In an effort to become a more rounded cyclist, I thought it was about time I learnt to true my own wheels (and ultimately save 18 euros of my precious money every time it needs doing!)
Bike maintenance is not intuitive at the best of times, and in my opinion always that little more daunting for a girl. It’s not like the local mechanic is going to share his techniques easily either, knowing you’ll no longer be taking your business to him. This is where YouTube comes in handy – simple step-by-step videos on how to do just about everything (I have to admit, I even had to look up how to screw my cleats on to my shoes the first time).
So, discovering that I needed a spoke key/wrench, otherwise known as a nipple wrench, I went into the next bike shop on my travels which happened to be a cute local shop in Edinburgh. What I hadn’t anticipated was the embarrassment of actually having to ask for such a tool, especially when accompanied by a non-cyclist. Conversation went something like this:
Me > I’ll just take the degreaser and lube please
[friend looks at me a little perturbed and trying not to be immature at the mention of lube]
Shop owner > Is there anything else you need today?
Me > Actually there is… erm… one of those…..
[...now this is where I had one of those 'movie moments' where I wasn't able to remember the non-immature/ rude name; "nipple wrench. nipple wrench. nipple wrench" repeating over and over in my head... so I proceeded...]
Me > I need a nipple wrench.. you know, one of those things to tighten the spokes
[At this point, not only do I turn a slight shade of red, my friend looks in shock at what he's hearing thinking I've forgotten I'm in a bike shop in Edinburgh and not a sex shop in Amsterdam (to point out, I do not frequent Amsterdam sex shops). This isn't where it ended though...]
Shop owner > Oh yes, is it for a normal sized nipple?
[Now at this point I was starting to find it difficult to hold together, let alone my friend who hadn't a clue what we were on about.]
Me> Excuse me?!
Shop owner > is it for a normal size nipple? You can get different sizes. Are they standard nipples?
[Now the shop owner is starting to look and sound a little uncomfortable realising he's not helping the situation by referring to 'nipple' every other word. Feeling a little overwhelmed with the conversation at this point I continue to hold my composure...]
Me > erm, yes, they’re just normal wheels. You know, the kind you get on a road bike…
Shop owner > Ok, good. Yes, you need one of these [pulling out the smallest of tools]
[I proceed to pay, my friend being un-usually silent, and leave the shop. We continue to walk down the street in silence before I break the awkwardness...]
Me > Well, that was a little embarrassing…
The good news is… I managed to true my own wheel, and ironically, it wasn’t as difficult or embarrasing as trying to buy the tools. I think I might go back to buying online in future!