When I was a little girl, I used to help my dad work on our family cars. As his grease monkey, I started out retrieving the various tools & parts necessary for each job. Eventually, it got to the point where I would do some of the work and he would supervise. I guess he knew early on that my independent spirit would take me miles from home and that I would need to have the skill set necessary to prevent becoming stranded. I never minded having a little grease under my nails and after college relished the fact that every dollar I saved on oil changes meant an additional dollar in the piggy bank for something fun.
When I hopped on the bike a couple of years ago, I quickly saw that I would need to become self sufficient on some basic and common bike mechanical issues. I didn’t want to be the kind of cyclist who needed to be rescued. And I certainly didn’t want to burden my husband with bike stuff, although he’s been so supportive of this cycling journey since day one. One of the very first clinics offered by my team was a basic bike maintenance clinic… complete with food, beer, and wine! We brought our bikes and actually removed tires and tubes and put them back on. We patched a hole in a tube. We adjusted brakes and derailleurs.
I knew the day would come when I would be forced to fix a flat along the side of the road or single track , miles from home or miles from my car. I was fortunate that it was a lovely, sunny Colorado day when it happened. I had just ridden up Lookout Mountain and had stopped for a snack at the top. One of my team mates happened to be pedaling by and we decided to descend down Highway 40 together and perhaps head over to Red Rocks Amphitheater. About one third of the way down, my ride suddenly felt “squishy”. I signaled that I was slowing and came to a stop along the side of the road. A quick inspection revealed what would be my first flat rear tire.
I was absolutely thrilled to have an experienced cyclist like Gary there to watch over what I was doing as I pulled off the wheel and retrieved tire irons, tube, and pump. Following the team clinic, I had practiced changing flats at home under the watchful eye of my husband, so the process went very smoothly and I forgot only one step that Gary reminded me of. The route home happened to take me by two different bike shops, but I didn’t stop; there was no need to stop because I was self sufficient!
Isn’t self sufficiency everyone’s goal to some degree? It’s what I hope to impart on my daughter, similar to what my dad did for me. If you don’t have kids, your parents very likely wanted it for you, long before you knew you wanted it for yourself. Conquering some small part of the universe, be it a flat bike tire, a broken chain on a mountain bike miles into the woods, or a detached fuel line in your car engine in the middle of nowhere, reduces the fear of the unknown and breeds confidence in going the extra distance or taking the path less travelled. My hope for you is that you’ll find something that you, too, can conquer and it will bring you the confidence to begin your cycling journey ~ or perhaps to take it a bit further.