My grandmother used to tell the women in my family not to let their men do all the driving because driving was an important skill to maintain, not only for one's own independence, but also in order to be a more able and prepared partner.
How many of you let, or have let, other people do some or all of your wrenching? Don't worry, my hand's up, too.
When I started riding, I wouldn't have known where to start. I bought a book, but with no experience, it was simply too much to take in and I was too scared I'd mess something up, but over the last four years I've fumbled towards greater independence:
- Changing my first road tire: I'd just got the Bridgestone RB1 and I was off to ride it to work. Three blocks from home, "pssssst." Of course, it was the rear one, and yes, I'd bought tires I liked the look of without regard for the bead type and I simply couldn't get it off. More than an hour later, several web searches for tips, near tears, fingers skinned a bit and sore, I FINALLY had fixed that stupid flat and was back en route. I rode off to work - with a spare and tools packed - feeling that "ok, freakin' bring it..." kind of feeling.
- Gluing my tubulars. This was a job I was quite happy to outsource. It seemed a stinky and messy job where screwing up could yield disastrous outcomes. However, on the walk back to the pits during a cx race, after rolling a tire and getting pitched into the biggest sticker patch I'd ever seen, I resolved to do my own gluing. After all, it was my body that would pay the price. The first attempt was messy and didn't look at all like something to be proud of, but I was, and they were solid. Really solid. I'd used so much glue I was kicking my own butt post-season trying to get them off. My third attempt was beautifully done -- just the right amount of glue -- no mess -- perfect. For an instant, I was so very proud. Then, I looked at the tread and realized it was directional and I'd put it on wrong. ARGHHH.
- A couple of weeks ago, Turbo, with the apparent patience of Job himself, walked me through dismantling Swerks (my Specialized Amira), changing my cabling and tuning the shifting. Not only did we go through it, he explained how the mechanisms worked so I would be better able to apply my knowledge to other bikes and situations. The creak that got the ball rolling on this educational experience remains to some degree, but at least I am no longer hesitant to go looking for it.
If you're a racer, you need to be able to tear down and build up your own bike such that it's ready and safe to race. There's no guarantee you'll have a mechanic at hand to help you, and more importantly, there has been at least one instance I know of, where a woman missed a spot on a team because she would be too much work to take care of due to her lack of knowledge about her bike. Don't let it happen to you. Go get your hands dirty.