Monday, August 11, 2008

A Clean Bike is a Happy Bike: The Maintenance Clinic!

(from July 22, 2008)

I'm happy to report that our recent Luna Chix Bike Care Clinic "A Clean Bike is a Happy Bike," was a great success. This is probably only remarkable on a personal level, because none of the women I was teaching really know my history. It was only three short years ago when I was still fumbling through my own bicycle maintenance and repair, and would never have dreamed of conducting a clinic on my own.

It was January, 2005. With my bike in the repair stand, the Big Book of Bicycle Maintenance open on top of the washing machine and a large tool in my hand, I carefully read the steps for removing the crank arms. The little picture in the book didn't look like what I saw in front of me in the bike stand. After re-reading, and still not getting it, I sighed and looked at my watch. It was already 9:30pm. I paced back and forth, then decided to call Greg, my mechanic.

I apologized for calling a bit late, then described the situation to him and asked, "So, do I need a special tool to remove the crank arms?"

He spoke calmly and deliberately, "Laura, I want you to put down the wrench and step away from the bike."

"But," I protested, "I think I have it here!"

"Laura," he said with a slight chuckle, "I promise you, I will do this first thing in the morning. Just, please, let me do it."

I sighed, "OK."

Fast forward three and a half years, and here I am in front of a group of women teaching them how to identify parts of their bike, what to look for in terms of wear, how best to clean their bikes, and answering their questions about general maintenance issues. I want to call Greg and tell him that I never gave up and that although I still require supervision, I can now pull and install cranks, adjust my derailleurs, and teach anyone how to change a flat tire.

When I thought about doing a Bike Care Clinic for Team LUNA Chix as a fund raiser for the Breast Cancer Fund, I went to B&L Bikes, a local bike shop that has been really supportive of Team LUNA Chix in the past. Scott at B&L was happy to give us space and host the clinic. I asked what cleaning products they used there in the shop, since many of the girls coming to the clinic would then have their bikes serviced at B&L. He said they like Muc-Off for a cleaner, and Dumonde Tech for a lubricant. I purchased both to try them out, then contacted both companies to see if they would be interested in supporting our clinic. Everyone was eager to be a part of it, and readily sent us samples and information.

Actually, the Muc-Off people didn't have individual samples; they sent me several bottles of product and lots of stickers. I went to Target and got little sample spray bottles and a funnel, and created my own little sample give-aways of the product. They came out great!

Everyone who attended the clinic got a goodie bag with sample product as well as a mat (doormat) for her to place the handlebars of her bike on when she's cleaning it. This is what the goodie bags looked like:

The day of the clinic, we met at 7:30am at the Solana Beach train station for a ride beforehand.

Our ride up the coast toward Carlsbad was mild and lightly cloudy as the marine layer kept the sun from beating down on us.

When we returned to Solana Beach and got to the shop, our team leader Rhonda had already set up a tent and chairs. I was a bit nervous about things going smoothly, but already things were going smoothly!

I had intended it to be a "hands-on" clinic in which all the girls would clean their own bikes, but it seemed everyone preferred to sit and relax.

I pulled out the doormats I had got for the girls to rest their handlebars on, arranged the Muc-Off bike cleaner and Dumonde Tech lube in a readily accessible display, looked around for the bike with the dirtiest drivetrain, and proceeded to explain how to clean and lube a bike.

I started by talking about the parts of the drivetrain, the importance of knowing your equipment and not being intimidated by it, and how to know when you should clean or lube your chain.

I talked to them about chain stretch and checking your chain for wear.

After thoroughly scrubbing the chain, I showed them how to clean their wheels and cassette. I have a handy bucket (thank you, Mittens) that I use to carry my brushes. It can also hold water for rinsing the detergent off my bike and components.

By the time I got ready to apply the lubricant, the girls were refreshed and motivated to clean their own bikes. They pulled out their mats and got to work.

We talked about only applying the lube to the chain, and the importance of not over-lubricating.

It was a great clinic, and everyone was happy to learn and participate. I felt especially happy that I could actually pull it all together and answer almost all the questions that were asked.

Special thanks go to my mechanics/teachers over the past few years: Chad, Greg, Ryan, Ron, Steve R and Steve K. Thanks for believing in me and teaching me.

Thanks to B&L Bike and Sport Solana Beach for hosting our "A Clean Bike is a Happy Bike" Clinic and Breast Cancer Fund fundraiser. You can donate to the Breast Cancer Fund any time by clicking on the link to their homepage.

A shout-out and big thanks go to Kenny Souza, our San Diego Clif Bar rep, who provided us with some great swag and prizes. In case there's any confusion, Clif and LUNA are the same company.

Big thanks go to Muc-Off bike cleaner and Dumonde Tech Racing Oils Bike Lubricant. Ask for them at your bike shop. If they don't have them, ask if they can get them.

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