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Don't break the chain

02 July 201505:01AMlife

This is a bicycle chain breaking tool. That might seem overly literal, but don't worry. It'll be a metaphor soon enough.


I bought it on eBay for about six bucks - and the reason I had to is because of my bike. I'd been leaving it outside, first in the car bay where it was at least slightly undercover, and then on the staircase, where I thought it would be sheltered from the worst of the weather and thus probably still be fine.

It turns out that I was not the only one who thought keeping things in the staircase was a brilliant idea. The person on the next floor up has quite a lovely collection of pot plants out there, and as responsible pot plant owners tend to do, they were watering them on a daily basis. So although it was (mostly) out of the sea breeze and (mostly) out of the rain, my bike was being dutifully watered every day.

It took a while for me to figure out exactly what was going on, and the a while longer for it to twig that it was happening daily, and then a while after that for me to decide it was a problem and a while more to actually do something about it. And by that time, my chain had developed a little bit of rust.

Logically, I left it outside to receive yet another drenching, and started looking on the internet for how to fix a rusty chain. Most of the articles suggested lime juice as a temporary fix until you can get a new one, and so expecting to have to learn to replace a chain very soon, I bought myself a chain tool.

And then I did what I should have done to start off with - I actually looked at the chain. It really wasn't that badly rusted at all. I took it out for a test ride, and did some measurements, and while it was skipping a little bit where it never used to, there didn't seem to be anything else wrong with it. So despite having spent six bucks on a chain tool, I took another approach. I grabbed an old toothbrush, and some water, and some new chain lubricant, and basically spent an hour scrubbing several weeks of rust - and several years of accumulated road crap - out of my bike chain. And what do you know, it actually rode okay.

not my toothbrush

Emboldened by this, I decided to have a shot at fixing the rear brakes. It wasn't the pad, as I'd assumed - the cable just needed a little tweaking. And just like that, my bike is riding better than it had in months.

(Don't worry, this story is actually going somewhere.)

Now my bike is working just fine, and about a week later, the chain tool which it turns out I didn't actually need arrived and got put straight on the shelf, unused.

It turns out it's a lot easier to put a little effort in to regular bicycle maintenance and care than it is to replace the chain from scratch over and over while still leaving it in the firing line of the neighbour's watering can. Now, I'm one of those people with their bike inside their apartment. Turns out they're not just being pretentious about their bikes and trying to keep them nice and close. It actually keeps them in much better nick.

Even if it is a pain in the butt to get down the stairs.

So I've got this lovely working bike. What do I do with it?

(This is where the chain breaker and the metaphor come in. See?)

Enter July. Specifically, July school holidays. It's one of the busiest times of the year at work, and this year we've taken the pretty unprecedented step of converting all the staff parking bays to visitor bays. Essentially, nobody is allowed to drive to work, on pain of having to park slightly further away.

This doesn't affect me in the slightest - I take the train - but I'm going to respond to this challenge anyway by riding my bike to work every day of the July holidays. I'm still really proud that I rode my bike almost every day of uni, and I'm a bit sad that I don't ride it as much any more. This is my chance to quite literally Get Back On The Bike by Not Breaking The Chain.

don't bike the chain


I am being 100% straightforward here. This story filled with bicycle metaphors is still entirely about actual bicycles.

I honestly don't know what else you were expecting.

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