Getting my hands dirty (maybe)

Every night my dreams are haunted by the anguished cries of my neglected bicycle in the hallway. I am a truly dreadful bike owner, the type who rides her bike every day for miles, then just chucks it in a corner without as much as a squirt of WD40 or puff of air in the tyres until the chain is rusted through and I’m riding on the wheel rims. I’m not completely hopeless though – I’m not afraid of dirt and have been known to successfully repair my own punctures on several occasions (yeah – go me!). I’m just beyond lazy when it comes to day to day bike tlc.

Over the years, this has cost me a fortune in repairs and part replacements, and given bicycle mechanics from east London to south Manchester some of the worst cases of neglect they’ve ever seen, cases which they no doubt still reminisce over with a shudder of disgust. There’s probably a support group somewhere to counsel mechanics who’ve worked on my bikes.

Confession time: I am a bike abuser and I need help.

The first step in my recovery programme arrived this week in the mail:


I’ll be honest, I bought it for that lovely illustration on the cover and the little blue elastic band closure (just a little bit Moleskine-esque don’t you think?). I especially liked the lyrical blurb on the back cover:
‘Anyone who has ridden a bicycle to work, whizzing past traffic, the wind behind you, coasting in at a fraction of the time of public transport, knows that there is a romance and magic to cycling. The bike is remarkable in its simplicity and easy to take for granted,* but all romance needs to be worked at, and your bicycle is no exception.” *Insert guilty face here

Inside it’s 111 nicely designed pages with loads of lovely clear diagrams and well-written instructions on basic things: puncture repair, brakes, gears and most importantly for me, maintenance.




Probably not one for anyone above ‘clueless’ level but really, really good for people like me. I’m actually looking forward to rolling me sleeves up and giving my poor bike a long-overdue clean down and check over. I might even lubricate that chain…

If I was to have a criticism it would be that are some beautiful photos in there of people riding or working on their bikes, but not one of them is a woman (except one who’s sitting in a café drinking a cuppa). What’s that all about?

Apart from that little gripe, this is definitely going to become a well-thumbed go-to reference for me and hopefully keep my repair bills down a bit!

The Bike-Owner’s Handbook by Peter Drinkell. Published by Cicada.


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