Yesterday I rode my bike out to the Royal Roads campus. It took about 40 minutes from my place in Vic West, at a pace that made me breathe hard and sweat, even though the cycling enthusiasts with their street bikes and jerseys still passed me at a good clip. I’ve got an “entry-level” (aka cheap) commuter hybrid bike, with fattish tires, comfy seat and straight handlebars. Thank goodness I’m getting good at switching gears, because our hilly town has some challenging slopes. I guess that’s why the serious cyclists come from all over the country to train here. Well, that and the weather.
My tendency in life is to go boldly and believe that, for the most part, the universe will take care of me. It’s actually kind of ironic that I am a Scout leader, because “be prepared” is not a motto that comes naturally to me. I’ll make lists and tick them off when I am doing something “important”, like travelling overseas, or completing a large project. But for a little jaunt on a well-travelled trail, I just throw on the helmet, the sunscreen and the backpack, and go.
So when I got to my bike after a long afternoon on the computer at Royal Roads, and found that my tire was flat, 14k from home, I thought “oh crap – now what?”
I had turned my bike upside-down to examine the tire and see if there was any obvious nail or piece of glass, while I pondered whether to phone my always-prepared sweetheart and endure the lecture as he drove me home. Just then, some fella on a bike cruised up to me and asked, “Do you have a patch kit?”
“Uh, no, of course I don’t” I laughed sheepishly, feeling particularly foolish in my flip-flops. My mom always told me never to bike in flip flops and suddenly I felt 10 years old again.
“OK, well, I have one and I guess we can use that. Do you know how to change a bike tire?”
“Um…. kind of…. 25 years ago…” I felt ancient and stupid.
The cyclist, whose name was James, proceeded to take me step-by-step through the tire-fixing process. We took the wheel off the bike, and he showed me how to take the tire and tube off the rims, how to find the puncture, how to find the offending object (a tiny thorn was all it took), how to scuff up the surface of the tube, apply the glue, wait for it to get tacky, stick on the patch, pump up the tube a bit, put it all back on the rim, pump the tire, and get it back on the bike. He also noticed that my front fender was missing a screw to keep it in place, so he tied it securely with a twist tie.
All the while, he told me, quite gently I thought, that he liked to be prepared for any eventuality, that it’s important to be equipped both to ride and maintain a bike, and where to get good parts and service. James is hard-core about his cycling. It figures, because he is in the Environmental Education and Communication program. His helmet says “One Less Car”. I couldn’t have asked for a better rescuer and teacher.
As we were fixing the bike, we came across a couple of things he can still use for his “kit”. One is tweezers for getting small, poky things out of tires. The other is, he says, twist ties. But I’m going to do him one better and get an assortment of those “zap straps” that do up tight and have to be cut apart. I’m going to get some for me… and some for him too, as my way of saying “Thank you, I’ll be more prepared next time.”