Bike Repair for Women, First Class

Bike Repair, First Class, 1-14-17

This past Saturday, January 14, I participated (not just attended) a bike repair class for girls and women offered for a small fee by Laurence of Boxy Bikes, Press Bay Alley, in downtown Ithaca.

I am ashamed to admit that I know almost nothing about my bike despite the fact that it is my main (not only) vehicle of transportation.  At one time I could fix a flat, but I have found with my last two bikes, a Fugi and a Diamond Back, that I can’t even get the tires off.   Maybe that will change!

There were six of us at the first class: Laurence, Judy, Josephine, Jessica, Annie and myself, and we introduced ourselves, and talked a bit about our biking experience and what we hoped to achieve.

Laurence told us: “I’ve actually never been to a bike store – if I had problems with my bike, I fixed it.  I learned by doing.”  Yeah, he was one of those kids who took things apart.  Bravo!  This is the kind of bike teacher we all want.

Laurence began with bike nomenclature, specifically mentioning that a bike frame is really made up of 9 tubes, and these include the seat tube, head tube, down tube, top tube, 2 seat stays and 2 chain stays.  You can see those in the diagram below.  Even if I did not learn another fact today, I would remember that a bike has these parts.  For me, this de-mystifies a bike, although, I will admit that while I am biking, I do feel as if I am in a mystical realm.


Bicycle parts identified


Next Laurence brought out a bike and showed us how to adjust the brake lines at the handlebars.  He mentioned that you could also adjust the brake line at the actual brakes.  He demonstrated how a bike stand works, showed us how to set a bike on the stand using the seat tube—the seat tube of course! — because this is the strongest tube.


We brought in our bikes, adjusted our brakes at the handlebars.  Why hadn’t I done this earlier?  Lots of reasons why a person puts things off, in fact, 5 months ago, Laurence had shown me this very same technique but being in a hurry (a mistake, I am learning to slow down), I filed away that small but valuable skill.  We talked about brake shoes – how to know when they need replacement: the grooves or teeth in the brake pads disappear, or you hear the sound of grating metal.  Then it was determined that either Josephine or Jessica needed a deeper slot for her brake shoe … . a round file was produced (we were at the Generator – tools available here) and the metal slot made a bit deeper so that the brake shoe fit, just a bit better.  At that moment it felt amazing for me to be in such a class.


Before class started, as I was helping Laurence prepare for the class, he said:  “Why do people always assume that biking out in the cold, you must be cold?  Why do they always ask if I am cold?  Why can’t people think past their assumptions?”  A good question to think about during the day when you’re waiting in line at the store, or waiting for a light to change.  Why don’t we examine our assumptions?

Next class I am taking notes – I don’t want to miss anything.