30 Nov 2016

Grease Stains

WORDS & PHOTOS x Zach Faulkner

(Expletive)…(expletive)…(expletive)…”Everything all right down there?!” “Yup…fine, fine…”

Knuckles are bleeding, everything is covered in grease, from shins to shirt – this scene is my basement, and probably replicated in garages, sheds, shops, and driveways around the world. Wrenching on bikes is one part competence, two parts patience; the rest is filled with tenacity and blind faith that you actually know what you’re doing. Local shops are kept in business by botched home-fixes, and I know that’s the primary way I became a regular and eventual friend of many mechanics.

Through those times of stripped allen heads, rounded keys, and gouged aluminum components, I eventually learned to hang around and watch the shop mechanics puzzle out what I’d fucked up beyond repair, and assess what their first move would be. I asked questions, volunteered to help (when possible), and inquired about technique and tips. Eventually, I accrued more knowledge and confidence in my understanding of “How ___ Works”, and put in endless hours in my garage and basement, doing my best to be more adept at fixing my own mess, without creating an even bigger one.

Now, the basement has a full-sized shop stand, purchased used from a shop for $100, and a multi-tiered tool box, overflowing with a ridiculous assortment of tools – some bike-specific, others homemade, and a few hardware store specials. The staggering number of spares that litter the fringe against the wall could be gathered up and produce a running timeline of the advancement of mountain bike technology over the past decade. Stains from oil, grease, ground-in dirt (and perhaps some blood) tell a tale of late nights hustling to build a new bike hours before a ride, or hitting a part to unseize it after a season of abuse. But, one thing that hasn’t changed, is the constant flurry of swearing, yelling, and sounds of jubilation mixed with whatever music is floating around in the background.

Mechanic-ing is a labour of love, and an effort in frugality. It is an attempt to become one with metal, to understand one’s weapon of choice. Often we succeed in taming the beast in the stable, only to have it quit on us mid-ride…”WHAT?! I DEFINITELY TIGHTENED THAT F$%^&*# BOLT BEFORE I LEFT…”

Here’s to the homegrown wrench heads, and a salute to the hapless professional mechanics who come to the rescue when we are too hamfisted and stubborn to admit our errors.