Posted by: Emily | January 16, 2010

An evening of lube, chains and nipples

Up until three days ago, if I’d been asked to name more than 10 parts of a bicycle I would have struggled. Anything more complicated than mounting a water bottle cage or adjusting the height of my saddle would have resulted in extensive searches on YouTube for Idiot’s Guide style videos. You might say I was somewhat lacking in fundamental bike knowledge and skills. For this reason, last year I decided that doing a bicycle maintenance course would be a good idea. Naturally, this would be far more fun done in a group, so I managed to convince Stuart, Shaun, Ian and Martin to sign-up as well.

Last Thursday, was the first session in our five-week course. Things got off to a very sad start when we discovered that Martin had not been able to make it as his bicycle had been stolen. It then went from sad to bad, when we found ourselves unable to get into the building where the course was being held. Luckily, after thinking we might have to just return home, we finally found the way in and ended up in a nice warm room, where we were greeted by Andy, the instructor, a selection of teas and a large plate of biscuits. Things were looking up.

Session one started with a lesson in tools and the anatomy of a bicycle. This all sounds nice and easy. It was, until Andy started talking about nipples, spoke nipples to be exact, and I got the giggles. Had I been seven years old this might have been vaguely excusable. Aged somewhat older than this and seated in a room with three guys who might be friends, but are also people I work with, and a man I’d only just met, I was acutely aware of the fact that laughing out loud was probably best avoided. I somehow managed to control myself and even sat through a discussion on lube, the different kinds available and their various benefits, with a completely straight face. I was almost congratulating myself on how I’d managed to keep it together when Andy mentioned the N word again. This time Stuart noticed I was in difficulties and gave the game away, at which point any attempt at self-control was completely abandoned. Poor Andy. Luckily, he told us he was used to teaching school children and therefore had plenty of experience of dealing with these kind of situations. I thought it best not to ask whether I was the first grown-up (in age if nothing else) to have started laughing. I think I already know the answer.

Laughter over, during the last part of the session we had the opportunity to get our hands dirty and our bikes clean. I’d almost forgotten that my rims weren’t supposed to be black. All in all, it was a great first session and although we didn’t actually do that much in the way of maintenance, it’s really nice to be able to name the parts of my bike and know how they all fit together.

Incidentally, a Google search for “Bike Nipples” reveals 870,000 results, most of which, judging from the first few pages, are actually bicycle related. Brass ones are, apparently, the way to go, with aluminium ones prone to cracking. The things you learn…



  1. […] of the week #2 This has been a great week for new products. For a start, at our bike maintenance course we came across Rema TipTop Hand Cleaner, from the people who brought us those ubiquitous puncture […]

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