Tuesday, June 18, 2013

DIY: The Bike Coop

That's my girl- the blue mountain bike in the front.
So I am excited to fix up my beloved bike (which has been sorely neglected since I became pregnant with Rowan). I moved it with me from Oakland, CA to Columbus, OH- but it needs work and is sitting in my basement.

I rode my bike everywhere at one time. I didn't my license to drive until 2004- learning to drive as an adult. And can I say? While I appreciate the freedom that a car provides, I hate to drive. I also hate how our culture is built around cars. It is... less human. Walking and riding and public transit lead to fuller, happier lives, I believe. It's also healthier, of course.

But back to my bike. While I have a general idea how a bike works, I have no idea how to fix one. Luckily, there is a bike coop in Columbus. What's a bike coop? It is a place to get a used bike that has been fixed up. It is a place to learn how to fix up bikes (for free!). It is a place to volunteer to promote bikes to the community (they teach others how to fix bikes, give free and low cost bikes to folks, and more).

Using a tool to remove the tire.
Last night, I went to the bike coop's "open shop" for the first time (the Columbus coop has "open shop" twice a week- Wednesdays and Saturdays). I created a volunteer profile and clocked in. (When you volunteer, you "earn" $8 per hour that is applied to bike parts and stand rental to fix up your bike or towards the purchase of a bike.)

Then I introduced myself. I started by watching one of the volunteer mechanics, who was teaching someone how to fix their brakes. Then another volunteer asked if I wanted to try fixing one of their donations that just came in. Gulp. "Sure, I'll try. Will you show me how?"

So a mountain bike was selected that had a flat tube inside its tire. I was shown the tire removal tool and removed the flat tube. I was going to replace the tube with another one, but they didn't have that size. So instead, the volunteer asked me to remove the wheel and "true it". It was wobbly and scraping against the brake pads, impeding how it rode. So getting the wheel true was important.

I am a little embarrassed to say that I didn't realize what spokes were for (except as a place for spokey dokeys- those are on my old bike!). To true a wheel, you must see where it scrapes and wobbles and tighten or loosen the spokes (they alternate one direction and another, so the tension is evenly disbursed) til it doesn't scrape or wobble anymore. AND I DID IT!

It is a time intensive process, trueing a wheel. It took me, a newbie, about an hour of tinkering back and forth with my wobbly charge. I was pretty proud when I was able to put it back on the bike (and get the wheel back on in the right place for the brakes, chain, and the like) and put it back in the pile of bikes to work upon.

Trueing a wheel
I have ambitions of volunteering there and getting the ability and volunteer money accrues to fix up my bike "for free". Then I want to deck out the bike with a kid seat for Rowan and ride all summer long! Deck it out with baskets for hauling things, make it cute with seat covers and the like. I need a new lock, too.

As I said, I love this bike. It used to take me everywhere. It makes me sad that she has been neglected for so long. And I have been at the Y getting into better shape so I can enjoy bike riding again. Stay tuned to see me on the bike, touring around Columbus!

And in the process, I am learning a new skill (which I love) and helping folks in my community. A win-win, which is my favorite flavor! I am going to be a skilled bike mechanic! Hooray!

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