Freedom on Two WheelsBy Elizabeth Ewanchuk
As a young girl, I loved exploring the abandoned farmhouses and outbuildings in the green space near my house, breaking to stretch out in the long grass, enjoy the unbeatable blue of the Alberta sky above me, and make up stories about who had lived in those buildings.
My favourite part of these adventures, though, was the bike ride there and back. Pretending I was a fighter pilot on a dangerous mission, I’d lower my nose to the height of the handlebars, elbows splayed wide, and pedal full tilt through enemy territory. Nothing matched the thrill of the breeze cooling my back and flipping my ponytail in the bike’s tailwind. Glorious freedom, fuelled only by my legs and my imagination!
Over time my two-wheeled escapades tapered off and my bike eventually became a neglected heap of rust on the balcony. A few years ago my love of cycling rekindled, so I set out to buy a shiny new freedom machine. Unfortunately, I was greeted with condescension and disdain by the staff at more than one high-end bike shop. I left each one more disheartened, sure that my days as a fighter pilot were long gone.
At the urging of a friend, and with much trepidation and few expectations, I headed to BikeSauce, a local volunteer-run do-it-yourself bike shop in Toronto and found a vibrant workspace where bike accessories covered the walls and upbeat music pulsed in the background. “Hi, welcome to BikeSauce! Is this your first time here? Let me show you around.”
The elitism I experienced at other bicycle shops is something Bradley Wentworth, a long-time volunteer at BikeSauce, has encountered. He dubs it ‘Bikier Than Thou.’ In contrast, he says the folks at BikeSauce, “work hard to create an inclusive atmosphere where everyone feels welcome, regardless of mechanical savvy. It’s a place where people can learn to maintain, operate, tinker, tweak and customize their ride. If a patron doesn’t know how to make a repair, a volunteer mechanic will demonstrate what needs to be done using jargon-free language, undo the work and guide the person as they do it on their own.
Customers pay for any parts they need and leave a donation for the use of the bike stand, tools and time according to their means. You can also purchase a sweet ride. BikeSauce accepts donations of bikes, parts and accessories, which are then refurbished and offered for sale at a great value.
Over the course of several months, I’ve spent many hours working on a bike I bought at the shop. While I’m far from being a bike aficionado, I no longer feel intimidated when someone mentions headsets, cassettes, derailleurs, cranksets, spindles and housing. I’ve learned how to patch a tube, true a wheel, replace brake cables, change a chain and a host of other tasks associated with maintaining a bike. Now, the freedom I experience on two wheels is enhanced by the knowledge I’ve gained getting my hands dirty.
Ramping up for summer cycling? Here are Bradley’s top tips for regular and seasonal bicycle maintenance:
- Inflate Your Tires Weekly
Look on the side of your tire for how much air to put in. Inflated tires make you go faster and you’ll get fewer flats because harder tires “push” debris away rather than absorb it, and don’t pinch as easily into potholes.
- Clean and Oil Your Chain Every Two Weeks
Regularly oiled parts work better and last longer. But less is more – a tiny drop per link of chain is enough; otherwise black sludge forms quickly.
- Check Your Brake Pads
Being able to stop quickly and efficiently is important to your safety. If your brake pads are worn down, replace them. Also, check if the pads have dirt or gravel embedded in them, which can scratch and damage your wheel rims. Clean the pads using a bit of alcohol on a soft cloth. Release the brake callipers to give yourself easy access.
Now that my new freedom machine is in fighting form, I’m coming to get you, Red Baron.
About Elizabeth Ewanchuk:
As a Sports Injury Specialist, Elizabeth brings together traditional healing methods with modern science to help athletes reach peak performance. In her spare time, Elizabeth loves climbing rocks and trees, feeling the sun’s warmth on her face and squishing soil between her toes. When she’s not climbing, cycling or getting bendy on her yoga mat, you’ll likely find her in the kitchen concocting something yummy. To learn more about Elizabeth’s programs, please visit instillness.ca.