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Get Your Bike in Gear

Posted on May 26, 2015 at 6:00 am

By Gwendolyn Haley

I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers, particularly when it comes to all things mechanical. Somehow, I have been fortunate enough to be in the right spot at the right time to encounter someone with the skills I need.

Last year, a friend and I went for a bike ride on the Centennial Trail and she got a flat tire. Since she had the right tools with her, we pulled over and attempted to fix it ourselves. We figured “Hey, we are intelligent, educated women, with access to the internet and mad research skills (we’re both librarians). We can do this!” As you may have guessed, there is a big difference between reading and doing. Happily, cyclists on the Centennial Trail are a friendly, helpful group, and it wasn’t long before someone stopped to lend a hand.

That episode prompted me to think. I’ve been riding the same bike since 2009 and have not yet had a flat tire despite my lack of routine bike maintenance. I consider myself pretty lucky.

Get Your Bike in Gear by Gwendolyn Haley | Spokane County Library DistrictIn an effort to become more prepared for my future bike trips, I recently paid a visit to my friend Doug Porter. A bike expert and enthusiast, Doug currently works out of a temporary location restoring and selling old bikes. He plans to open a non-profit shop called Mosaic Community Bike Shop within the next year. Once he establishes a permanent location, Doug hopes to offer classes to teach people to maintain and fix their own bikes, as well as continue with the restoration and selling he’s already doing.

I asked Doug to break down the essential items a fair-weather, short distance cyclist like me should be carrying on every ride. Every biker should carry the following:

Biking Essentials

  • First aid kit (Accidents happen, and you need to be prepared to patch yourself or someone else up. Include big gauze pads and tape because road rash is the most common injury. Most supplies can be found at a dollar store).
  • Tire remover kit
  • Tire patch kit (Doug recommends using rubber cement, not the adhesive patches)
  • Mini-bike pump
  • Spare tube for your bike (I was carrying a tube for my old bike—note: “universal” does not mean what you think it means)
  • Bicycle multi-tool (with hex wrenches, screwdriver, open wrench)
  • Helmet (this should be obvious but is worth repeating)

Get Your Bike in Gear by Gwendolyn Haley | Spokane County Library District Get Your Bike in Gear by Gwendolyn Haley | Spokane County Library District

Doug carries a lot more items on his longer rides; however, he knows how to fix a chain, true a wheel, and do other arcane bits of bike lore that I don’t. I make sure to always carry a charged cell phone and confirm that there’s someone available to come and get me if I get into a jam.

As for repair and maintenance essentials, Doug says everyone should know how to remove, repair, and change a tire. A little basic bike maintenance helps keep you and your bike happy and safe. Doug recommends washing off your bike after every ride to keep it clean. You’ll also want to add a little lubricant to your chain after every 20 hours of riding.

Now that my bicycle is tuned up and ready to roll, maybe I’ll see you out on the trail? I’m the one with the newly wrapped red handlebars.

Gwendolyn Haley

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