Written by Georgia Marjoribanks
My cycling obsession started when a friend loaned me their fancy pants road bike for a few months. This friend was travelling overseas and couldn’t bear the thought of their precious bike gathering dust in a garage somewhere.
I was a student at the time, so I was always riding cheap second-hand rust-buckets that I found in the university classifieds. When I jumped on my friend’s roadie, I felt like I had super powers. That bike took every scrap of energy that I pushed into its pedals and converted it into pure speed. Riding felt smooth, effortless and wildly addicting.
It was only after I had registered for the triathlon that I realised how tough the bike leg was going to be. The course climbed steeply through King Edward Park, gaining 600 metres of elevation over Newcastle’s gorgeous beaches. This climb was a killer. And I was going to have to do it 5 times!
The day of the triathlon came around fast. I soon found myself battling up that dreaded hill in the sun, alongside hundreds of other bikies. On the fourth lap, a friendly looking guy in a triathlon suit was pedalling along beside me.
He looked at my bike and said “Great bike you’ve… got there”. I swelled with pride. I sucked enough air into my lungs to say “Thanks… I love it”. We both put our heads down and kept battling up the hill.
He turned to me again and said, in between deep hill-climbing breaths “Promise me… after this... you’ll clean that chain for me”. He wiped the sweat off his forehead and continued “If you look after that bike better… you’ll fly up this hill”.
I wasn’t sure how to take this advice. A tiny part of me was offended. I loved that bike. Who was this stranger telling me that I didn’t look after it properly?
I kept grinding up the hill. I noticed that my pedals were slipping occasionally. I became aware that it was getting harder to change gears too. Maybe Mr. Nosy-Triathlon-Suit was onto something.
I survived the rest of the race and told a friend about my odd encounter on the climb. They laughed and said “When was the last time you cleaned the chain?”
I had to admit that I had never cleaned it. I had never done any kind of maintenance on that bike. I had convinced myself that it was too difficult and too complicated for anyone except a professional bike mechanic.
My friend convinced me to have a crack at it anyway. I wiped the sand and grime off the chain with an old rag. I cleaned the crud out of my rear cassette with an old toothbrush.
I went to a bike shop and bought myself little bottles of chain degreaser and chain lube. I watched a bunch of youtube tutorials about cleaning your bike. I followed their advice and soon my bike looked shiny and new. I took it out for a test ride and I felt like I could fly again. My bike and I were a team now. If I looked after the bike, the bike would look after me. Together we could go anywhere.
Quite a few years have passed since that triathlon. These days I love spending lazy weekends tinkering around with my bikes, watching youtube clips and experimenting.
It’s really empowering to know that I can solve problems and learn new skills. So, before you take your bike out for the Heart Foundation Gear Up Girl ride, do me a favour and show your bike some love. Just wiping down the chain will make your ride on March 11 so much more enjoyable. If you’re riding with kids, encourage them to do the same with their bikes. We’ll have a whole generation of independent bike mechanics on our hands!
I can’t wait to see you and your well-loved bikes next weekend!