Turning Points

Tomorrow marks the final class in the Basic Bike Maintenance series. At 4:45, we’ll unlock the door. People will filter into the shop. The ones who have come to previous classes will make tentative conversation. There will be talk of bicycles and hiking and all sorts of activities from the past week. And then, just a few minutes after 5, we’ll sit down together.

This is an important event to me. This is my first time teaching the class, let alone a new subject for me. It also marks a point in my own bicycle learning. When I started working at the Portland Gear Hub this past April, I knew how to repair a flat. I could change out a brake or shifter cable, but getting it set up was beyond me. Ainsley and Tucker patiently taught me how to set up brakes. They taught me how to fix a bent derailleur and how to re-pack a bottom bracket. They taught me how to look over a frame for damage and how to true a wheel.

I now pass that knowledge on. It’s been a great experience to first learn how to work on bicycles and then get to distribute that knowledge. I love helping bicycle enthusiasts go from looking at a complicated machine that won’t work to being able to assess and complete a repair. I love the questions that I am asked and can help clear up and the questions that I am asked that baffle me (there were just a few of those). And I love seeing somebody understand for the first time just how that front derailleur works.
A bicycle is not a very complicated machine. It utilizes simple machines. Levers and wheels and pivots work together. And through that working together, we have a beautiful thing. We have two wheels that get us where we need to go, that promise the chance of excitement and the breaking up of routine.

To me, a bicycle represents freedom. It represents the ability to get around town. It represents the chance to have an adventure. It represents the visceral rush of flying down a hill, heart pounding and late for work. And if that bicycle isn’t working, I know I can fix it. On the side of the road or at the shop, I can make it work. And now the attendees of my class can too (hopefully). And that is a beautiful thing.


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