Both Tina & I are completely different types of students.... I am a practical learner, and need to be shown how to approach a new task, then allow me the space to work it out - & I will get on with the task.... whereas Tina can be told what to do, visualise the task needed and get to work, maybe asking a few questions along the way, but will have a finished product as an image in her mind.
We know from our own mini team here that everyone will learn at a different pace, and have different requirements. This is why when we attend a Bike Maintenance Class in front of 15-20 students, it's not fathomable that they will all learn in the same way. We provide samples, for inspection, of the bike parts that will be worked on over the course.
Our classroom this week saw us helping students that have been donated some bikes, but were unsure where to go with regard to learning how to make them safe and roadworthy again.
For every task, you need an end goal. Our goal here was to attempt to get a minimum of 6 bikes (or more if time/costs allowed) back in roadworthy condition, and to ultimately complete Cycle Right Stage 2 and finish the day off with a cycle. A tall order some might say, but we thought it would be very manageable.
We had an enthusiastic start, with a brief outline of where we were headed and what the expectations were, and then we all headed off to follow instructions.
You can't work on a dirty bike, so one group headed off with Bike7 Degreaser, Bike wash, Oil and some buckets to source a hose and get scrubbing. The bikes have been lying idle for a while, so there was a few 8 legged friends to move on to newer pastures, and some work to do.
The next group included one member that has a very keen interest in bike repairs at home, so he was very keen to help and showed great spark and motivation to the rest. They helped Ray to strip some bike parts from donated bikes, that had some frames that were too far damaged to be considered for repairing. Pedals were rescued, saddles, brake pads and tyres. All to be used again later on that day.
While all that outdoor work was going on, the workshop had to be organised, and the team in here did a great job setting up 7 workstations. The 6 bike stations had the lists of jobs assigned to the bikes at each station and enough room to work for people to pair up, and one tool station for all the tools to be kept at.
There was a smaller crew that were not overly concerned with the physical repairs, but were interested in documenting the process for the sake of the others, and they enthusiastically took pictures and kept an eye on the schedule for everyone. This is a very important job, if there's one place the whole thing can go wrong, it's not keeping the schedule moving.
But before the work commenced indoors, we had a break, and time for a little chat to see how everyone was feeling. The one thing about us is that we don't just want to teach bike maintenance, we want to know the people we are working with. The kindness of this group was heart warming. The scones and tea obviously helped to seal the deal :)
Back to the room the noise level rose, the heat was even too much for Tina (a renowned perisher) , and the work got serious. There were tyres being stripped from wheels, punctures being repaired, brake blocks getting changed, handlebars removed and cleaned, cables changed, gears adjusted, pedals and seatposts removed, cleaned and a lovely coating of anti-seize used on all parts being refitted to make life easier for the next mechanic.
We reused as many parts as possible, only fitting new items when absolutely required. The recycling movement is essential if we want a sustainable future.
By the end of day 1, we had a huge amount of work done, and this would allow us plenty of time in day 2 for the finer jobs of more cables being fitted and adjustments to be done.
Day 2 - The test of our work was yet to come.
List of items required:- Cables, wheel truing, and buckets of concentration.
Wheel truing is a patience game. Some mechanics seem to have the instinct but most others need to consider the exact maths involved with this task. From my time in Cytech with my friend Eric Walsh, it took me far longer to understand wheel building than it took Eric. Even though I had more experience if you wrote the amount of years working on bikes down on paper, he was able to think about the task differently. This job can be a brain teaser, and needs to be taught with consideration of the different types of learners. We didn't have too many buckles to work on, and as a learning experience, it was a task well worth taking on.
As every bike mechanic knows, when a bike is on the workstand, you have changed the cables, made your adjustments and the gears are working 100%, you still actually need to pedal the bike to make sure of this.
Off we went to get some Cycle Right chatting done at the same time as testing our bikes.
Tina laid out a mini road simulation course, to make sure everyone knew the rules of the road, and we were all happy to cycle side by side when required. There were no shortages of skills demonstrations when everyone got to show how low they could go on the limbo.
Helmets were not used by the students while testing the bikes in the yard, but once there was a hint of going out on the road, those cyclists got moving quickly and didn't need any persuasion to don their helmets & reflective jackets.
Before we go anywhere, 2 things need to happen first..... I need to go to the bathroom, and then the safety talk happens. The road safety element is something I'm passionate about. Yes we want fun, and possibly get fitter, but we need to get back without causing injury to anyone else or ourselves.
The challenging 5km hilly loop meant that those bikes had better have the gears and brakes in top condition. With one minor exception, the bikes turned out to be flawless. The lungs on the other hand might need some more persuading.
With one spin completed safely, the students were keen to clock up some more miles, so after we regrouped around a pot of curry and some tasty rice, the plan was made for the second spin.
The students this time discussed the route, planned it, and lead the way. The fear was that it was a bit longer but was there more hills? There was only one way to find out.
The end result of our second spin was, that with a smile on everyone's faces, we landed back to base, having had no mechanicals, a lot of lovely chats, and a promise to do it all again soon.
We honestly hope the students keep up the enthusiasm they showed us on the 2 days and reap the benefits of their hard work.
This bike maintenance class could not have happened without the dedication of David in sourcing the raw materials (old bikes) to begin with, and getting us down for a conversations, and then spending his time researching where the funding might be available, to offer this life skill to the students. There has to always be one dedicated person to the cause, and in true Tipperary style, David came through with a smile on his face and a determination to offer these students the best opportunities available to them. The world needs more champions of the "outside the box" thinking folk like David.
We were thrilled to be part of the 2 days, and look forward to meeting some of these students again in the future.
Yours in Cycling,
Ray & Tina Clarke.
Blog posts are going to be mainly mini musings of Ray & Tina's various experiences.....