Friday, April 26, 2013

Winter Rust

I love the smell of WD40 in the spring time.

The long winter of commuting by bicycle here in the Great White North has taken its toll on my machine. Every little nut and cranny seems to have a blossom of rust. And the chain? Well, despite my frequent applications of Tri-Flow over the winter, the chain has a distinct orange-vomit hue that just won’t go away. The drivetrain is disintegrating; the derailleurs are pretty much seized up. The bike looks a little sad; crusty is the word that comes to mind—like it’s come down with the mechanical equivalent of pink eye (orange eye?), all seasonal gunk and pus. Such is the cost of winter cycling in these parts.

But a power wash, a few squirts of WD40 here and there, and a little elbow grease work wonders. Those derailleurs loosen up; the rusty bolts scrub clean; and the gunk of winter is left behind on the grass. The bike looks fresh and hopeful again.

As a kid I used to love the smell of WD40. Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit meets gasoline. I know it’s bad for the brain cells, but that distinct odor will for me always be associated with a damp garage and the beginning of cycling season each spring.   

I hauled out my skinny-tire bike the other day to go for a real ride, and I felt a little rusty myself. Commuting to work and spinning occasionally in Val’s garage count for something, sure, but they’re not the same as actual riding riding. After about 30 minutes I noticed a kink in my right elbow. And what was that niggling stiffness in my lower back? Why did my neck hurt when I turned it to the left? Was I in danger of seizing up myself?

I briefly considered the merits of squirting a shot of WD40 in my armpits, maybe on the back of my neck or the small of my back. As much as I might enjoy the smell, however, I decided against such radical body maintenance.  Instead, I stopped for coffee. Espresso is a fine lubricant, it turns out, and a double shot was all I really needed to shake off the stiffness of winter. 

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