Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Even my eyes are perfectionists...

I had my first eye exam in... well, ever, I think... today and let me tell you, I came out extremely thankful for my good vision (20/15 to be precise, and yes, I'm gloating a bit). The whole process was utterly fascinating, from checking out the crazy apparatus with all the lenses and dials that they make you look through (like some torture device from a sci-fi novel), to the bright yellow numbing eye-drops (when I saw that my drip-catching tissue was bright yellow I immediately asked if I could check out my eyes in the mirror to see if they had changed color [they had a bit, but not dramatically]).

And then she dilated my pupils and I had the strangest experience of all. It was totally bizarre to "watch" my vision deteriorate as the dilating drops took effect, and to gradually have my vision get blurrier and blurrier. I got up out of the chair and just started walking around the room looking at things, trying to read labels or distinguish details, and then going back to the same things a few minutes later to find that they were unintelligible. (Pretty much the opposite of Graham's experience after LASIK.) It was like my brain was playing tricks on me -- I would try to focus my eyes like I always do, but they just wouldn't focus, and things remained obstinately blurry. I pretty much retained my distance vision throughout, but my near vision was abysmal. The whole thing served to make me a hundred times more thankful that I was already that I was blessed with good vision and that I don't have to deal with fuzzy edges on a regular basis. Oh, and I was also happy to find that I am not far-sighted, there are no other problems with my eyes, and I don't need to have another checkup for a good number of years. Hooray! :)

After my exam, I stopped by the bike shop downtown to purchase new brake pads. (Since I haven't yet managed to get my bike to a shop, I figured I should try bringing the shop to the bike.) I asked a guy behind the counter for help, since I wasn't sure exactly what I needed... and then, as he started laying my options out on the counter, realized that I would have to explain to him that I couldn't actually read any of the product information, since I couldn't focus my eyes on anything. He was amused, and very nicely helped me out (after making eye contact and remarking, "Wow, your pupils are huge!"). So now I have new brake pads to put on my bike -- hooray! Hopefully I will be riding to work again come the new year.


Anonymous said...

In case you don't know, putting new brake pads on a bike is not too hard. First unclip the brake levers so they are slack. Then, using a hex key, unscrew the four brake pads and put the new ones in the same way as the old (pay attention to the order of the various layers of thin and thick washers and the direction of the pad -- the pads are curved to match the rim). Finally, reclip the brake levers. Brake levers never seem to come out the same after un/reclipping them, so you may have to adjust them using the tiny screws on the levers that change the tension in the lever.

Now that you have new brake pads, it might be a good time to learn how to brake more effectively. A lot of casual cyclists use almost exclusively their back brake pads. (That's me!) But my good friend Front Brake Fred likes to do some work, too. In fact, most of the braking power comes from the front. The back brake is mean to control deceleration (prevent flipping and skidding), not to do the tough work. To brake properly, use both brakes simultaneously. Some people say to use equal pressure; others, more on the front. You'll probably get a feel for the pressure balance you like with a bit of experience. One good thing about getting in the habit of using both brakes is you learn how to avoid flipping in panic situations. (I've flipped over my handle bars before, so I have sympathy.) Another is that you can come to a stop in a shorter amount of space, which is good for safety.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, when I said "casual cyclists", I didn't mean you. Bicyclist commuters are hard core. And hard core cyclists should learn to use brakes efficiently.

Lacey said...

Thanks for the tips - I know I have replaced my brakes myself, but it's been a while. :)

And yes, I usually try to use both brakes, though I do tend to favor my back brake a bit when going down steep hills. Since I work at the top of a steep hill, this means that my back brake wears down faster than my front brake... which is why, when I applied equal pressure to both sets of brakes in the face of an impending collision, Front Brake Fred jumped into action more quickly and I flew head over handlebars into the concrete. Sigh. Live and learn, I suppose.

I am also looking for a good bike repair manual so I can learn more about how my bike works and how to fix it -- any suggestions? I found this one on Amazon that looked pretty good: The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance and Repair (sorry, the link didn't want to show up).

Anonymous said...

I refer to Sheldon Brown's fantastic site a lot. I don't have any bike repair books, though I'm thinking about trying to find a used one on mountain bikes.