This local bike shop, simply named, is just over a mile from my house. They’ve done quite a few repairs on our bikes recently. They fixed a broken chain, secured a Piccolo rack mount, and quite a few other things.
A couple of weeks ago my oldest daughter rode away toward a rehearsal for a dance recital. When she didn’t check in, we set off to find her. We met her walking her bike. Evidently she had only gotten a couple of staggeringly slow miles and “Bang!”. When she didn’t see anything wrong, she resumed pedaling, and instantly felt her body drop a couple of inches. Popped tires always happen at the most inopportune times.
Hoping to get her fixed up quickly and off to rehearsal, I shuffled through a busy department store and waited an aeon in line to buy a tube. I replaced the new tube in the parking lot, walked across it to the tire store and asked them to pump it back up for me, and took forever reassembling the bike. The wheel wasn’t spinning and there was a “Clunk, clunk!” pedaling noise and one of the cranks looked a little floppy.
We walked around the corner to the local bike shop to see what the problem might be. It turns out when the Walmart bike was assembled, it was less than thoroughly done. One of the brakes wasn’t put on the frame in the right place, causing it to contact the wheel all wrong, wear badly, and create a lot of friction. The guy in the bike shop replaced a brake pad with another used one he had lying around and adjusted her brakes. He trued up the wobbly wheel, adjusted and straightened out the lopsided cranks, tightened the pedals, and adjusted the derailleurs. In the end, he didn’t even charge me. I suppose that’s partly because he didn’t have to put any new parts on, and partly that he felt bad for my daughter’s ruined day. The rehearsal would have been over.
In spite of everything, my daughter rode away with a huge smile. She had been reluctant to ride, preferring to walk instead for some time. Her bike works so well now, that she has had a renewed enthusiasm for riding.
Her bike isn’t the only Walmart bike that has been failing. Mine hasn’t been able to hold up to the weight or the miles. It’s in pretty sad shape. A less stubbornly determined (and probably smarter?) person wouldn’t be riding it. I’ve been wanting to upgrade my bike since we started bike commuting again, when my minivan died. The other day, I found one for $50 at one of the nearby thrift stores.
I needed to get the rack for my boy’s Piccolo bike trailer transferred over to the new bike before we could go on any family rides. That meant both the new bike and the Piccolo rack had to be at the bike shop. In order to get them both there, I would ride my old bike with the Piccolo still on it, and my middle daughter would ride the new bike. On the way home, I would ride the new bike with the Piccolo and she would ride the old one, with all of it’s problems. I did not want her to be riding it very far! The shop where I bought the piccolo is a good six miles away. Instead, I went down to this most local bike shop to see what they could do. When I told them that I would probably just donate my old bike to the same thrift store, they suggested that I donate it to them. “You can have it!” They swapped the rack in trade for my junker bike, which they think they can get fixed up. I don’t think they made a good bargain, but once again, they helped get this car-free family back on the road. The best part is, they don’t seem to mind that I just want to build a suitable bike for me. They’ve never been aggressive with trying to sell me something, rather than fixing what I have. I would like to support this bike shop with my future purchases (like tire tubes) and service needs.
However, this left us one bike short for the trip home. No big deal, really, since we’re not that far away and walking would be just fine. An idea came to mind, though. My boy is always scooting back off of his seat, riding on his rear rack. We can’t get him to stop doing this and the rack seems to be able to hold him just fine. My youngest daughter rode her own bike. My middle daughter rode the Piccolo. My boy rode on his rack, fleece sweater folded for a cushion, arms around his sister’s waist. The bike doesn’t handle quite as well with an overloaded Piccolo, but I am pretty used to that sort of thing, by now. Maintaining control was no problem at all! We rode the long way home, through the park, listening to the birds in the trees, and enjoying the evening.