I have a very perfect agreement with my Prince Charming: I get rule of the kitchen, he takes care of bike maintenance. Yes, I live in the fantasy world where I hop on to a clean bike without lifting a finger and simply notify him of any malfunctions from a cranky derailleur to a flat tire (don’t even think about it ladies, he’s taken). In return, it’s agreed that I provide three nutritious, fresh and delicious meals a day, riding snacks, baked treats, and copious cups of hot tea prepared to his very specific specifications. Since I love to cook, bake and prepare food for people and he’s more than handy with a set of Allen keys, it’s a match made in heaven.
Sometimes, however, that perfect agreement seems like a deal with the devil. My Prince Charming, away racing his steed, hadn’t been away more than a few days when I felt it starting to happen. That weird feeling when you shift gears on your bike and it just doesn’t feel right. You put it out of your mind as a fluke but the next time you shift you know your cable is hanging by a wire or two. “Why now when he is away?!” I whined into the strong hurricane-like headwind, simultaneously questioning why I had read more about dough kneading techniques than wheel bearings and bottom brackets. I was over an hour and many hills from home with a gear choice of big and heavy or spin-like-Fred-Flinstone and go nowhere easy.
Over Skype that evening, I was told to take my bike to a mechanically-inclined friend or a bike shop. “Five minutes and it will be all sorted. You don’t have to worry,” Prince Charming told me. Five minutes? That sounded annoying simple. I had watched him change cables before, helped a few times even, and it didn’t look too difficult. I had learned to wash a bike, then change a tube, replace brake pads, and I had even learned to index gears. I wasn’t a grease monkey by any standard but I also wasn’t a damsel in distress. “I think I’m going to do it myself,” I replied decidedly.
Of course, like any smart princess, I had a strategy. First, there was Dave. Dave was the kind English-speaking (thank goodness!) mechanic at Bike Breaks in Girona who got me the right cable, gave me a quick tutorial in non-mechanic speak, and told me to bring my bike in if I had any problems. I wasn’t sure if he was doubting my conviction or giving me a safety net so I could jump daringly into the world of bike maintenance but I chose to believe the later. Second, of course, was Prince Charming, who would be available by phone to answer the small panic-inducing questions like the inevitable “should I cut the cable now?!”. Lastly, I had visual guidance on YouTube from a video that promised “it wasn’t a difficult job”.
The next morning, I laid everything out next to my bike: Cable cutters, Allen keys, electrical tape, laptop with loaded video and Skype launched, camera (to photograph where the cable would come out), gear cable, the end crimpy-thing, and baby wipes (ewww grease). I was ready and, to my delight, it was actually really easy! I shifted into the hardest gear, unwrapped the bar tape, released the bolt that held the cable, slipped it through the twisty-gear thing at the back, out of all the cable housing and yanked it though the shifter. Then I backed-up the video. Everything looked different. My cable was bunching on one side.
The first Skype phone call when out. “That’s never happened to me before,” I heard on the other end. “Really?” I replied, totally disheartened. I had to manually manipulate the cable to get into the right gear and, we realized, I hadn’t checked to make sure the cable head was visible in the shifter before I started pulling the cable. No matter what I did I couldn’t see the cable head. I shifted up. I shifted down. I pulled. I pushed. I cut more cable. I regretted cutting more cable. I made several more phone calls. I re-watched the video another ten times. It was looking like Dave was going to be my knight in shining armour.
I resolved to make another trip into the bike shop and admit my failure but, out of annoyance (and partly in hope of a miracle) I continued to fiddle with the shifter leaver. Like magic only heard of in fairy tales, my cable head suddenly dropped into view! The hundredth time was the charm! Using the one centimetre of frayed cable still poking out the other side, I grabbed the cable head and hoisted it up in the air like I had just won a trophy. From there it was mostly smooth sailing as I slid the new cable through the shifter and threaded it down the bike. A few more phone calls and a 20 minute lesson in cable tension later, I was setting my gears, trimming the end and putting the end-crimpy thing on. No damsel in distress here, just a greasy princess who rode happily ever after.