Why You Need a Camera in Your Toolbox by Tamia Nelson

You won’t find a digital camera in most bike mechanics’ tool kits, but maybe it ought to be there. This is especially true if the mechanics in question have a little trouble seeing things close up. My misadventure with sweat-etched bar-end shifters really brought this point home. Even with the help of my reading glasses, I couldn’t see the extent of the corrosion. In fact, I didn’t realize that what I saw was corrosion until I brought a 10-power hand lens to bear. But it was only when I turned to my camera that I got a really good look at the problem. And there was an unexpected bonus: My digital photos were easy to share round, which helped me get some badly needed advice from more experienced mechanics.

Barcon Corrosion Revealed by the Camera Photo on Tamiasoutside.com (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop

A digital camera also makes it easy to document complex procedures like swapping handlebars. Then, once the job is done, I have a permanent reference. So the next time I have to tackle the same chore, I won’t have to struggle to remember how I did it. (I won’t repeat any earlier mistakes, either!) The EXIF data embedded in each image is useful, too. It tells me how much time has passed since the repair or modification. And by comparing the time stamp on the first and last photo, I can also tell how much time it took to do the procedure.

Pretty neat, don’t you think? But there’s more. I collect my shop photos in an indexed file on my computer. The result? Over the years I’ve built up a fairly comprehensive album of repair and maintenance procedures, and that album keeps getting better. It’s like having a repair manual written just for me. Which is why a digital camera is now a permanent part of my tool kit.

What about you? Have you been wishing that someone would write a better manual for your bike? If so, why not make your own? It’s easier than you might think. Just point and shoot and save. The camera and your computer will do the rest. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, isn’t it?

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For half a century, Tamia Nelson has been ranging far and wide by bike, boat, and on foot. A geologist by training, an artist since she could hold a pencil, a photographer since her uncle gave her a twin-lens reflex camera when she was 10, she's made her living as a writer and novelist for two decades. Avocationally her interests span natural history, social history, cooking, art, and self-powered outdoor pursuits, and she has broad experience in mountaineering, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, snowshoeing and skiing.