Here’s a question for you: Can one be so knowledgeable about the workings of a bicycle that when out riding you find yourself over analyzing every odd-sounding creak instead of just enjoying the moment?
For me, and I believe the vast majority of cyclists, I haven’t reached that point yet. While I do pay attention to the “noises” emitted by my two-wheeled machines, for the most part, I just like turning the pedals and taking in the view. But having said that, it’s nice to understand the basics of taking care of your bicycle.
Mathieu’s Cycle & Fitness, the bike shop where I work — and learn — and who is a sponsor of my Pedal2Page cycling blog (pedal2page.com), conducted a clinic on Oct. 16 at its Farmingdale store to share maintenance tips and connect with cyclists in the community.
“I did the clinic because I like teaching people about bikes,” said Taylor Merk-Wynne, who spearheaded the event and was joined by David Houston, a colleague from Mathieu’s other shop in Oakland.
The two big takeaways for me from the evening were as follows:
— If you are located close to either of Mathieu’s two shops and need assistance buying or fixing a bike, you would be hard-pressed to find a more competent and friendly staff anywhere else. While I’m mostly familiar with the Farmingdale site’s Alan Cummingham and John Waller — two people who have “wrenched” on my bikes for years — seeing Taylor and David in action at the clinic was a remarkable experience. The saying “they’ve forgotten more than I’ll ever know” came to mind as I watched them dispense their knowledge in such a way that even I could understand it. David was diagnosing issues correctly before even examining a bike; a kind of “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers” moment, indeed. Simply put, Taylor and David know their stuff.
— When it comes to looking after your bicycle, the most important thing to remember is to keep the drivetrain clean. As Taylor said, “It all starts and ends there.” The two mechanics emphasized the need to remove debris from a bike’s chain and how to properly lubricate it, in addition to discussing how well a bike performs when cassettes and bottom brackets don’t get ignored. All this helps to prolong the life of a bicycle and, ultimately, means less frequency when it comes to replacing parts.
While the turnout for the clinic was small, it was beneficial for those who came; affording individual attention on bikes by staff members. And it was a great opportunity for Mathieu’s Cycle & Fitness to build on its relationships with those who love riding their bicycles. That in itself made holding the clinic — and possibly future ones — worth all the effort.