Bicycles are Made of Many Things

At some point in the last month, it occurred to me that I could only get to places very quickly or very slowly, with no in-between. The solution was, of course, to buy a bicycle.

Now, I didn’t want to go down to a bicycle shop to buy one, because of my terrible fear that the shopkeepers would sense my bicycle-related ignorance and swindle me. I much prefer to swindle myself by buying online, you see.

So that’s what I did- I poked about for a woman’s mountain bike, and eventually settled on the Nashbar AT1. Now that I’ve bought it and put it together, this would be an excellent time for people to tell me why this particular bicycle is terrible and should be avoided at all costs.

Insecurities aside, the problem with ordering a bicycle online is that when it arrives at your doorstep in a box, it will be only partially put together. There are two ways to fix this: You can bring it to an aforementioned bicycle shop and have them put it together (for a price that may be inflated because you didn’t buy it from them), or you can put it together yourself. Or you can let it sit in its deconstructed state for years because you are too afraid of messing it up.

Now, why would I pay a bicycle shop to put it together for me when I could instead purchase all the tools myself for the same amount of money, and then put it together inexpertly over a longer period of time?

Not yet in place: Front tire, rim brake, pedals, handlebars, seat, reflectors, mysterious solitary screw. 
So I purchased a 3-way hex wrench, some grease, and a pedal wrench, and I immersed myself in YouTube videos by professionals who can put together a bicycle in under six minutes. Six minutes in on my end, I was still trying to figure out how to open the grease tube.
Do you just… cut it? Poke a hole through it? Squeeze really hard and hope the right end pops?

I masterfully put in the bicycle seat, and the handlebars only gave me a little bit of trouble regarding which way they were supposed to face (there were so many wires attached). It was then that I realized that all three of the bicycle construction videos I was watching just assumed that the front brake wire would already be securely threaded through the brake caliper. As one does.

Getting the wire in wasn’t so bad. Getting the brake pads to sit correctly, the caliper to pull evenly, and the brake handle to brake the right amount was incredibly fidgety and difficult. (But, after watching the fourth video eight times, I learned words like “caliper” and “brake pads”.)

A small break for tea, a spot of despair, and an aimless reading of my new phone’s manual, which helpfully informed me of the location of the camera and the volume buttons.

The rim brake probably took up most of my time. Mounting the front wheel wasn’t so bad, nor was putting the chain in place, something that I usually had a helpful father around for. (Turns out, it’s not actually that difficult. Probably something I could have stood to learn earlier in my life.)

Floor status: Messier. The five different screwdrivers pictured were borrowed from my employer’s toolbox. My employer has been an adult quite a bit longer than I have, and has many screwdrivers to show for it.

And then, suddenly, I was done. The pedals seemed like the easiest part to do, which is suspicious, because they were the only part that came with installation instructions. I probably messed them up in a way that will only reveal itself when I am nine miles down a wilderness trail with no cell reception.

But I have a bicycle now, which is delightful. At this point all I need are lights, a kickstand, and a bell, which is apparently required by law in New Jersey. Adults are not required to wear a helmet in New Jersey (but yes, I have one, since I don’t trust this bicycle to not spontaneously fall apart under me at twenty miles an hour), but everyone must have a noise maker on their bicycle. Everyone.

I threw the tri-wrench in my bag and took the bicycle for a test ride. It was fortunate that I had the tri-wrench, as both the seat and the handlebars immediately went in opposite directions. Whoever put this thing together clearly hadn’t tightened the bolts down well enough.

I will neither confirm nor deny whether I had a noise-maker on my bicycle at the time of the ride.

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