Sometimes, these are more than just mechanics, but also have deeper life analogues. The title of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance comes to mind. Sometimes they are just mechanics.
With more philosophical metaphors:
- when your bike breaks, that provides an unique opportunity to learn how to fix it: try to fix your own bike before taking it to the shop
- if the wind is blowing against you on the way out, it will likely blow behind you on the way back. But remember that the other way around also applies.
- always take one extra clothing layer than what you think you will need in your back pocket or sport bag, especially when time is changing fast in Sprint and Autumn. The weather on the road outside of town can change very quickly!
- if you took a turn, and it feels wrong, stop to check the map, and possibly backtrack to safety. When it feels wrong, it usually is a bad idea, e.g. roads where cars are too fast/too many. But if you take a wrong turn and it feels right, then follow it without fear and see what it leads to!
- don't carry a speedometer on your bike. Analysis can be done afterwards on Strava. The only measurement that matters is "how awesome am I feeling right now?". Live in the moment instead of checking your speedometer every 10 seconds.
- cycle when you body calls it out of addiction, not out a goal that you've made up that must be reached
With less philosophical metaphors:
- learn how much water and food you need to take for a trip. Otherwise, you will bonk at some time, when you least expect, it happens very suddenly.And then you better hope to God that you can find a food shop nearby. Luckily this was the case for Ciro's first and only bonk so far.And besides bonking all out, being tired and hungry makes you make stupid decision, especially where traffic is involved!Food is safety. Light is safety. Time is safety. Calm is safety. Chocolate bars and candy cannot count as lunch food, only delay lunch. A sandwich with ham cheese and salad is food. A bag of M&M's with a can of soda can bring you back from the dead.When you are not in familiar grounds, take twice as much as you think you might possibly ever need. Hofstadter's law.You will also learn that, surprise surprise, carbohydrates that you ate one or two days before a ride stay stored in your liver and muscles, and also greatly affect how quickly you will bonk, thus the concept of carbohydrate loading.And surprise surprise: heat can also make you bonk! Who would have thought!
- correct saddle hight is fundamental, your legs must be almost fully stretched at the bottom position
- it is impossible to reach the correct tire pressure with (cheap?) hand pumps, their only purpose is to fill up a flat tire so you can get home after a long ride. But a track pump.
- clean and lube your chain. The speed benefit is instantaneous and mind blowing. It also greatly improves gear shifting.This also prevents the chain from rusting, because the lube takes up the place where water would stay, and the muck makes it harder for water to evaporate.This is the most common bike maintenance mistake you see on the streets: people with that high pitched overly dry chain noise.
- when a piece on your bike breaks and has no clear name written on it, you can try to identify it Google images
- the more you watch YouTube maintenance videos without haste, the more you end up learn random new stuff that unexpectedly saves you later
- if you took a turn, and it feels wrong, stop to check the map, and possibly backtrack to safety. When it feels wrong, it usually is a bad idea, e.g. roads where cars are too fast/too many
- public place with lots of people are bicycle parking Hell, because due to anonymity and the large number of distractions, it becomes exponentially more likely that someone will fuck you bike somehow, e.g. by dropping it on the ground. Always search a bit for a reasonable place to park, and avoid overcrowded parking spaces at all costs.
- gear change matters
- when you get on your bike to start riding, start riding slowly and gradually switch up pedal forces and gears. Things may have shifted in a weird position as it gets kicked around in parking. Ciro managed to bend his derailleur like that!
- spin to win, AKA learn to user your gears
- it is not shameful to ride on your lower gears on a hill. You can actually go surprisingly fast with them, and conserve energy for later. Learn when to use each gear ratio.
- learn to identify your suppliers:
- www.wiggle.co.uk/: in Europe, this is best place to buy clothing from, and also good for some bike parts. It is the most organized website, and contains non-generic shit which Amazon is full of.For bike parts Amazon is also worth looking into however. Bike parts a bit different from clothing because you have to make sure that stuff fits, so you hopefully know exactly the part name before before buying it, and therefore website organization is not as crucial.Wiggle is however guilty of shameless: discounts that happen more often than not
- always take your lights off the bike into your bag when you park, anywhere, and for any amount of time, even if a quick stop. Drug addicts are everywhere, always ready love to steal and resell them.
- sometimes you do something stupid like going into a really muddy path, and it is really fun, because you've never been there in your life. But then your bike gets really dirty, and your feet are wet and freezing, and you promise yourself you will never do something that stupid again. But then you do it again in a different location, because it was too much fun. Once more unto the breach just comes to Ciro's mind every such time. Embrace this.
- Google Maps download offline maps. This works very reliably, you can select the area you want to download. The only downside is that Google maps can't reliably show a route offline, and it does not contain national cycle route routes. Or those features are impossible for a software engineer to get working after trying for about 2 hours.
- OpenStreetMap on browser with cycling layer: www.openstreetmap.org/#map=5/49.582/1.934&layers=C This is the best visualization of cycling routes I've found so far, contains both National Cycle Network and National Byway and a few others, and they are shown extremely clearly. But as a website it doesn't reliably work offline
- the OsmAnd app for Android is the best offline free-ish OpenStreetMap viewer I've found so far. You only have to pay after reaching 5 region downloads, and it is very cheap if you want to do so. The cycle route view is not amazing, the routes are not so clearly marked and mixed with very similarly colored big roads, but with a bit of effort you can make them out. No routing though
- I've heard Komoot can keep a predefined route (possibly auto planed) reliably offline, but haven't used it myself. I was not able to see National Cycle Route clearly marked anywhere on it
Sometimes you get annoyed to death with your bike not breaking or changing gears perfectly as you would like, and the people at the bike shop never do the job well enough.
The problem with bike shops is that the employees are already swamped with work, and they don't get paid any extra for doing more work.
As a result, paradoxically, they are often happier, and respect you more if you are trying to get them to help you to fix your own bike!
Also, for the same reason, they don't have the time to go for a quick test ride after a fix to ensure that the bug was actually fixed.
So they ignore things that would obviously be huge ridability benefits (although they might not be obvious to newbie customers), for which customers would gladly pay more money for.
But you start to learn how to do stuff yourself and it feel amazing when you finally get there (after infinite trial and error).
Ciro dreams of a bike shop that actually calls you for the appointment and then teaches you how to fix the thing.
So the best strategy is to have a backup bicycle, and when your main one breaks, you just try to to the fix yourself. That means:
- identifying the broken piece
- watching YouTube videos of how to do the job
- buying a replacement and any missing tools on Amazon
- giving it a shot
Then, if you fail to do the fix, that is OK, just take it to the bike shop, with the piece you've bought, and ask them to do it for you. At least this way you did not waste a golden opportunity to learn!
Ciro had a small accident in 2021. It wasn't ultra serious, a few cuts, but could have been worse. Here's a post mortem.
Ciro was going to cycle 120 km between two locations he had never cycled before. Ciro had cycled this distance before many many times, so he thought he could do it.
What went wrong:
- on both ends were cities, larger than those Ciro is used to
- on the start, was a port city. You do not want to cycle in port areas, ever! Lots of trucks, narrow side-walks, bad road, danger danger!
- on both sides, endless suburbia. This means you have to check your map every 3 seconds to know which little stree to turn, which is very hard without a way to attach your map to your bike. Ciro had his on his pocket. You lose a lot of time like that!
- there wasn't a lot of sunlight at the time of the year. Not criticial, but still, less than ideal.
- during the ride, part of the "well documented and safe cycle route" was closed off for repairs. It was unclear what the best alternative would be. Ciro went down a path, but it turned to be horrendous countryside, he had to pull his bike over fences
- by then, Ciro was tired and a bit late. He had only eaten sweets all day long. They give you calories, but there's always something missing in them.
- Ciro arrived at the very very large target city, and it was getting dark, and it was rush hour, lots of cars. This was already back on the official bike path, but even those paths are torduous in suburbia
- also, Ciro was meant to meet his wife later, and he was in a rush, worried that she would be worried about him
- at one point, Ciro took the wrong turn for a few hundred meters
- he realized, and turned back
- when coming back, now extra impatient because o the wrong turn, the place he had come from was actually one way street for a very short while until the right turn, so Ciro went against the correct direction...
- a car came. It was relatively slow, because the road was slight uphill for the car, and a turn. The slight downhill also meant Ciro was going a bit faster than he realized
- Ciro tried to go into the sidewalk anyways to make sure he was clear off the car (he was already). When he tried, the wheel stuck, and he flew forward, hitting a wall slightly
This was a perfect example of how many small things add up to an accident.
You have to know when you are tired and hungry and impatient. This is where huge danger lies.
Stop at a shop, eat, sit down. Darkness is not that dangerous if you have lights.
Take a train outside of large cities if needed. Crossing large cities is not something to be taken lightly. You need calm and time to do so safely.