For those of you who have read previous posts from The Small Hall, you may have noticed that I refer to my husband as the Mechanic. He’s not actually a real mechanic, he’s a design consultant by day. The Mechanic has tinkered with bicycles since age 12*, hence the name. Whilst his school friends dedicated many hours in the early 80’s to solving the Rubix Cube in under 1 minute, I suspect he put the same commitment into taking bits of bicycles apart and putting them together again in a similar time.
I have to admit, that when we cycle together I totally rely on Mr M, I rarely carry a spare inner tube and never have any useful tools with me. My answer to a problem would be a credit card and/or a mobile phone. When I first cycled by myself, I didn’t venture far from home, choosing to go to Richmond Park. I increased the distance I cycled by doing laps, whilst never being much more than 10kms from home. I had the attitude that if I had a puncture or a bike malfunction, the worst case scenario would be to get a taxi.
Now as my confidence and love of cycling has increased, I’m much more likely to go further a field on my own adventures, and therefore realise the need to be more self-sufficient. I don’t want to find myself stranded at a road-side with no idea and no phone signal, and I certainly do not wish to add to the cliché that women are not capable of changing a flat.
I’ll never be a mechanic-ess, but I am now equipped with a few basic skills, and have a kit of key tools, which have given me the confidence to cycle more by myself, and with the knowledge that I’ll be able to help when cycling with less experienced friends.
The simple task of releasing the brakes, so in turn the wheels can be easily released (this skill is likely to be needed even to get the bike in a taxi) It’s just as important to know how to put the wheels safely back in, and check the brakes are working.
The most likely disruption to a ride, is a puncture, so knowing how to change an inner- tube was top of my list. I’ve practised this a few times at home. I’ve never attempted to patch an inner tube, I prefer to always carry two spares with me.
Checking my tyre pressure pre-cycle and how to pump tyres up, in the event of a puncture. Next on my list is to learn how to use a gas canister, which I’m sure I will appreciate if I get a flat on a cold winter morning.
How to put a slipped chain back on, with, this is the important bit, minimal oil left on the hands.
It’s not possible to prepare for all eventualities; recently I had a snapped chain, thankfully on this occasion I was with Mr M. He promises me he would have been able to mend the chain at the roadside, however as we were only 3kms from home, he chose to push me. A plan I think he may have regretted as there were two short inclines on route, I’ve never seen him so out of breath. I did pedal as I was being pushed despite knowing the pedalling action achieved no forward motion, I hoped it may have helped Mr M. psychologically.
I still think best to always have the credit card and mobile phone to hand.
Read the Mechanic’s guide to fixing a puncture
*The Mechanic read this post before I published it, I had written age 14 here, which he was keen to correct, so now amended to age 12. He also pointed out that his fine bike building and maintenance skills, should not be referred to as mere ‘tinkering’, but I haven’t amended.