There is no spoon

November 28, 2008

On the weekend I put a new tyre on my bike. I had to. The old one was so worn that patches of the red underlayer were showing through the black rubber. There is no such thing as a second-hand bicycle tyre, and it is not frugal to endanger your health by skidding off your bike, so a new one was quite justified.

It is customary to use a special tool to pry the tyre off a bicycle wheel. In our last move, I must have misplaced mine. I ransacked likely areas of the house, but I just couldn’t find them.

Suddenly I remembered what Dad used to do when I was kid: he used old teaspoons. So I did too. Worked a treat, problem solved, spoons went back in the cutlery drawer.

I think one underlying frugality principle is illustrated here: using things you already have for a new purpose. Hence the common pattern in tips “you can use an X to make a handy Y.”

I get a big kick out of this kind of thing these days. I have a feeling we’ve been brainwashed by marketers into believing that every activity requires its own special, purpose-built product. This is why I feel almost naughty when I find a new use for something, and why other people can be unreasonable and turn their nose up at a perfectly good solution.

Done anything smart recently?


  1. That’s awesome.

    I went to a bike maintenance course last week. It was just for beginner’s but we learned some handy tricks. The guy told us that he never uses those tyre levers and he showed us two tricks that enabled him to pull his tyre off without so much as a strain. So in fact, as well as not having to use those levers, you don’t need spoons either 🙂

  2. Matrix reference noted.

  3. I’ve used any number of heavy objects around the house as impromptu hammers, not always successfully.

  4. Andy – depends on the tyre. I would challenge you to try that with a brand new kevlar-strip tyre, for instance. They’re absolute bastards to get on/off even with levers. A reasonably worn in tyre, on the other hand, is pretty easy to get on/off – I can change the tyres on my MTB by hand. But of course, my MTB tyre has much more “slack” to get on/off due to the greater volume – 26×1.75″ vs 23mm road tyres.
    Also, using tools rather than your hands can be a lot easier on your hands…

    Steve – the traditional substitute tool is a flathead screwdriver, but a teaspoon would be even better as you wouldn’t have as much chance of puncturing the inner tube during the swap. I’m almost tempted to start carrying a teaspoon…
    But of course, the correct place to find your tyre levers is “strapped to your bike, next to the patch kit/spare tube” – because if you flat on the road/trail, you could have a long walk home if you aren’t carrying the kit to fix it.

  5. @jack, i’m suspicious that you could get away with old-school desert spoons.

    we used to use some of the old-fashioned steel ones back when i was a lad. they had these great rounded ends on the handles that made change-overs a doddle

  6. I can now confess the sole point of this post was to bait Jack into commenting 😀

  7. If you were goading me into a reply, why did you do it right before the Taupo ride? Talk about a day you can guarantee I’ll be off-radar…

    But seriously, I’m sure there’s a couple of posts in here about a) activities that you think will save you money but often end up costing you money (cf cycling, fishing, etc) when you get really interested in them, or b) how it’s often more cost-effective to just pony up and get the right kit for the job.

    Actually, maybe this is what those people were thinking when they threw that fork at me while I was cycling home. I may have looked like I had a flat, needed to change a tyre, and lacked tools. It’s a good fork, too.

  8. Then again, thinking to myself, I have occasionally used bodged variations on tools to great success. A proper tool to press the bottom race of a headset onto a fork, for instance, costs about $100 or so – and you can achieve the same result with a hammer and a block of wood (to damp the impact of the hammer). Hmm. Maybe an article on “bodges that actually work”?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: