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How not to place bike in car, lesson 1

on October 21, 2009

My life–Becky Palmstrom here–is full of time-saving tricks.

My morning shower involves a slightly dangerous but carefully-executed laptop balancing act that lets me listen to the BBC World Service online while washing my hair. I read my course books while I walk to school. I have a vegetable box delivered to my house and buy vitamins and shampoo in bulk to save time on shopping. I take power naps and I have learnt to touch type.

But every so often my time-saving tricks go awry.

Take last Sunday.

I had managed to leave my bike inside the American Baptist church in down-town Oakland (long story) and was in the midst of one of those 12 hour working day weekends. A friend offered to take me down to my bike in her car to save some time. We decided enroute that we would work some time-saving magic and just bring my bike back to Berkeley in her car.

At the church my bike seemed larger than I remembered it, somehow, and her car a great deal smaller. Undeterred by the laws of physics, we attempted to cram the frame into the backseat, as planned. The bike didn’t get smaller. Her car didn’t get larger. Both of us got oilier.

Inspiration struck. We would remove the wheels.

Although I am deeply infatuated with my bike, I can’t claim any skill in the wheel-removal department. Correction–I cannot claim any skills in any bike repair department at all. But I am always game for something that will save me time. So we set to work.

An enthusiastic member of the church congregation came out to lend a hand.

We pulled. We clawed. We hammered. We wrenched. We sweated. The congregation member started letting out the air from the tyres. [Editor’s note: Becky’s Welsh.  That’s how they spell it in Britain. We think she calls sweaters “jumpers,” too.]  I screamed. We hauled and yanked and attacked the wheels some more. They still wouldn’t budge, though the brakes and the chain looked a little the worse for wear.

Finally my friend’s brother was called. Through directions shouted through a cell phone and with a small tilt of the wrist, the back wheel flew off.  We tried to ignore the bits of my bike I now held in my hand and the fact that the back wheel’s brakes looked crooked.

We sped back to Berkeley, yelling thank yous to the congregation member and convincing ourselves that although we hadn’t saved very much time, we had learnt a valuable lesson on the how to remove the wheel from an old style Trek.

I dumped the bike in my hallway and forgot about it til the next morning, when I realised that although I now knew how to remove wheels from old style Treks I was none the wiser on how to re-attach them.

A week has now passed. Without a bike I miss out on 15 minutes of extra BBC World Service Shower time every morning because I am forced to walk to school. Without a bike, I have stopped shopping and spend more time and money eating out. Thanks to the rain this week, even reading course books while walking has been impossible. Without a bike, my power-naps have been cut short and my social life has shrunk to walking distance only.

In fact, what I’ve realised is that my number one time-saving trick was in fact my bike – and that without it – it doesn’t matter how many course books I read while walking to Oakland, or how many extra minutes of news I hear in the morning, my life is inefficient.

So atlast, this afternoon, we hauled my bike, via my friend’s car, to Missing Link, where finally I learnt how to re-attach a wheel and fix the brakes.


  1. Lillian Mongeau on October 18, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    hahaha – even better when read with a lilting Welsh accent in your ears

  2. Lucy Walker on October 20, 2009 at 2:23 am

    Hi Becky. I’m an editor at the BBC World Service. Reading your account of the laptop-balancing shower experience made me smile, but also wonder what you were listening to at that time? It must be good for you to go to such lengths! I’d love to know. Happy listening – and biking. Lucy Walker

  3. bridget on October 20, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Becky, as always, your writing makes me feel like i’m walking right beside you on your bike-less jaunts to Berkley.

    You are a true natural.

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