I can safely say that Iím a better bike rider than a bike mechanic.
But my limited skills were put to the test recently on a ride Iíd planned after work one evening on the Rails to Trails bike path. Everything, from closing out my workday to the traffic leading out of town, was rolling along smoothly ó the mid-October weather a balmy 60 degrees.
Immediately after I took off down the trail, I noticed my bike was a bit sluggish.
Mind you, many times on past rides have I questioned that either someone was holding onto the back of my seat or I was losing air in a tire, only to stop, squeeze them, and then sally forth reassured.
Not this time. The rear tire was indeed flat, putting a spoiler on my plan to cycle, literally, into the sunset.
A wrench in the works it was true. I devoted the next half hour and managed to successfully remove the rear wheel from the bike, which also requires maneuvering it off the chain and derailleur, and then removed the punctured tube from the tire.
I always carry two spare tubes in my saddle bag. (Some may think I over-prepare for outings; I will say I rarely go anywhere without food and water Ö and occasionally an emergency blanket.)
After what perhaps other cyclists might consider an inordinate amount of time, the new tube was installed and partially inflated prior to being inserted in the tire and remounted on the bike.
The sunshine was ebbing, but there was still time for a brisk ride. I was nearly ready to roll ó just needed to finish pumping up the tire.
My portable bike pump and my arm were getting a workout Ö but the tire was not. In fact, it had lost the air it had teased the tube into retaining earlier.
I had a gnarly decision: Do I persevere through another tire changing or accept defeat?
The golden hour, and any last vestiges of a ride, were slipping away.
Reluctantly, I returned the bike and helmet to the car and with one last remnant of optimism I replaced my cycling shoes with the suede ankle boots Iíd worn to work that day ó ancient and woefully inadequate for hiking with both soles laterally cracked, but that I canít bear to throw away because, darn it, theyíre still comfortable and just fine as long as the forecast is dry ó they bore my fast pace with grace as I bore down the trail in my wrap-around cycling sunglasses, jersey and padded tights. Passersby likely wondered.
Granted, my cadence wasnít as quick or slick as it would have been had my bike hung in there for one more glorious late season ride.
Still, I began to regard the circumstances as serendipitous and to appreciate my place in the universe at that moment in time.
The sun slipped ever closer to the horizon but still carried one last warm breath as I headed back toward my car and then home. At the very moment I pulled into my driveway, it gently rested itself on the ridgeline of the Salish Mountains to the west.
Maybe I didnít get what Iíd planned for but, at the end of the day, Iíd had everything I wanted.
Community Editor Carol Marino may be reached at 758-4440 or email@example.com.