ChainLinkers: A Study In ‘Dysfunctional Help-Giving’ (Updated)


Background Reading

Pig Riding Bicycle - Rough Sketch. by © George Coghill Pro Feb 23, 2011

Pig Riding Bicycle – Rough Sketch. by © George Coghill Pro Feb 23, 2011

A few days ago the good folks on the ChainLink Forum decided to “have fun on an Oak Park comment board”. But try as they might to be civil to “outsiders” it really is something of a lost cause. Heck they can barely remain civil to patent “insiders“. It’s a shame because this forum should be the logical place to go an search out well organized and well-researched information on just about anything having to do with bicycles. But sadly it seldom if ever is that way.

ChainLinkers are evidently confused over their core values and the kinds of candidates they wish to support. They rant on and on about being this and not being that but from thread-to-thread there is seldom a strong sense of what really is deep within their hearts. They seem confused.

Take this thread:

Lacking iron fists, I can’t seem to be able to put the tube and tire back on
Posted by Agnieszka Z. on January 29, 2013 at 11:32pm

Hi Everyone!

Since I started biking around Chicago 2 years ago, I have loved this happy mode of transportation. My introduction has been easy because my boyfriend has set up my bike and shown me all kinds of tricks.

Still, in my quest to become more self-sufficient, I realize that he won’t always be around to help me with fixing a flat (so far he’s always been, but he and I work relatively far from each other). This time when I got the flat, I had him watch as I tried to do it all by myself, to learn kinetically. Alas, I couldn’t seem to find enough strength in my fingers during the last phase of reseating the tire and tube, and my boyfriend ended up finishing the job. That’s always the bit I find daunting.

Are there any tips or tricks anyone can offer on that last, most frustrating part of the tire fixing process?


Dear Reader, I kinda think this is one of those questions which should have a ready answer and at least one or more ChainLink member produced video clips to answer this question to the satisfaction of all. But no way… Even something this non-controversial can turn into a fall-off-a-log simple query into a sparring match.

Now there are certain to be all sorts of ChainLink types who will tell you about how they met their spouse on a ChainLink-sponsored ride. Good for them. Let’s keep the good karma flowing. Why in the name of all that is Holy in the Church of Urban Cycling should there be controversy over how to fix a friggin’ flat tire? But just you wait, this gets good. Go grab a bucket of popcorn.

Reply by Mary Ralph yesterday
pedro’s tire levers.

Reply by Jeff Markus yesterday
By any other name they smell as sweet….

Pedro’s used to be made from recycled plastic nice, light but some times not as good for road tires. The tight road tires are easiest done with a good set of metal ‘spoons’ that have the lil’ hook on the other end that catches a spoke and allows easier tire mounting.

If you’re talking a fat tire (AKA mountain bike) then the Pedro’s might do the trick but if you’re having probs why not hedge yer bets and go with the metal (schmitt da hook) just to make things easier.

HOWEVER the levers can open up a can of OOPS by pinching the tube during install so practice, practice, practice.


Pedro's Tire Levers

Pedro’s Tire Levers

Two priests of the Church of Urban Cycling have spoken. Get thee hence and buy some tire levers. And not just any levers, mind you. Pedro’s Tire Levers. You can buy these locally and they work quite well for tire removal. I have a pair on each of our bikes and use them faithfully. Unlike the aluminum ones that break these are virtually indestructible.

Okay. That was easy. Our damsel-in-distress Ms. Agnieszka Z. has an answer and everyone seems to agree, so let’s go get ready for the Super Bowl.

Reply by Juan Primo yesterday
It sounds like your bf doesn’t use tire tools. Kind of a he-man move…. totally unnecessary for him to show off since he already has a girlfriend. I can mount a tire with out levers too but I’m secure enough that I don’t need to show off to the ladies.

Uh oh. I see a crack developing here. There really was not need for this comment but since the ChainLink Forum is FREE and advice-giving is effortless and ChainLink males seem all to full of themselves, this kind of needless reply occurs quite frequently.

Reply by jolondon30 yesterday
agreed..use levers. I’m almost a he man and still have to use them.

Okay, the ship is being right again. That makes four ChainLink über males who have puffed out their chests and given the “little lady” their collective “thumbs up” on levers. I feel better already.

Reply by dan brown 4.4 miles yesterday
another tip – use two levers. one to secure the (metal beaded part of the) tire inside the rim, and another lever to rotate around the rim and ‘seat’ the tire properly.

FYI – I would never use anything metal to do this, but maybe that’s jsut me…


And in strides an even more manly man who says in a firm and many voice, “use two levers”. Ooh! All the female ChainLinkers rush to adjust their nose rings and check that their tattooed cleavages are carefully displayed as they sigh and eye this more manly than man high priest.

“Yes dears, two levers are best”.

It being close to “going home time” guys have sized up the gals they plan to spend the evening with and everyone is reaching for a handful of pretzels and a last chicken wing before guzzling down the dregs of their favorite craft brew. Glances across the keyboards and everyone is feeling lucky, tonight.

Reply by notoriousDUG yesterday
Don’t use levers to get the tire on, it is a good way to pich the tube.

The key is to use the palm of your hands and put the tire on one side at a time. Push the bead down into the center of the rim to get extra space and youshould be able to get most tires on by hand. If not skip the tire lever and get one of these (although I suggest you buy it at your local bike shop and not online) to get the really tough part on.

Cue the sound of a scratching record! Did he just say that? WTF! Folks are looking at one another now with a sense of unease. Oh Great One has spoken and there is a hush in the room. Manly men are looking down at their feet and wondering if there are any women looking their way and wondering about their virility.

A few seconds more and everyone would have been pedaling along in the cold to one another’s apartments and getting lucky. And suddenly the wheels come off and a thick fog of doubt and confusion settles on the crowd.

Reply by Gene Tenner yesterday
Go here and choose from many, many videos on how to fix a flat on a bicycle, although this one is more appropriately titled How to Fix a Flat Bike Tire (w/o your boyfriend’s help). You can do it, Agnieszka.

Now one of the older types is feeling a bit daring and looking to contradict the Wisdom of the Ages as embodied in Oh Great One. The trouble with all this testosterone-laden puffery is that the poor gal is wondering who is right and whether she was wise to have brought all this up in the first insance.

Reply by S.Presley☠ yesterday

Bead Jack

Bead Jack

Bead jack saves the day!

I must admit that this is a better than expected comeback. It kinda bridges all the methodologies while allowing the guys in the group who have little hand strength to use a tool without having to apologize. In fact I own this very product. I keep it handy for situations where the rim tape on a wheel is too thick for the tire being used and requires some really marked leverage for removal. Nicely played!

But is our damsel-in-distress confused at all these suggestions. She was indeed looking for a simple and very straightforward answer. Now she has three!

Reply by Agnieszka Z. yesterday
Thanks much for this useful help, people!

Yes, that can of Oops that Jeff and notoriousDUG mention–the potential for levers to lead to a punctured tube–is indeed why my bf was reluctant to endorse tire levers for putting the tire back on (he likes them fine to take the tire off). He’ll get a kick out of having been diagnosed with machoism. 😉

I’ll watch the videos that Gene recommends AND get the bead jack.

Clearly this young lady is adept at soothing ruffled feathers and she manages to keep all the males ego in check while making a hurried dash out of the forum room.

Reply by Agnieszka Z. yesterday
By the way, I watched three of these videos now, and in each the final stage of mounting the tire is an effortless, toolless, breeze. Ha.

Now at this point the room should have been emptied and everyone should have been gone and getting laid. But no, males are a tireless lot when it comes to offering assistance. So…

Reply by David Barish 13.9 yesterday
Certain rims paired with certain tires can be difficult especially with road tires. Fear not, when you get a flat on the road it will be easier than it is to do in your home. The adrenalin rush of having to deal with the tire while you are out there will make you stronger. Of course, its not a bad idea to have two spares in case you pinch the first one while fighting to get it on.

Reading his “fear not” prose I almost see a vision of the Virgin Mary speaking with an Angel.

Reply by Agnieszka Z. yesterday
Yes, perhaps it was adrenaline I was lacking. 🙂

Here’s a fun little video showing the frustration (apparently it doesn’t discriminate when it comes to gender) and the bead jack salvation:

Uh oh! The wheels have come off completely:

Reply by notoriousDUG 18 hours ago
Are you freaking kidding me!?

That video is one of the WORST lessons on how to change a tire I have ever seen. It is flat out bad and skips all kinds of stuff and does several things flat out wrong or the hardest possible way.

Gene Tenner said:
Go here and choose from many, many videos on how to fix a flat on a bicycle, although this one is more appropriately titled How to Fix a Flat Bike Tire (w/o your boyfriend’s help). You can do it, Agnieszka.

Okay Agnieszka tries yet again to get everyone’s feather unruffled:

Reply by Agnieszka Z. 16 hours ago
That was my impression, too, notoriousDUG: the “How to Fix a Flat Bike Tire (w/o your boyfriend’s help)” youtube video is a bit of a parody of a dumbed-down help for the ladies. Like when she says she won’t show how to patch a tube because she doesn’t know it yet.

(And props to David P. for managing to allude to the title of Hans Morgenthau’s misguided magnum opus on a chainlink thread. It’s awfully familiar… like something my boyfriend would do.)

Reply by yai danche 16 hours ago
agree with notoriousDUG about using the palm of the hand. that was the same trick the ladies at West Town Bikes taught me. stop by ladies’ night for a free lesson!

Reply by Julie Hochstadter 6 hours ago
Thanks for asking this question.

I vividly remember trying to fix a flat on my old bianchi and two of us girls couldn’t do it. Spent 30 minutes with all our might and couldn’t get it over the rim. Then my roommate’s boyfriend walked in and 30 seconds later… all done.

Reply by Julie Hochstadter 6 hours ago
and yes, yes, yes!!!! Women’s night at west town is a life saver. I’ll be there next Wednesday for the clothing swap. Been collecting bikey clothes and other stuff for 3 weeks now.

yai danche said:
agree with notoriousDUG about using the palm of the hand. that was the same trick the ladies at West Town Bikes taught me. stop by ladies’ night for a free lesson!

Okay, everyone tiptoe towards the door. We all need to get “lucky” tonight and we simply cannot allow a testosterone-laden verbal brawl to serve as a buzzkill.

Reply by Gene Tenner 4 hours ago
I offerered up a list of dozens of videos and pointed out one that had an approprite title, not the one that was best. You can undo your undies now.

notoriousDUG said:
Are you freaking kidding me!?

That video is one of the WORST lessons on how to change a tire I have ever seen. It is flat out bad and skips all kinds of stuff and does several things flat out wrong or the hardest possible way.

Yikes! How on earth did someone from this lame group decide that going over to the Oak Park Forum was a bright idea? Does anyone really believe that ChainLink knowledge is that valuable that you could stand to ridicule someone else’s take on something a bit more complex than changing a tire?

Testosterone is useful when you want to get a group of guys riled up enough to enter battle without a though to their safety. But it sure gets in the way when a self-righteous group of Urban Cyclists get their motors running.

You just gotta love the ChainLink‘s “warm and friendly atmosphere“.

Some Heartfelt Thoughts And Some Much Needed “PushBack”

Much of the discourse on the ChainLink follows the “Law of the Jungle“. Alpha males dominate most of the conversations. The lionesses who follow these males provide the basis for the “group hunting” that often goes on. Seldom are there any real truths exposed. There are however always the “Talking Points” that folks cling to in the absence of “Truth” and for most of these folks, that is enough.

But cycling is neither a movement nor a religion. Treating it as either is to my mind folly. There is no real Church of the Urban Cyclist nor are there any real priests. There are politicians in search of votes and cycling advocates who are desperately trying to justify their salaries. Anything that remotely resembles an unveiling of a route or a piece of infrastructure is about as important as the addition of a single seat in the Astrodome.

If the seat is comfortable and clean and its occupant has a clear line of sight of the field then all is well. But gold-plating the seat and having cheerleaders and the club owner celebrate its entry into service is pointless if that seat wobbles. Dearborn Street, wobbles. In fact the ChainLink Forum wobbles a great deal. And most of that is needless posturing among a group of people who are seeking a bit of self-importance as participants in something they think of as the “movement“.

A better understanding of what is taking place is that streets are being painted pretty green colors and sections of PVC pipe are being planted along the edges of these pseudo-lanes to provide greater visual recognition of the intended lane. It is not much different than what happens when a new stop sign is planted at an intersection. The city will place a flashing sign in advance of the intersection to alert drivers and cyclists alike of this new bit of infrastructure.

At the end of the day what we are all interested in is equal access to the same roadways insofar as safety dictates.

When we discuss things like patching tires or replacing inner tubes the most important things are to impart sound information and do so in a manner than respects the person who is seeking that information and those whose ideas might differ from our own. So it is instructive to return to the rest of the conversation in progress:

Reply by notoriousDUG 9 hours ago

I know it sounds crazy but I would rather see people get good instruction and learn by doing it right with competent help vs. struggle over and over following poor advice from poorly vetted sources. People tend to give up if they try something and fail a few times because it becomes frustrating. If you want to help people learn to do stuff sending them to a bad resource is doing them a disservice.

YouTube is a hazard when it comes to getting any kind of technical advice because you have no idea if the person who did it knows anything. If you want good advice go to West Town for an open shop or a class or even go to your local bike shop and ask them, they should be happy to show you.

Gene Tenner said:
I did not say they were good or bad. I just offered a list. There is some good in them and some bad in them, but taken collectively, most people should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and figure out what will work best for them in their own situation. I am sure that a bright woman like Agnieszka with good encouragement, like “You can do it, Agnieszka,” will try techniques and learn by doing.

It is important to be passionate but also civil. And as with the Dearborn Street bike lane the single most important issue is that cyclists be safe in using it. That however gets obscured by folks who are far more intent on determining whether the timing of the lights provides a “green wave“. We desperately need to get beyond being junior high schoolers in our estimation of needs and act more like adults:

Reply by Gene Tenner 3 hours ago


Some learn visually, some by reading and thinking it through, others learn by listening and still others by tinkering, etc. There are far more strategies and techniques for educating and training than I can begin to go into here. The most effective training technique in business is not one class and let them go, but to give students information in class, have them go out in the field and try it out, come back for more information and repeat multiple times.

There is no one way of learning or teaching.

Your string here was not an attempt to help, but a brazen foray to quash a method different from one you prefer and have a vested interest in.

“Are you freaking kidding me!? … WORST lessons … flat out bad … flat out wrong … horribly incorrect … poor advice from poorly vetted sources … hazard” are not phrases that prompt gaining knowledge, but are immature intimidations meant to bully towards a self-serving end.

“Same [Shame] on me for promoting West Town Bikes and all of the other great shops around Chciago [Chicago] that will help you with your bike problems,” is sanctimonious at best.

If your intent is to help your fellow cyclist, dial it down a bit and try encouragement with an open mind.

That last sentence is key. The ChainLink reads more like a bathroom wall than a place to gather information and make friendships. There is an overwhelming air of high school that pervades the place. That need not be and in fact should not be. It takes a firm hand as a high school principal gain the respect of the student body and to provide a role model. That is sorely, desperately lacking here.

Instead what fills the halls of this emotional high school is the chants of this or that clique as it tries to establish dominance. The Greasers and the Preppies are in clear evidence here. And what should be an easy place to find valuable information is littered with bickering, calumny and posturing. And there is a strong tendency of the onlookers to choose side and in fact encourage these displays of dominance. But to what end?

It is high time that we as cyclist stop the ritualist glad-handing at being on the supposed “right side of history” and instead ask more mundane questions of ourselves. Is our motivation to simply be different from folks who live in the suburbs? Would we be happy if cycling truly became mainstream and there ceased to be a cachet of the avant-garde surrounding us.

I remember thinking that recumbent bicycling was such a powerful concept that all uprights should be banned. But sooner or later you get around to understanding that recumbents are just another form of bicycle and not the Second Coming. I say take a step back and stop the posturing and get real.

It is laughable when we couch our place in the cycling world as part of the 98% when we routinely sell bikes on this site that have an asking prices of $1,200 or are in search of messenger bags that cost $250. Who the heck are we trying to kid? Most busboys who are bicycling to work because that is what they must do would probably not understand our claims of being part of the “great unwashed” while selling off a dozen or so bikes from our personal stable.

Time to get real, folks!