The saga of the flat pack bicycle

Back in January of this year I mentioned that The Daughter had given me an exercise bike for my birthday. And then there was silence.

The reason you heard nothing more about my exercise bike was because it sat in its box, unopened, for a month before I found the courage to unpack it. Then it sat for another week or so, in pieces large and small while I tried to decipher the instructions that came with it.

Exhibit A – the diagram for Step 1.

bike instructions 2

Exhibit B – the instructions for Step 1.

bike instructions 1

Getting the two pedals on took ages because I had to screw them in counterclockwise. Yes.

Now, before you start thinking I’m some helpless female who doesn’t know one end of a spanner from the other – no! My Dad was an engineer and a hobby carpenter, so I grew up as more of a handyman than most boys. Not an expert, mind you, but not a neophyte either.

The problem with flat packs is that they usually come with the most useless tools imaginable – allen keys, and these toy spanners.

Exhibit C – the ‘spanner’

bike spanner

Exhibit D – the allen key

bike allen key

I circled the allen key in red in case you men didn’t recognize the sewing tools also scattered about. For the ladies, an allen key is a six-sided piece of bent metal with flat ends. The flat ends exactly fit six-sided metal ‘holes’. Think screwdriver with a different shaped tip, and no comfy handle.

You insert the allen key snuggly into the hole and then turn it to tighten up the bolt. It should work, so long as the allen key doesn’t shred your hands first. I’m sure allen keys would be a great addition to a Swiss Army Knife, however they suck as a general purpose tool. Unfortunately ALL flat packs are designed around them.

My biggest problem with flat packs, however, is that they are designed for your average sized man. At something under 5’4″, I do not have the same musculature as the average man. This means that tightening screws and bolts to a safe degree – i.e. so the bicycle or bookshelf or table or whatever doesn’t wobble and collapse – requires enough effort to make meΒ want to collapse! But where there’s a will there’s a way.

After struggling with the flat pack’s dinky tools for two days I finally went out and got – tah dah – a real tool!

Exhibit E – an adjustable wrench

bike the wrench

The beauty of this lovely tool is that it will grip anything. You can adjust it to grip bolt heads [so you can tighten them]. You can even adjust it to grip allen keys so leverage takes the place of big, strong, man-sized hands! My new, favourite tool.

Even with the adjustable wrench, however, I still took another day to finish the job, but as you can see, it’s done.

Exhibit F – The Bike

bike finished

That big bag of rubbish in the foreground is bits of packaging that came with the bike. Weren’t we supposed to be reducing the rubbish we throw into landfill? I guess they didn’t get that memo.

Snark aside, I have now been using this masterpiece of flat pack engineering every second day for a few weeks, and it still doesn’t wobble! I wish I could say the same for my legs, but Rome wasn’t built in a day so I retain the hope that one day I’ll run a marathon… or maybe just sprint to the letter box and back. πŸ˜‰

So ladies, don’t despair. If you’re the one cursed with putting a flat pack item together, just march down to the hardware store and invest in an adjustable wrench. Once you have one, you’ll never look back!



About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

27 responses to “The saga of the flat pack bicycle

  • Carrie Rubin

    You never cease to amaze me! How impressive that you could put that together.

    My husband got me a Fitdesk exercise bike for Christmas. He just put it together a couple weeks ago, and I love it. Now I can either walk slowly on my treadmill while I write or be on my bike. Pedal while I type. Perfect. πŸ™‚


  • Chris James

    Well done you!
    We have the same crappy allen keys here, too, but I use a racket screwdriver with changable heads. Among the usual straight and phillips heads, I’ve also got allen key heads, which makes such assemblies a lot less painful.
    No excuse for not exercising now, Meeks! πŸ™‚


    • acflory

      Oh my god! I want one of those. I have a ratchet screwdriver but it only has one head and you can just change whether it tightens or loosens. Now I’ll have to go haunt Bunnings to get this wonderful all purpose tool.

      And hush! I’m being VERY good. πŸ˜€


  • anne54

    Bugger the marathon — I want to see you riding in the Tour de France in 2015! Or maybe in the World Flat Pack Championship. πŸ™‚


  • davidprosser

    From now on when I get something from Ikea I’m going to ask a woman to put it together for me, especially Yvonne’s daughter. I’ll keep the tea/coffee coming if one or two of you want to lend a hand.
    xxx Huge Hugs and well done xxx


  • Christie Meierz

    My burning question is, What kind of sewing machine is that in Exhibit C?

    I can usually put stuff together, but at the cost of shredded fingers, unfortunately.


    • acflory

      lol – it’s a little Elna ‘Sew Fun’ – and it is fun. I bought it on Ebay for about $250 AUD. I love it. And I love finally having a spare room where I can have it set up all the time. Of course the sewing pile hasn’t gone down much lately… :/


  • Yvonne Hertzberger

    That furniture from IKEA can be a challenge, too. But my daughter is a whiz at this stuff. She’d have it together in no time, just like the bathroom cabinet and desk I couldn’t figure out.

    Be proud that you put it together – but be even prouder that you are actually using it. πŸ™‚


    • acflory

      -grin- Oh believe me, I am! Can’t see any visible results yet but as I was telling Metan, I walked back up my very steep hill this morning without needing resuscitation!


  • metan

    Hee hee…. The saga of the flat-packed anything…… πŸ˜€

    Because of the love the Man has for motorbikes we have a large collection of Allen keys so I feel your pain.

    Shifters (aka adjustable wrenches) are very good for tightening but rather than using the moving end to grip I use the holey end (where your red plug is is usually a hole) to turn it into a big lever.

    Of course Pinky’s suggested pre packaged assistant would be far more convenient!

    Glad to hear you got it together, now get pedalling woman!! (She writes, feet up, on the couch… πŸ˜€ )


    • acflory

      lol – pretty much. πŸ˜€

      I just had a look at mine and I could probably take the red plug out, but the hole looks a bit small for the size bolts on the bike. I can see how useful it would be though.

      Yes… -evil grin- …a prepackaged assistant who just happened to look like a young Bruce Lee…. -smack-

      I’ve been righteous today. πŸ™‚ Did the bike AND I walked down to the back fence to gather up dropped branches. I actually made it back up again without collapsing in a heap. The she works. πŸ˜€


  • pinkagendist

    Your box is missing the Chinese person who’s supposed to read the instructions and follow them!
    That happens ALL THE TIME!


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