Introducing The First Diaries, a weekly column in which one Coloradan documents her misadventures, trials, and triumphs in the outdoors as she tries a new activity or adventure each week. With humor, practical advice, and some serious real talk, our goal is to make the outdoor space a little less intimidating and a little more fun for all of us.
No one ever accused me of being too good with tools. I’ve hardly hung a painting on my own, let alone maintained any kind of equipment. So in the spirit of trying new things—and empowering myself ever more to enjoy the outdoors—I decided to learn a thing or two about bicycle maintenance.
First, I should tell you that I’m really just a casual city rider. I like spinning down to the coffee shop on a Sunday morning and occasionally jumping on the bike path to get to work. I’m not athletic or thrill-seeking about my cycling. I actually picked up my bike, an entry-level mountain bike that’s just fine for commuting, from Community Cycles (shout out to this killer organization in Boulder for making bicycles affordable for everyone). A volunteer helped me find the right size and assured me my selection was in great condition (it is).
But were I ever to need to change a tire or even grease the chain, which is inevitable—well then, I’d be SOL. Enter maintenance workshop.
I found a free class online at REI and I walked in the day-of to find the lecture hall surprisingly full. I suppose my bewilderment to see so many others in attendance came from my surprise at myself for being there. It seemed like sort of a lost cause; I’ve never been the one to fix things when broken, what makes me think that’s about to change?
I imagine this thought, the idea that you’re just not the type to figure things and fix them, might resonate with a lot of female readers. I don’t mean to gender this feeling in any absolute way; whoever you are, if you connect to that statement, I’m glad that we’re in this together. What I mean is that we live in a society that does not teach girls that they’re capable of or can be responsible for breaking out the toolbox. I think a lot of us might have internalized this notion in ways we’re scarcely, if ever, aware of. Myself included.
The instructor, a woman, had two be-spoked chariots lined up at the front of the room. With the back wheel of one wedged between her knees, she demoed something up by the front shocks. On a folding table to her right was spread of products one could use to clean a chain, grease a chain, patch a flat, and more. She wore an apron, uniform of the store, and her fingers were smeared with grit.
Piece by piece she broke down the main tenets of bike-care (most essentially: keep it clean). She demoed basic repairs. All of her instructions had one thing in common: They were simple. Or I should say, I found them to be simple because I understood them. Anyone could follow them. Really. Give me a call next time you need a flat tire changed, I now feel great about being the girl to do it. Noticing this new confidence in myself is what it took to see that, before, it had been missing. It’s not that I’m now a Mrs. Fix-It, it’s that you really don’t have to be to do basic things like maintain your bike. You just need one person to show you what to do.
I still lay claim to my identity as a non-technical person. I’m a writer, after all—i.e., I am not likely to be useful when the zombie apocalypse comes. But caring for a run-of-the-mill bicycle? That, I think I can manage. And I think you can, too.
What We Believe
We are driven by our deep respect for our environment, and our passionate commitment to sustainable tourism and conservation. We believe in the right for everyone - from all backgrounds and cultures - to enjoy our natural world, and we believe that we must all do so responsibly. Learn More