Last Monday, July 25, I took my first step toward making my BIKE ride a reality, not by mounting my road bike for an epic ride, but by taking its back wheel off. Why would I do such a thing? Because I was attending a clinic in bike maintenance and flat tire repair held by the very awesome Luna Chix, a women's cycling team in Chapel Hill. They organize weekly rides for women of all levels and support local cycling events. And that night, they were at the Clean Machine in Carrboro hosting a workshop, held by the shop staff, on how to clean and oil our bike chains and, should the worst happen, fix a flat tire out on the road.
You flip the bike upside down so its rests on its handle bars and seat to work, release the brake from its grip on the tire, release the wheel where its clamped in, carefully lift the chain away from the gears. And when the tire's free, you have to use a special tool to pry the rubber tire away from the wheel rim, look at the tube, that holds the air, to see if there's a leak, patch it or hope you have a new tube on hand. To reinflate the tube, you can use these containers of supercondensed C02 the size of your finger that look like tiny oxygen tanks and give you a fully inflated tire in one whoosh of air. And the tools for all this fit in a tiny bag under your bike seat. Some of the maneuvers were awkward, coaxing the rubber tire back around the wheel rim. But I think I could change my tire if I got stranded alongside a country road. I won't be "that girl" who knows nothing about how her bike works and needs to call for help the instant something goes wrong. Well, I was that girl until the Luna Chix came along. Hopefully I'm on my way to self sufficiency.
I couldn't help but think about the bike workshop in the context of education. There's not just the riding itself, there's taking care of your bike and knowing how to do repairs in an emergency. For education, there's the going to classes, studying, taking tests, the basic things school asks of you. But there's so much more. Knowing what to do if you fall behind in a class; asking a teacher for extra help; planning a curriculum that puts you on track for college; finding out if a student has special needs and should get extended test taking time. Things break. Kids get in trouble, or miss school because they're sick. When that happens in school we think of the parents stepping in, advocating for the student, making sure the learning continues. But parents aren't there for every child. And there's no little tube of C02 to instantly reinflate the tires. The solutions aren't anywhere close to that easy.
Coming soon: Announcement of the nonprofits that will be supported by BIKE NC. Stay tuned!