By guest writer Angela Chan
I remember the first time I learned how to fix a flat, about 5 years ago. I used to see bicycles as mysterious machines, believing I had no place trying to fix anything on it. I knew the very, very basics--how to fill my tires with air, and remove the wheels and seat. I’m not sure I even knew there was a tube inside the tire.
I didn’t know there was such thing as chain lube, so when I figured out the squeaky noise was coming from my dry and rusty chain, I used vegetable oil to get the squeak out (which I don’t recommend at all now!). After repairing my first flat, I felt great. My hands hadn’t been so dirty since art school and they kinda hurt from getting a tough tire back on the rim but I didn’t care. I didn’t have to go out of my way to a bike shop, I saved some money, and it was rewarding and fun.
Bicycle maintenance classes are now underway at Rapid Transit Cycleshop. And I think I speak for myself and my co-workers, when I say that we’re pretty excited to share our knowledge with those wanting to learn. So far, we’ve done classes on basic repair, complete tune-up, wheels and brakes. We’ve had great students who are willing to learn and ask lots of questions.
But truthfully, we would love to see more students. If you love your bike, I do think it’s beneficial to learn how to assess its condition I still use the assessment techniques I learned from a class years ago, and they have been invaluable. Recognizing that there’s something wrong early on prevent a more costly repairs down the road, and, most importantly, might prevent you from getting into an accident.
I know not everyone wants to get their hands dirty, or maybe some of you don’t have the time or inclination, and prefer to let a professional does the work. That’s fine too. Even if you ultimately decide not to work on your own bike after a class or two, you will surely have gained a better understanding of how your bike works, and more appreciation for the work your bike mechanic does to keep it running smoothly. You’ll be supporting your friendly local bike shop, just like I support the sewing machine or vacuum repair shops.
If you’re new to bikes and want to learn but don’t know where to begin, the Free Roadside Class is a good start. We’ll demonstrate some basic repairs, assessment techniques and offer up some tips about winter riding. And did I mention it’s free?
If you’re a little bit more experienced or ambitious, and are willing to shell out a little moola, the focus classes and tune-up classes will allow you to work on your own bike more intensely. Winter is great time to learn how to work on your bike, whether or not you ride through the cold season. If you don’t, you’ve got several months of working on your skills and tinkering to get your bike in tip top shape for the Spring. If you do cycle through the cold and snow, your bike will need the most attention in the Winter. The salt, moisture and the potholes that pop up throughout the winter take quite a toll on bicycles.
For me, fixing that first flat was a revelation.
It was a similar feeling that I had when I first biked (after not cycling for 6 years) with my boyfriend from his place in Lincoln Square to Working Bikes—about an 8 mile trip. I had realized that there was really no place in the city I couldn’t get to by bicycle. And with my first flat fix, it occurred to me that, potentially, there was no part of my bike I couldn’t work on. I was looking forward to getting to know my bicycle. I’m not a mechanic, but 5 years later, I’m proud to say that I’ve worked on every part on my bicycle, including building the wheels. I can’t believe the amount of appreciation and respect I’ve gained for this humble machine since my first flat fix.
We invite you, too, to get to know your bicycle. The complete class listing and schedule is posted on the shop's website, at www.rapidtransitcycles.com.
Angela Chan is a Sales Person at Rapid Transit Cycleshop.