Four years ago, two friends and I headed to Plain, Washington for a weekend of biking. Throughout our summer of riding we came to call ourselves the “Girls with Pumps.” The first afternoon, we rode 4 miles into town for lattes. The next day we saddled up for a longer ride to Lake Wenatchee State Park; however, about a mile into the trip, my rear tire flattened to the rim. “Maybe there’s a gas station in Plain that can fix a flat,” I said. “I have tools and a spare tube, but I don’t know how to use them.”
That is when my friend Amy asked, “Would you like me to fix it? I took a repair class a while back.” What could I say to a Girl with Pumps? Amy removed the wheel- spreading nuts, bolts, washers, stem cap, and tools in the gravel on the roadside. The narrow tires proved difficult to remove, so Amy suggested we take the bike back to the house and work in a safer environment. Amy and Barbara rode back for the car while I searched for the bike parts and tools scattered in the gravel. To my surprise, I even managed to get the tire off the rim while I waited.
Back at the house, Amy installed the new tube and inflated it. Unfortunately, when she tried to put the wheel back on the bike, it was crooked and wouldn’t spin at all. Undaunted, we removed the wheel and then the chain. I have no idea how we transformed the chain from a single greasy loop to a figure eight with grease all over ourselves. Realizing that our next move might break the chain, we gathered up the pieces we could find and tossed the whole jumble into my car where is sat until we returned to Seattle.
At Barbara’s recommendation, I took my jumbled bicycle to Bike Works the next week. The mechanic asked what I had been trying to do to the bike. Laughing, I said, “Fix a flat, can’t you tell?” I arranged to retrieve my 40-year-old Mercier road bike the next day, wondering how I had managed to ride it for that long without changing a flat. While paying a modest amount for the repair, I saw an announcement about Volunteer Repair Parties hosted by Bike Works. I vowed to learn to fix a flat. I had no idea then how much more I would learn.
I have been volunteering at Bike Works for four years now. I keep volunteering because I believe in the Bike Works mission, vision, and values. I have an opportunity to meet interesting people of all ages and backgrounds while working with tools; I get to learn new skills in a supportive setting. I like the flexible schedule and wide range of projects that I can jump in on. And most importantly, I feel welcomed and appreciated.
Over the four years that I’ve volunteered at Bike Works, I’ve had the unique opportunity to repair bikes once or twice a week and take repair classes with others folks at all skill levels. On occasion, I even teach basic skills to newcomers. The Repair Parties draw volunteers from diverse backgrounds, ages, and interests. What we have in common is a love of bikes and a desire to contribute to a vital organization that supports bicycle recycling, youth empowerment and leadership, safe and low-cost biking, and an inclusive bicycle community.
When I can, I also support Bike Works through financial donations. As I write the check, I think of that fateful ride in Plain, the legacy of Girls with Pumps and how Bike Works introduced me to a whole new world of bicycles.
When you give to Bike Works, it changes lives and builds community all through our bike shop, our volunteers, and our programs. Please consider making a contribution today. #PatchitForward