My wife went away on vacation to (the suburbs of) Washington, D.C., and while she was gone I suffered a kind of comedy of errors with my bicycle. It started with a squeaking bottom bracket, which I thought I'd fixed before I went to Long Beach. I cleaned and greased and polished up the bracket, and stuck it back in, and at any rate, it didn't squeak while I was out. Halfway into a ride with some friends the following Tuesday it was back with a vengeance. My fellow cyclists joked that my bike sounded like Willy Wonka's boat. So I fully replaced the bottom bracket, which fixed things up until the following Monday, when my front wheel literally fell off as I left my apartment. On and on it went, with several more bolts, a bar plug, and eventually my saddle needing replaced.
As a grad student married to a substitute teacher, our summer earnings are a bit slim, so my wife was watching this saga unfold on Facebook with no small measure of trepidation. When she came home, however, I went over an itemized list of the things I had to fix. All told, it came to just over $50 (and a lot of elbow grease on my part).
This feeds back in to the empowerment of the bicycle that I talked about before. Yes, the bike is a machine, and all machines break. But it's a very different sort of machine than a car. It's a machine that I can fix in my kitchen, and whose parts I can buy with change in the sofa cushions.