How many things do you use on a daily basis in which you actually know how the item works? Take my car for example, I know how to turn it on, I even know how to drive it, but how does it really work? If it won’t start, or begins to make funny noises, I’ll open the hood, and peer inside just for show, but the brilliance of the engine is lost on me.
I know that my refrigerator keeps things cold, and my oven makes things hot, but other then plugging them in and occasionally fiddling with the knobs I haven’t a clue. I have a vague understanding of the plumbing and faucets allowing me to unclog the occasional drain and fix a leak, but if anything happens to the garbage disposal, it’s a 50/50 proposition as to whether I lose a finger, or get it fixed.
The knowledge it takes just to create a functioning radio is astounding to me, yet I do know that sometimes simply standing near the radio will improve reception, which is fine for when I’m pushing the buttons to change the station, but rather annoying for when I walk away. Yes, I really have a radio, and I do listen to it.
I enjoy learning and being able to put that knowledge to good use. The ability to fix things can be a boon to one’s wallet. Thus, I’m in a multi-year process of understanding the inner working of my bicycle. The bicycle is a simple machine, and since I have a simple mind, I thought it would be a good match. Plus, if I want to bike commute regularly, 32 miles roundtrip, I’m going to need to perform some basic matenaince.
Having a bike shop perform this work won’t hurt my legs as I’ll still benefit from the exercise, but it will hurt my wallet as bike shops in my area typically charge between $30 and $60 per hour. I’ve been a regular cyclist since around 2005 when I bought my first bike, which I still happily ride, however I’ve accumulated somewhere between 10,000 – 15,000 miles meaning my legs are tired and my butt resembles shoe leather. Even though my body is a loss, I can replace various parts of my bike. (I’ve placed myself on the list for a butt transplant, but have heard nothing as of this writing.)
First, I learned to change the tires and fix a flat. AAA towing was just too expensive, although it was fascinating to watch them use the winch to load the bike on the trailer. The truck driver had a deal of a time getting it to balance at such slow speeds. I offered to load the bike by hand, however, after the driver explained that I was paying by the hour I happily watched.
After breaking a shifter cable and completing a ride, stuck in one gear, I came to understand the importance of periodically replacing these just as one does with oil in a car. I watched some videos and asked a friend, allowing me to master the shifter cables.
Have you ever ridden down a hill at such speeds in which you can no longer pedal fast enough to generate any tension; I have. But the real excitement is when this occurs going up hill. It happens when your chain slips the gears and is dangling lifelessly. Your legs recognize the problem before your brain; I completed two or three suddenly rapid pedal revolutions before my brain caught up to the situation and I looked down. Seeing the chain dangle provides no useful information, so I’m not sure why I looked at it, but your brain has time to register a quick “oh no” at about the same time that all forward momentum is lost. The next thing I heard was my wife laughing and calling out “man down”. Doubling my embarrassment, this occurred while riding on a rail trail. I paid to have this chain replaced, but I vow to do it myself from now on.
The point is, I plan to become an expert in bike repair, allowing me to save money, and make my bike commute even more efficient. Look around your own home, what is an area in which you could become an expert? How could you use this skill to generate some extra income, and how could this skill save you money? Maybe you could learn basic plumbing, or painting. Maybe handling live electrical wires is your thing. It could even be as simple as maintaining your own lawn, leaning how to sharpen your blades and make simple engine repairs. If you eat out often, learning to cook, could be a great skill to master. The best part is that you don’t have to stop after only one skill, (I’ve already mastered taking out the trash, and dirtying areas my wife has just cleaned, not to mention brick patio construction) you can continue to learn new things and expand your knowledge!
What area of life would you like to master?