We’ve set our clocks forward, and the days are getting longer and warmer. That means many of you are starting to think about pulling your bike out of the garage after the long cold “winters” of Southern California.
In Howard’s most recent article, “ Washing your Bike” he presents us with 10 easy steps to a clean bike and notes that among other benefits it is “much easier to work on a clean bike.” Agreed!
So once your bike is clean, what next?
Fix It Yourself: . Most of us have at least one or two things that aren’t functioning well on our bikes. Maybe the gears won’t shift smoothly, the chain keeps falling off, or the brakes squeak. It can be tempting to leave these little problems unattended until the broken part prevents us from riding. Often a broken part can lead to a crash out on the road. Then it is likely the poor damaged bike will be cast aside, neglected, and unused.
I’ve written in a past article, “Mind the Gap” about how learning to work on bikes has been empowering for me. Fortunately, there are many resources out there for people who want to learn how to work on their own bikes.
Howard wrote a fun and very useful article presenting the simplest ways to keep your bike rolling smoothly, including how to put air in your tires, lube your chain, and adjust squeaky brakes.
The birthplace of “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY) bike repair here in Santa Barbara, Bici Centro, starts its next 8-week drop-in Learn Your Bike class on April 2. This series will be taught by Jim Cadenhead, master mechanic and owner of local Cranky’s Bikes. And Bici Centro has expanded DIY hours too, in its spacious new shop, where you can bring your bike in and get help in doing your own repairs. Other bike shops in town also offer tutorials or classes, so check in with your favorite shop for more information.
Have Someone Else Fix It: Thanks to the sage advice of a dear friend and fellow DIY bike mechanic, about every two years I take my bike to a bike shop to have a real mechanic give it a good once-over. Professional mechanics know how to look for problems I would probably never discover, and they have the tools and knowledge to do more sophisticated repairs. Bringing my bike to a mechanic also ensures that even the repairs I know how to do, but have not taken the time to do, get done. I’m back on the road riding a smooth, safe bike in no time. It’s well worth the money and the peace of mind.
Trade a Skill for Bike Repair: Another friend of mine, who is a massage therapist, recently asked me if I would trade time working on her bike for massage. I didn’t feel accomplished enough as a mechanic to accept this offer, but the idea is brilliant. If you are short on cash and don’t have the time, desire, or skills to work on your own bike, figure out a trade and ask a friend who knows how to wrench to work on your bike. Mow the lawn, trade web or graphic design, babysit — get creative! The barter system can be a great way to get your bike in tip top shape, free of charge.
So now your bike is clean and in good working order. You’re ready to hop on your bike and ride off into the sunset, right?
Educate Yourself: When I was first learning about bicycle education and the concepts of vehicular cycling, I found a fun video from 1954 called Drive Your Bicycle, in which boys about 12 years of age compare how they would drive a car to how they should ride a bike. There are scenes of them behind the wheel of an old car with one kid on the hood (as they might ride a friend on the handlebars), or driving the car on the sidewalk. It’s a clever way to remind us how the rules of the road apply to bicycles.
Cyclists both on the street and on trails have unique privileges and therefore responsibilities. Legally, we are not required to have any driver’s training or have our bikes licensed.
Also, limited law enforcement means that we can often get away with breaking the law by biking drunk, not using lights at night, riding on sidewalks or on the wrong side of the street, and disregarding traffic signals. These are our unique privileges, of sorts.
Our unique responsibilities, then, are to become bike ambassadors who take the high road of following the rules and laws of the road, knowing it will keep everyone out there safer. Perhaps most importantly, following the rules of the road means that we earn the respect of other road users, especially those in cars.
I relish each positive interaction I have with motorists, pedestrians, and other bikers when I’m riding in a respectful and courteous way. I know I’m a courteous road-user when I receive smiles and waves, am granted a wide passing distance, and generally feel a smooth flow of traffic around me. Of course there are jerks out there, but I don’t believe there are any more jerks in cars than there are on bikes or walking. Jerks are jerks, regardless of how they get around.
As in the world of bike mechanics, there are lots of resources out there for you to learn more about the concepts of vehicular cycling and “driving” your bicycle. Just type “drive your bicycle” or “vehicular bicycling” into Google (or other search engine) for web resources. And Bici Centro offers wonderful, hands-on “Street Skills clinics that will teach you how to avoid common missteps and also some smart strategies for riding defensively. Bici Centro also offers workplace clinics, like the “Lunch and Learn” sessions in English or Spanish (Yardi and Deckers are already hosting such clinics in the coming weeks). Ask your employer to host one this spring!
The seasons may not be as pronounced in Santa Barbara as they are elsewhere, but spring is still a time for increasing physical activity and working off extra pounds that might have mysteriously appeared during the winter months. Spring is also a time to clean out old ways of thinking about maintaining our bikes and riding on the road. Ride off into the summer sunset as a bike ambassador, with a bright front light and a rear blinkie flashing.