Classes ended a week ago. Thanks to my ADHD and because I live far from every one of my friends, I find myself often looking for things to do around the house. This year it was bike restoration. No, not motorcycles, but bicycles (you know, the pedal and non-explosive kind).

I got on Craigslist and found a 1980 Raleigh [I guess it’s a good brand (?)]. It belonged to a kid who was “selling it for a friend” (isn’t that always how it is?). Anyways, I rode it around and inspected it, touching every bolt as if somehow would crumble under my fingers and tensed my face at every scratch.

It looked something like this

It looked something like this

He named his price, not knowing if it was fair or not I counter-offered half of it. He, thankfully, did not know what he was doing either so he agreed.

I got myself a bike for $40

I got myself a bike for $40


Upon realizing I’m no expert, I did what every rational (?) person would do and took the thing apart. If the thing was ever ride-able, it sure as hell wasn’t anymore.

Now, you may be thinking “well, just put it back together,” and I would have, except I REALLY took it apart.

Like This

Like This

Once reality hit in, I google “how to ACTUALLY restore a bike” and hit the “I’m Feeling Lucky.” Damn Google gives me this:

I hit every single one of those.

I hit every single one of those.

Instead of making an inventory of what actually worked or what parts needed to be replaced, I went out and spent all my money on paint, because, well, it would make the bike look cool.

After 2 weeks of sanding (Yay blisters!), doing one coat, recoating, messing up, starting over, changing color, and so on… it was ready.

Sort of.

If you’ve ever painted something you know the feeling of “gimme gimme” once the last coat is applied. You don’t care if it’s dry or not (what does the can know about “let dry for 3 years”) you painted it, so you know, right?


Well I didn't

Well I didn’t

Because I tried to handle it when it wasn’t ready, the paint came out subpar.

Since it was expensive and time-consuming and all, the paint took pity on me and still came out pretty sweet.

But it didn’t stop there. I was so eager to show it off that I completely bypassed the fact that virtually everything had to be replaced and put it back together anyways.

Although beautiful, I learned the bike was not safe the hard way. The brake pads fell right before I reached an intersection. I tried to turn to the side and that’s when the handlebars gave up. Instincts kicked in and I put my foot down. That’s when the chain snapped and wrapped around my leg, stopping me instantly (thank God) and made me a scorpion on the pavement (oh God). Face first, of course (why God?).

As I walked back home with my face bowed down in defeat and waking up the whole neighborhood (it was 3am. I’m a night owl) with an unidentified squeak coming out of the bike… I looked back at what went wrong.

Was it that I bought a completely useless bike and swore I could fix it (when I couldn’t)?

Was it when I rushed into “fixing it” (having no idea what I was doing)?

Was it when I took the bike down, thinking the paint was ready (when it was still wet)?

Was it that I took the bike as “fixed” simply because it looked pretty (when it wasn’t)?

Or was it all of these things?

Comments (4)

  1. Tamir Shargal


    David, I relate to this story tremendously. As an active cyclist, I have done my fair share of tinkering. But, to reference an IMT theory, if one is not an expert, one has to make more decisions, which leads to stress. Because I ride fast and I ride hard, I really do not trust that my bike would take the rigors of my beating, if I had been its mechanic. I wish you good luck on your cycling journey; don’t let your qualms with the bike restoration project get in the way of your infatuation with the bike, and specifically with cycling itself.

  2. Paulo Miro


    David, I can totally understand how you felt as I have gone through something similar this semester. Similarly to you, I also have nothing to do around the house and resort to finding little “hobbies” (for lack of a better word). I actually looked into fixing normal bikes for friends that ride them at ASU, and although it may not be so difficult, my mechanical skills are sub-par. Just wanted to let you know I have gone through a similar disappointment.

  3. Conrad Nicoll


    There are always so many things that go wrong with any project you take on. I’ve learned from personal experience that although I cannot prevent ALL the problems that may occur (because I don’t have all the information, and the thing that goes wrong always seems to be the thing that you NEVER even imagined could happen), many setbacks can be prevented through careful planning and analysis. As I look ahead at possible problems that may occur in a situation, I can take the necessary precautions ahead of time to minimize the amount of issues.

    No matter the obstacles we encounter, we can always learn from our experiences and apply them to future events to better our lives

  4. Ruth


    I was very interested to read this piece called Fixing Bikes. The last portion of the narrative connected to me in a distinct way, as I feel that I often try to “fix” aspects of my own life when I am not prepared to do so. I believe that the individual who told the story ought not to have worked on the bike by himself, and could have instead received guidance and assistance from others. I believe life becomes more simple and successful when individuals accept and cherish help from other people.

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