Zen and the artwork of mountain bike upkeep


A self-confessed hopeless case within the workshop, Matt Wragg was pressured to be taught one finish of an allen key from the opposite… and with it interior peace

I’m not a pure mechanic. Bike elements break in my palms, bolts strip, threads rip and instruments shatter. Many a night I’d sheepishly besiege my mechanically-minded neighbour’s home, nursing the most recent casualty of my heavy handedness like a wounded chook, hoping he may repair the mess I had made.

That every one modified once I moved to Southern France. When your useful neighbour is a continent away and a visit to a motorcycle store is no less than an hour every means, self-sufficiency turns into vital.

Instruments got here first, as a result of instruments are a great substitute for expertise once you’re beginning out. Having the precise software means that you’re not improvising, and there are normally directions to observe.

A workstand, good allen keys and adjustable wrenches have been added to my toolbox. Quickly specialist instruments adopted, bearing presses, EZ-outs, and a excessive strain airline, lastly a home made work bench with a heavy obligation vice.

My £9.99 software field may not comprise all of it and a workshop started to take form. At present it’s one in all my favorite elements of the home, and putting in some locking metallic cabinets is my purpose for this winter, probably a heater too.

By having the precise instruments at hand, fewer bolts have been being stripped and my bikes have been able to experience extra of the time.

The ultimate step was to look inwards.

The extra time I spent engaged on bikes, the extra I began to recognise my patterns.

A lot of the time, the breakages got here once I was being impatient, distracted or pissed off. My pure intuition is to tug arduous on every software, however as I slowed down I may pay extra consideration to how a lot pressure I used, to ensure issues have been lined up earlier than I utilized strain.

The massive breakthrough was studying how you can be methodical. It could sound apparent, however realising that if I take a deep breath and plan my assault, I’ve a fairly good likelihood of fixing no matter is damaged. Being attentive to my stress ranges, and strolling away once I begin to get aggravated is one other big step.

Lastly, I recognise the bounds of my talents – I may actually open a fork damper, however the likelihood of me getting it again collectively in working situation are slim, so I recognise the purpose the place I must cease and take it to knowledgeable.

Up to now, I’d spiral. When the very first thing went incorrect, I’d panic. Appalled at my very own incompetence I’d blunder forwards, hoping to set it proper and show myself worthy. Throw in my issue at judging my very own power and shortly I’d have that small, however important shard of damaged bike mendacity accusingly on the ground.

At present, aside from the internals of my suspension, I construct my very own bikes from the bottom up. I’ve even acquired over my hatred for bleeding brakes. Whereas I’ll by no means make it as a race mechanic, I do one thing that I believe is much more exceptional and surprising for me: I get pleasure from it.

Somewhat than a supply of tension, time within the workshop has turn into an escape. When the world is quick and complicated, I can tune all of it out and give attention to getting only one small element proper.

What I didn’t count on once I began to turn into a greater mechanic was how a lot it will have an effect on the remainder of my life too. That technique of studying how you can take a step again from the issue is helpful in so many locations – whether or not it’s a kitchen faucet leaking water into the cabinet, a dry stone wall collapsing within the backyard or altering brake pads on the automotive.

At present, when issues go incorrect, I do know what to do. Perhaps not particularly, however I do know I can break the issue down into its part levels and plan a method for fixing it, and cease to get assist when I’m in over my head.

It could sound like an empty cliche, however studying to be a greater bike mechanic has modified my life. Now if solely folks have been as logical to determine…

Who’s Matt Wragg?

Matt is a contract photographer and author primarily based close to Good, France. He has been a distinguished voice in mountain bike journalism and images for greater than a decade, his ardour is telling tales concerning the bicycles we experience and the those that experience them.

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