’ve got a long walk ahead of me. For while the tools in my seatbag may help me survive in the wilderness or perhaps whittle a flute, in my hands these tools are tools exclusively of destruction, and will do the bike no good whatsoever.

At all.

No matter how long I tinker, nor how many knuckles I bloody.

Hi, my name’s Fatty, and I have MIM.

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