I’m not the most handy when it comes to fixing my car or my bike. While I did correctly diagnose the electrical short in the car which broke my left turn signal ($40 for the repair, not horrific), I’m generally a novice at this sort of thing. Wednesday morning, when I was folding my bike to get on the train, I heard a plastic ‘snap’ and a teeny tiny plastic piece, the size of a fingernail, fell to the ground. As the train was pulling in, I scooped it up, shoved it in my pocket, and went downtown. I was unable to determine what broke on the ride in, and shrugged, thinking it was nothing.
Once I got to the station, I unfolded the bike and realized I was wrong. SO wrong.
What had broken was the part that secures a fairly loose latch to keep my steering column upright. Yeah, a major piece! Thankfully, the guys at the French Market got me some cord and wire and I was able to secure the bike to get to work, where I started calling around to find a replacement.
There are two cycle shops near my office, Kozy’s Cyclery and Rapid Transit Cycleshop. I like them both, but I slightly prefer RTC for a reason that will become clear in a moment. Kozy’s is .25 miles closer, so I called them, wanting to limit my time on the busted bike. They didn’t have the part, and suggested I try their bigger location, which also didn’t have the part.
Then I called RTC, who didn’t have it, but said “If the northside location doesn’t have it, they’ll order it.” And then, after checking that I did need to be able to use the bike today, asked if I needed any velcro or such to secure the bike in the meantime. She also said that a lot of people have this problem, and they usually have one or two in stock. When I called the northern location, the repairs guy immediately knew what part I meant and reiterated that many people break this part. Then he asked “How often do you fold the bike?” I told him three times a day, every day of the work week, as I take the train, and he right away told me not to ride without the latch secured.
He explained that, while the latch itself should be fine, if I hit a big bump, it might unlatch. I commented that the damn thing was already too loosey goosey, even though I secure it often, and that the screw sucked. He agreed and said I should use some velcro ‘tape’ to secure the bike in the meantime, but to be very careful. I said I was using some wire, but as soon as I hung up I realized I could get some velcro at the desktop service center!
A quick call to my friends over there, and I had a huge roll and a much safer bike! I cut off a strip long enough to wrap around twice, just to be extra secure, and then brought the extra velcro home. You never know when you might need some velcro.
On the train, my buddy Hubbit quipped it was Brokebike Moutain, complete with the requisite “I can’t quit you.” jokes. Hence the title. Also I learned that the rear-light on my bike gets covered by my rack back and my shoulder bag sometimes, which means that now, as the days are getting shorter, I’m about to run into trouble. I need a rear light not just for safety, but because it’s the law here in Chicago. I tried moving around my existing light, but I couldn’t find a way to get it where it can be seen and, thus, be effective.
Meanwhile, much later in the night, I got another call from Nick, the tech at RTC, saying he did have the part, and it was $5 and not $13, and he put it in a bin with my name on it. The fact that he went on looking, almost seven hours later, is why I really like this bike shop!
Thursday afternoon, I went to the shop after work, taking a route that I did not like. It felt dangerous to me, and it was way too busy. But it was the most direct route, per google and gowalla, so I trusted them. At the shop, I mentioned the steering column was loose, so the guy, without a moment hesitation, took it apart to inspect. Amusingly, this took about an hour to put it back together, and in the end, the guys determined that I need a new ‘adjustor’. While, technically, my bike is out of warranty, they determined it had only been USED for a year, and that way it would work as a less-cost replacement part.
While they were trying to fit it back together, I took a wander around the store, looking at lights and chatting with a woman who didn’t drive. As I have only had a license for a year, I told her not to let anyone get her down about it. She helped me find the right light for my bag. The Sigma Micro R Single LED 2 Mode Red Mini Light fits perfectly on my shoulder bag, and its the perfect height to be seen as I bike. Safety is mine! I also checked out the Po Campo Rack Bag which is (alas) too wide and too short for what I want (a purse that can fit an iPad), but the look is fantastic. I emailed them, from the shop (yay, iPhone!) and they replied to tell me they had some prototypes which are just a teeny bit too briefcase for me. I’ll find the right iPurse one day!
Finally they had the bike back together and we replaced the part!
I thanked them all, they put my name on a list to get the other replacement part (should be a week or two), and they gave me better (safer!) directions back to the train station. Where I missed a train by 5 minutes and waited an hour, which meant biking home in the dark. And suddenly I was glad I’d picked up that new LED!