I bet you thought we’d forgotten to send you the prizes you won from our Kickstarter, huh?! Don’t worry, they’re on their way- we just got a little delayed with minor hiccups like llamas.
Last week, Eric, Piet, and I got a chance to travel down to Saline to help teach some cub scouts bike maintenance. I don’t think any of us really knew what to expect; I thought maybe we would be standing in front of a group of kids inside, trying to keep their interest as we explained some simple things about bikes. Luckily, it turned out to be a much more fun time than that, and I think that Eric, Piet, and I learned as much about the power of the bicycle as the cub scouts learned about bike maintenance.
We arrived slightly late, and we pulled up to lots of young folks tearing around a parking lot while other kids waited for their bikes to be unloaded from parents’ cars. We had three stands, so the plan was to work one-on-one with the kids. We set up next to the building under an overhang, and got to work teaching the scouts about bike maintenance, one at a time. We would be working with kids in the 8-10 age range. Let the fun begin…
My first scout had a singlespeed bmx coaster brake-equipped bike (for some reason I got to work on all the singlespeeds (thumbs up)), and we set to work safety checking the bike. I had scout #1 start pumping up his own tires, and watched as he used all of his weight and all his strength to bring the tires up to a high pressure of 20psi! I finished the inflation for him, and we moved on. His main concerns about his bike were the rust on the chain and chainrings and his seat height. I made him wait until we checked some other bolts until moving onto his main concerns. I applied some lube to his rusty chain, and saw his eyes light up. As I spun the chain with the bike in the stand, he said, “my bike is so much faster now!” Then, I took the bike down from the stand and we adjusted the seat up up a few inches. I put the bike back in the stand just to double check some things and to try to get more rust off the chain, and he began to shake, as if he had to pee. While bouncing up and down, he was saying, “I caaann’t waaiittt to ride my biiikkke” over and over again. It was awesome. As soon as the bike was put back on the ground, he was off, racing around the parking lot.
The rest of the night was very similar. We all worked one-on-one with varieties of kids. Some kids were all about the tools and pulling every tool out of my bag and playing with it. Some kids just wanted their bikes to be faster. One scout, whose brakes were barely operable and whose saddle was way too low, told me that his bike was fine and in perfect working order. How did he know? He can ride fast, so it has to be working well! Other kids just wanted to climb on the brick pillars as we worked on their bikes. Piet had the opportunity of working with a girl (a daughter of one of the leaders) who wanted to know everything there was to know about bikes. At the young age of 13, she was already able to explain to Piet how a freewheel works!
The cool thing was that no one cared what types of bikes they had…what mattered was that they were having fun. They don’t know or care what a singlespeed is, what a fixed-gear is, or what brands are cool. All they cared about was riding fast and tearing around the parking lot, free to do as they pleased. As I rode later that week, I thought back to those kids and the joy that biking brings them; it made me smile and enjoy the ride that much more.
At the end of the evening, Eric gathered the scouts to learn how to fix a flat tire. He deflated the tube, a couple of the scouts used some tire levers to get the tire off. He showed the scouts the tube, and that you would have thought that they were looking at the coolest toy in the world. They squeezed it and pulled it until one of them shouted, “lets try to pop it!” The kid whose tube it was got worried, and Eric quickly then showed them how to put it back in. Sometimes, getting the tire bead back on the rim can be a real struggle…no so with 8 or more cub scouts! It was awesome to see as many kids as could get their hands on the tire working together to seat the tire. Then, it came time to pump up the tire. Every scout had to get a chance to pump. Once it was inflated, the game became seeing how much pressure each of them could generate with the pump while I held my thumb over the nozzle. It was just like a carnival game, but for kids.
On the ride back to Ann Arbor, we talked about how cool it was to work with these kids and to observe their love of bikes…not too different from our own.
Last Friday morning we set up the Mobile Repair Stand at Friday Mornings @ SELMA, Ann Arbor’s “local foods breakfast salon.” It was an unusually quiet day at SELMA, but we still fixed a handful of bikes and met some great new people. There seems to be a lot of local foodie/bicycle enthusiast crossover around, which isn’t surprising.
We had a great time and we’re hoping to continue setting up at SELMA on a monthly basis through the fall.
Yesterday Common Cycle was featured in our local (mostly online) newspaper, AnnArbor.com. It’s a nice little piece that talks about why we’re doing what we’re doing, and conveniently includes a link to our Kickstarter fundraiser right there at the end. Check it out.
Keeping the mobile repair stand running week after week is a big job, and it all falls to our amazing volunteer mechanics. We thought it might be nice for all the lovely people on the internet to meet these awesome individuals, so this will be the first in a series of Featured Volunteer posts, introducing you to the incredible men and women who will help you fix your bike in rain or shine or wind that blows our tent away.
Physics Ph. D. student
What kind of bike(s) do you ride?
Surly Crosscheck; Alien (fixed gear); currently building up a Schwinn Sports Tourer to be a heavy, reliable, bad weather commuter.
How did you get into fixing bicycles?
I got involved through a volunteer organization in Philadelphia much like Common Cycle, called Bike Church. I mostly got into bike repair because I wanted to true my own wheels, then I picked up so much knowledge from folks there that I felt like I could help out by teaching other people myself.
What is your most favorite bike maintenance task?
Wheels – truing, building, repacking hubs, everything.
What is your least favorite bike maintenance task?
Derailleurs – I’m scared any time someone wants me to explain them, because I make it up every time I do.
What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done on bicycle?
I rode a tandem 20 miles one time with a girl I really liked.
The Common Cycle crew will be towing the Mobile Repair Stand to SELMA on Friday, August 13th. You’ll find us at 722 Soule Blvd from 7:30am to 10:30am. Ride your bike and bring your bike repair questions and needs to us!
Halfway, or as my dad likes to tell me, it’s all down hill from here. Let’s pick up speed and blast through the goal.
Thank you to all our backers for funding our Mobile Repair Stand Kickstarter!
Right now, everything on the Mobile Repair Stand is borrowed from volunteers. When we make the Kickstarter goal, we’ll have the money to purchase the tools, tents, and trailers we borrow every week to run the Mobile Repair Stand.
If you are thinking about helping us out, do go to our Kickstarter. It is as easy as buying something on Amazon, and we’ll love you forever. Really!
Last week Common Cycle pulled together our first bike repair workshop. Many thanks to Sic Transit Cycles for letting us use their space for this event. While we march forward on the path to finding a shop of our own help like this is invaluable.
You may not have heard about this workshop in advance: It came together in a hurry and was a test of sorts for us. Thankfully the workshop was a great success and we plan to have more in the future. Next time we’ll get the word out and you can participate.
All told we had about a dozen people and four stands with bikes. Our design was to have the group decide what they wanted to learn. There was an instant consensus: Derailluers!
I learned about derailleurs with Molly and Anika from Eric. We put my bike up on the stand it is as shifty as ever now. One nagging problem I’d had in the middle of my cassette was massaged away by our combined tinkering.
In addition to the help from Sic Transit, a special thanks to Commoners Steve Cain, Sam McDermott, Jimmy Ragget, and Eric Jankowski for teaching the rest of us about how our shifty bits work, and how to adjust them.