Clueless Assignment: Steven Vantulden

Vantulden, Steven


J 361: Reporting 1

David Saez

Clueless Assignment: Maintaining and Repairing a Bicycle

Maxwell Vuylsteke and two others are the first volunteer apprentices for the Bike Program. He is still being trained by the program’s volunteer mechanics; however, you wouldn’t know it if you saw him repair a bicycle.

Since 2008, the University of Oregon’s Bike Program has assisted both students and community members in the city of Eugene. It has been a valuable service for residents of the South University Neighborhood, to those who rely on cycling as their method of transportation.

The Bike Program offers a do-it-yourself maintenance shop, where bikers can conduct maintenance and repairs; in addition, they can receive help from trained staff members.

Vuylsteke has the technical skill to perform bicycle repair and also the knowledge to explain it. After all, he’s had a lot of experience guiding bikers through the process.

Vuylsteke stood by his personal bicycle and made changes to the handlebars and break levers. He rethreaded the bicycle’s gear wire through the vehicle’s handlebars to the Derailleur gears at the rear; the gear wire is the chain that connects the bicycle’s Derailleur gears at the front and back of the bike. Throughout the course of repairs, he adjusted the bicycle’s gear wire several times using different wrenches and screwdrivers.

Vuylsteke walked away from his bicycle towards the closest wall. Hanging from it was an impressive array of tools: Allen Wrenches, Crescent Wrenches, screwdrivers, and saws. The maintenance shop even had an air pump for bicycle tires. Vuylsteke displayed a level of confidence with finding and using the right tools in his work.

He grabbed a can of grease and a small paintbrush before returning to his bike. He coated the bike’s gear wire with the grease. Vuylsteke said that greasing the gear wire decreases the chance of it splintering during repairs, “It’s not entirely necessary but it really helps to ensure longevity (of the bike).”

After fully greasing his bicycle’s gear wire and chain, Vuylsteke moved on to the next step. He went to the wall and grabbed a pair of cable cutters. He readjusted the tightness of the gear wire several times using different wrenches and screwdrivers. When he discovered the gear wire was too long, he cut off its end using the cable cutter.

Finally, he picked up a size five Allen Wrench and a Fourth Hand from the workbench. The Fourth Hand enables the user to adjust the break cables, either tightening or loosening them. He used the Allen wrench and the Fourth Hand to tighten the cable and create tension.

Vuylsteke spun the wheels of his bicycle to test the effectiveness of his repairs. At first, the wheels made a skipping motion and sound. He said this was because he tightened the cable too much. In contrast, he said if the cable was too loose, it wouldn’t shift correctly. Thus, it was important for him to find a balance between them as he tightened the bicycle’s cables.

Bicycle repair requires technical knowledge, as well as physical skill. It is often an exercise of trial and error, using different tools to experiment until finding a good method.

The process also can be an exercise in teamwork. Vulysteke said that sometimes it just takes another person to offer their insight and expertise. He said, “…it’s actually really easy it just takes a second set of eyes or a different understanding and then it just works out really smoothly.”

There are always mechanics or apprentices at the shop to help students and community members. Vuylsteke and the other mechanics are there to instruct bikers; so long as the biker is willing to get their hands dirty and do the repairs themselves.


The entrance to the Public Service Building.   The entrance to Harris Hall.

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One Response to Clueless Assignment: Steven Vantulden

  1. mallorypd says:

    You did a nice job setting the scene here. I also enjoyed reading this story because you included some really great and interesting details all the way through. One thing I would have liked is if there were a few more quotes, but it was a very smooth read!

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