April 15, 2016
If you travel by bike, you’re probably a bike mechanic too. I’m not talking about a trained and certified shop mechanic, but I bet you know how to replace a spoke, adjust brakes, and fix a flat.
That last skill, “fix a flat,” can also make you a hero and taking the time to be a roadside angel when you see someone having trouble with their bike is a simple way to give back.
In many parts of the world, fixing a flat tire on a bicycle will cost the equivalent of a days wages. Someone may desperately need their bicycle to get to school or work, yet the bike sits unused because the owner can’t afford a repair.
I always carry extra patches and a large tube of glue when we travel. In Cuba, a family invited us into their home. So many times I’ve wished I could repay the kindness others have showed to us. This time I could. Over in the corner of the main room were three dusty bikes. They were all in pretty good shape, except they each had a flat tire. With an hour’s worth of work, I was able to give them back their transportation.
I fixed over 30 flats while I toured in Mexico, many in one town. You see, I saw this kid who was walking his bike because it had a flat. I stopped and offered to fix it. I took off the tire, found the puncture and the small piece glass that created it, and began to patch it. I heard a commotion and looked up to find two more smiling kids with their bikes. Two kids became nine. It was a 4 1/2 hour stop. I didn’t get to my intended destination for the day. It didn’t matter. I had a blast.
Remember: You don’t have to be a great bike mechanic to make an enormous contribution ... and pack extra patches and glue.
Photo by Kat Marriner
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday.
Willie Weir is a contributor for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can also find him at WillieWeir.com, Facebook, and Instagram.