The story arc runs something like this. Brightly colored paper gives way. Eyes bulge. Cardboard box shunted into dad’s lap to disassemble the taped, zip-tied and/or shrink wrapped parts. Through grunts of effort, mumbled swearing, the installation of batteries and a final, defeated consultation with the instructions the toy becomes functional.
The children play with it for twenty, possibly twenty-five minutes. It gets abandoned on the floor in the middle of the living room to be tripped over and then kicked into a corner. Time passes. It gets picked up, played with and redeposited in the middle of the floor five to ten more times.
It is at this point that the kids look beyond the ostensible primary purpose of the toy and begin to wonder how this once bright, shiny, new toy actually works. They begin, slowly at first, and then with increasing urgency to pull it apart.
Now it stops working. The batteries are dead anyway. Sometimes the batteries are removed and hurled behind the couch. This turns out to be a pretty eco-friendly way to keep them out of the landfill.
Now what’s left in the middle of the floor are the pieces and parts of the non-functioning toy. Mom and dad spend two or three cycles reuniting parts with original toy before giving up and simply throwing away whatever gets caught under foot.
What begins at Christmas in an orgy of paper-ripping joy winds down by March or April. The house becomes a veritable mausoleum of the used, abused and discarded.
I wonder why we do it.
But then I look at the bikes hanging in the garage and the parts in the bin and tools in their chest. Every time I go for the pedal wrench, the good one, I push aside two crappy, old ones that are rounded out and useless. Deep in the parts bin there are single pedals. Where did the other pedal go, I wonder? I almost never put my pedals in the wash. And anyway, I’ve checked the dryer vent.
I have a lovely set of dead Ultegra shifters. I keep them in a bag with a note that says, “These don’t work.”
I have an inert front derailleur from my old mountain bike. Someday I’ll look at the spring and work out what’s wrong with it. No I won’t.
I have a small collection of toothbrushes that have been used to clean cassettes and chains. I have a chain cleaner as well. It doesn’t work anymore. Too caked with grime. Don’t touch it. It’s gross.
The last two bikes I’ve rid myself of, I just gave them away. They were done. No longer functioning. Collecting dust in a corner. To solicit money for them seemed silly, verging on mean. Someone with far more love in their hearts than I’ve got will clean them, reattach their missing parts and ride them again. Maybe.
Ultimately, it’s just the toy story all grown up. Instead of batteries, lube.
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The world can be an abrasive place. Whole religions have sprung up and survived on the premise that treading a spiritual path can help you reduce the friction of everyday living on your tiny, tortured soul. But what about your bike chain?
This week’s Group Ride examines your lube preferences. Regale us not with lurid tales of the viscous liquids you ply in your inter/intrapersonal relationships. That’s another site. What we’re interested in here is how you keep metal from abrading metal, how you keep things smooth and rolling on your bicycle.
For my part, I have experimented with many different products and applications without feeling as though I have fully conquered the challenge of optimal lubrication. The Pedro’s line, which includes Ice Wax™, Road Rage™, ProJ™ and SymLube™ , gives us an oily palette of strangely named substances with which to face various temperature and road/trail conditions. This is likely more thought than I can reasonably be expected to put into greasing a chain.
I like a lube you can put on your chain, wipe the excess and then go ride your bike. I don’t want to think about viscosity.
To that end, I have been using T-9 for some time now. A cross mechanic told me he used it on all his bikes, and that it was the best. It is not, as far as I can tell, the best. There is also a French oil that comes in an elegant little bottle that some bike shop friends swear by, but it’s expensive and they claim they have to use it after almost every ride, so I don’t bother because I’m just not that fastidious in my maintenance routines.
So here it is, you masters of velo living, what’s on your chain? How do you apply? How often? And why?