Sunday, April 10, 2016

Thoughts on Hardware Stores and Bike Rides

Giving my bike a new chain and new brake pads plus replacing my set of tiny wrenches.
On a sunny afternoon, I pushed my commuter bike into our driveway, planning to give it at least a cursory clean up. After much wiping, picking and dislodging dirty globs of grease, I measured and confirmed there was chain stretch - the source of annoying gear grinding these past few weeks. However, I was still prepared to put off replacing the chain (I had a new chain already reserved for this task) for the sake of setting out on a deserved long ride. Unfortunately, during cleanup I'd also noticed rear brake pad wear. If I went for a ride I could also pick up replacement pads and swap them during the same session as chain replacement.

I can justify just about anything to get in a ride!

Just as I had made my decision, ready to clean up grimy hands, change my clothes, and head out, our oldest teenage son returned from work - fatigued as he often is - and plopped into a chair on our front porch, kicked his shoes off and closed his eyes.

I know an opportunity when I see one.

I decided to change course, commit to necessary bike maintenance while also catching up with my son. The ride could be postponed for an hour.

So we chatted for a while as I replaced the chain, scrounged through our stash of parts, and miraculously came up with a mismatched pair of brake pads - one new, one gently used - thanks to my husband who is a collector of some items I would ordinarily throw away. (Who besides my husband swaps only one brake pad?)

Unfortunately I had also realized I had never found my set of tiny metric wrenches, misplaced or lost some months ago, but ideal in tight spaces, especially when fiddling with cantilever brakes. At least I had sun/son for company! I painstakingly used an adjustable wrench and eventually got the job done. However, I vowed to re-purchase a new wrench set that very day. With bike maintenance behind me and conversation exhausted, my son eventually retreated inside and I was free to go.

I mentioned to my husband that I planned on stopping by a hardware store and he put in his request for a door closure; our front storm door had refused to swing fully shut lately and needed attention.

As I pedaled, cruising towards the waterfront trail, I mused about how often bike rides involve a visit to a hardware store. Sometimes that's the sole reason for a ride!

Five miles later I cruised the Ace Hardware aisles and found a nice Craftsman wrench set, complete with cloth storage wrap - and better quality than my previous one - plus door closure, and I couldn't resist grabbing the store's iconic salty, and tasty paper bag of popcorn this store always has available for free.

Tickled to have that satisfying task behind me, I continued on, bouyed by more expansive lake views, finally arriving at Mallett's Bay Bicycles late afternoon for their grand opening day. There hasn't been a bike shop in this neighboring community for many years, but with renewed interest in cycling, their proximity to the Causeway Trail, smack on Lake Champlain Bikeways route, and location on Colchester's Mallett's Bay, this shop should fill a much needed niche in the community. Indeed, Charlie, the owner has been welcomed by residents and neighboring store owners, returning to his hometown after many years away. His shop will rent bikes, sell new ones, and provide service, plus the owner has years of experience around the country working in bicycle shops. I chatted with Charlie and his girlfriend for a while, assured they connected with the appropriate resources for support. Open for one day and already they had several bikes in for repair and maintenance. I wish you much luck, Charlie!

With that wonderful experience still in my mind I pedaled the remaining circuit homeward, tired and fulfilled with family connections, bike maintenance, a pleasure and errand ride - an all-around industrious day.


  1. What a wonderful day. I love how easily conversation flows while we undertake the simple tasks of daily life -- cleaning a bike, replacing a chain. Lovely.

  2. Sometimes timing is right for certain things and I've learned to be flexible, especially if I get the chance to connect with our teenagers.

  3. It does sound like you had a lovely day.

    One thing I've noticed is that when I stop in hardware, bike or other kinds of shops during a ride, it's somehow easier to chat with proprietors and employees.

    1. I agree. Perhaps it's our slower pace or satisfaction that we've had exercise, which puts us in a better frame of mind. I think it's a blend!

  4. hmm popcorn.... My local ACE does that too.


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