Over the weekend, a beat up white mountain bike showed up in our garage. Judging from the condition of the bicycle – near flat tires, non-functioning brakes, gears that would not shift, wheels that wobbled enough that they had rubbed against the bicycle’s frame – the bicycle had been pushed into our garage.
“Hey Dad, can you take a look at Joe’s bicycle and see if you can fix it?”
Lately Nate has been bringing his friends by our house, asking me if I can take a quick look at their bicycles. It started a few weeks ago when he and his friend Joe stopped out front with two girls in tow, asked if I could help them with the bicycles the girls were riding. I took a look at each bicycle, made a few adjustments, raised the seat on one bike, pumped up the tires, and sent them on their way. Since then there has been a steady stream of bicycle maladies requiring my attention, whether it be a rubbing chain, a mysterious squeak, a gear that won’t work, a brake that sticks.
While talking with Joe’s guardian last Sunday afternoon, he told me that Nate has been telling his friends that his dad can fix any bicycle. We do have a reputation as a bicycle family. Nate has always had nice bicycles, all Trek brands and not your typical department store fare. My reputation as a cyclist in the community is well known from all the years I have spent commuting to work by bicycle.
But the knowledge that Joe’s guardian shared with me was a bit of a revelation. Amidst all of the teenage attitude my son has been giving me, the boy is actually proud of something his father does. He would not tell me directly that he thinks I can fix any bicycle. I guess he has been showing that to me, though. And it makes me wonder what else my son is proud of. Some day I will probably hear about it.
Thing is that I am not that much of a whiz at fixing bikes. What I have learned is how to keep my stable of hand me down bikes rolling, my experience growing my skills as a means of survival, my expertise limited by the numerous mistakes I have made. I guess a lot. I do not really know that much. My workbench does have a lot of tools specific to fixing bicycles, tools gathered over the years. There is a box filled with old parts under my workbench. I can replace a spoke, coax a wheel back to true (i.e. get it close to rolling straight), replace cables/bearings/shifters/brakes. As a testimony to my real ability, I have to confess that I have a good relationship with the mechanic at several local bike shops. There have been many incidents where a mechanic has saved me from a botched repair.
I really like knowing that what I do influences my boy. He admires me. That makes the rough stuff a whole lot easier to deal with.
Last night I took that old beat up white mountain bike a good going over. I smiled as Nate came out to watch me, eager to help as I asked him to hold a shifter cable with needle nose pliers while I tightened the cable down. He couldn’t wait to deliver the bicycle to his friend Joe, brakes fixed, wheels rolling straight, gears shifting again.
“Hey dad, you want to go play some tennis?”