I arrived at the workshop this week at St Michael and All Angels Church at about 19.30. Light spilled from the church hall doors and I could see and hear chatter and bikey activities taking place inside. I wasn’t even inside the doors before I was greeted warmly by Jamie, one of the organisers equipped with a clipboard. There were twelve already listed – names, type of bike and bike problem. Seven had been crossed out. Some were being seen by mechanics. Others were waiting. I arrived tonight with a touring bike and loose quill bolt issue. Not only did the organisers recognize me but they also remembered which bike I had last time and asked me how that project was going. As I waited I had a cup of tea and piece of cake. Kate had made two kinds: shortbread and lemon cake. I made a donation for the refreshments and chatted to Kate while I waited for my turn with a mechanic.
There were six mechanics working on bikes in the middle of the room. Like last time the floor was protected by a series of sheets and bikes were hanging on a series of stands. Boxes of tools sat on a table to the far left of the room but several mechanics had their own stash located nearby. People stood in clusters around the room chatting and watching.
When it was my turn, which was not long after tea and cake, I explained to the mechanic about the loose bolt in my stem. He turned the bike over, took the wheel off and got a flashlight to see into the frame. He passed the flashlight to me and talked me through what I was and wasn’t seeing in the tubing. This was the pattern of our interaction – he talked and put things into my hands. I learnt by doing and sharing the maintenance. Together we fixed he loose bolt. I pressed down on the stem wedge while he screwed it using gravity and the pressure I was applying. Turning the bike over he rattled the bike to show me it was now fixed. However this shake now revealed a loose headset. He made me do it and I felt a low thudding in the tubing. He explained the headset needed tightening. But then he did it again and said that the cones in my front wheel were loose too. Suddenly I had a list of things to do. What was a simple and quick job turned into the rest of the evening. For each task he would pass the object to me to shake, or tighten or feel what was wrong or what had changed. He showed me not only how to discern the problem but how to fix it. I learned more than I expected. Soon my hands were as black with grease as those around me.
I was interested to see even more brochures on a table near the entrance to the hall than last event. This time there was a visual guide to mending a puncture called “Bike It D.I.Y”. Kate explained how many people turn up to learn basic maintenance and these guides had been provided to help with this issue.