Two weeks ago, when it was about 40 degrees, I decided to take my ride outside.
My road bike was still boxed up from California, it was too windy for my time trial bike, and so I settled on my cyclocross bike. I was excited to ride it. I like that bike. It’s a black Surly and damn it just looks cool. Surly, as in brand name code for STAY AWAY. I feel like a real cycling bad ass when I ride it. Like I can ride down the street in the middle of the street taking control of the road and flipping the bird to anyone that gets in my way and who will not respond in any way other than to brush it off and leave me alone because after all who would approach a woman crazy enough to (a) ride a bike, (b) ride a bike in this weather, and (c) ride a bike with a warning written across it – SURLY – as in do not approach this surly, disgruntled, death-wish of a woman crazy enough to find joy in riding when it’s this cold outside.
I went downstairs to pull my billboard of a bike out of the rack when I noticed it wasn’t fully ready to ride. My mouth grimaced, my eyes narrowed. Even though I have multiple bikes, it’s a miracle if any one of them is fully assembled and functional at the same time. A miracle, I tell you.
Now, there are three pieces of cycling equipment that I cannot live without; a seat, a computer that tells me cadence, and my Power Tap wheel. But this was my cyclocross bike, so there would be no need for cadence or Power Tap. So, I had backed of my expectations a bit. Just a seat would suffice for today. It was just an easy ride.
But I soon learned that in addition to seat, cadence, power tap, there are other key components to a bicycle that you cannot ride without. Things you cannot compromise. And most of those things seemed to be missing today from my cross bike.
First, the front wheel. Off. Ok, one front wheel to attach – not a big deal. This is something even I have mastered.
Second, two tires to pump up. Sometimes a little tricky. We have four pumps but I seem to have the permit to operate only one of these (permit granted when Chris put the pump in front of me and said this is pump is for you to use, as in this and only this is the pump that you can use). The other pumps have left me pumping to broken valves or exploding inner tubes. I am leary about pumping the tires today because I cannot find my pump. I settle on an imposter pump and then realize I have no idea how much air to pump into my tires. I look on the tire for some clue – nothing – and then decide that my time trial tires get 100 PSI, mountain bike tires get 40PSI so using my sophisticated mathematical skills – I take the average to get 70 PSI. Of course, having pulled a mathematical equation into this I feel certain that it was right because how many times has math ever let you down?
Wheel on, tires pumped up, I am so ready to ride.
Wait a minute. Brakes. Something is slightly off with the brakes. They are sticking out, disconnected. That’s not right. Not like my mountain bike, these brakes were trickier and required a little more pulling and cursing. It made me rethink brakes. Necessary at all? Really, would I be going that fast? Could I put my hand down in enough time to stop the wheel? Finally they reattached so I would not have to find out.
Now I am ready to ride and stop. So, I rolled the bike towards the stairs but sensed that something was still not right. Something was missing. A critical component was not there.
There were no pedals. Crank arms – yes, pedals – no. No pedals? Seriously, no pedals? I looked around hoping to find a pair of pedals laying somewhere in the mess before me. No pedals.
Plan B – what is plan B? How often do you need a plan B for pedals? I think about it for a moment and decide that Plan B I find another bike with pedals. I choose my own. I go over to my time trial bike and remember that this will require a pedal wrench.
I am no stranger to wrenches. I have been known to use a torque wrench from time to time. I will admit that the torque wrench is the one tool out there that has intrigued me because (1) I found my husband sleeping with it one day, (2) it makes a cool clicking sound, and (3) it looks like that thing they stick in your ear at the doctor’s office – how fun! But this doesn’t call for a torque wrench – it’s a pedal wrench. Different wrench all together. Though same torque might be applied. So actually it’s a pedal torquing wrench.
Anyways, into the work closet where Chris has fashioned a peg board full of tools. Actually, mostly full of wrenches. Is it necessary to have a dozen wrenches that all look the same? I think for a minute about my shower with about a dozen different shampoos and decide to call it even.
I grab a wrench, any wrench does it matter, and try to take a pedal off. The pedals don’t move. Hmmm. Right tighy? Lefty loosey? Or am I just getting this confused with whitey tighties and loosey goosey? I tried moving the wrench right, left, turning it, twisting it, planting my foot into the carpeting while heaving and ho-ing with wrench in hand.
Eventually I got the left pedal off. But the right one wouldn’t move. Nothing helped. How was I going to ride with one pedal? Not very long. Imagine the world’s longest single-legged pedaling drill. But then again, I’d be doing it atop my Surly bike so it might make perfect sense – a crazy woman, riding in the middle of winter, using only her left leg. Perfect.
I finally accept that the right pedal was not coming off of my other bike. And then I spied something. Perched in his trainer, there was my husband’s road bike with two perfect pedals. Surely they are the same size as mine, I thought. Just to be sure, I put the other pedal on top of his pedal and it’s a perfect match. Surely those would work. I set about to steal the left pedal from his crank set and soon had two pedals in hand.
Two left pedals. Ok, who was the genius that decided the right pedal could only go on the right crank and the left pedal on the left? Obviously that genius had never stood sweating in a fleece lined outfit with a pedal wrench in hand desperately snatching any pedal from any crank arm that would release the damn pedal from it’s tightened grip.
Left pedal back on, I was going to have to take the right one. Not easy, and twenty – yes twenty minutes later I finally had two pedals – one left, one right – in hand. Thankfully they go on much easier than they come off.
Finally I was outside enjoying my ride – pedaling, with both legs. I wasn’t sure how far I went or even how long I was gone because once I started riding I realized the computer wasn’t working. Screw it, I thought. Just ride.
When I got back home, I hung the bike in the garage and went inside. A short while later, Chris came back from his ride.
“Did you put pedals on your bike?” he asked.
Oh no. He must have seen my Surly hanging in the garage and totally ignored the surly-stay away-from-me-crazy-woman-on-board-all-black-bike-warning. I looked at him cautiously. I wanted him to be proud that I put the pedals on but also I wanted him to find himself fully suited up for a ride only to discover no pedals on his bike. How’s that for calling it even? Or, better yet, no seat, no brakes, no water bottle holders, faulty computer. It’s not like I’ve ever found any of my bikes like that.
But I quickly realized he had the skills to remedy any and all of the situations in an instant so I took my mind game a little further into the zone of domesticity that I control with speedy skill and tact. What if you sat down for a poop to find no toilet paper? Or what if I refused to refrigerate the milk for a week? Or what if all of the kitchen towels disappeared? Or what if I hid your pillow? Or what if instead of cleaning your clothes I just made them dirtier?
That’ll teach him.
As I sat there devising my plans for domestic sabotage, I could feel his impending fear of bike part destruction by way of Liz’s hands because I still had not answered the question about the pedals. First rule for females taking bike maintenance into your own hands – admit nothing. Chris knew that if I had taken the pedal wrench into my hands, nothing good could come of it. Something had suffered – some part was now laying broken or – better yet – destroyed.
”Women, did you scratch the cranks?” he asked, suspiciously, and as always, preceding his warning with woman.
Did I scratch the cranks. Really? Did I scratch the cranks? Can you even scratch cranks? Based on the fact that I nearly had to rip the flesh off my palms while torquing a wrench to get the pedals to turn a centimeter, I would say the damn cranks must be made of steel and sealed with concrete so how on earth could I have scratched them? Has he any idea of the amount of pain I endured while sweating buckets under my balaclava and tights just to get the wrench and pedals to move in the same direction at the same time? And he cares if they are SCRATCHED?
I looked at him. I didn’t answer. He had pedal pushed me just a little too far and I think he got the point. But just in case he didn’t, I didn’t happen to share the fact that the pedals that may or may not have scratched the cranks were from his bike. Domestic sabotage plans totally unncessary because this time I had vengeance in the form of bike maintenance up my sleeve. The pedaless bike would be my secret revenge for him pushing my pedals about scratching those cranks, or better yet for not even having pedals on those cranks in the first place (line of domestic division in our house says man fixes the bikes, woman never touches tools, trust me it's better that way if you've ever seen me with tools). And instead of sharing my secret with him I would wait for him – hopefully suited up in a fleece lined outfit for 40 degrees standing in our 70 degree basement – to figure that out on his own, at a later time.