Sarah the Mechanic?

I have to start this by apologizing for not posting more than I have been.  The weather’s been awful and I’ve been working non-stop which leaves precious little time for bikes (or sleep) BUT I have had the fantastic opportunity to go to the University of the Fraser Valley Bike Maintenance Level 1 Course.  This course ran once a week for 6 weeks and taught us the basics of bike maintenance.  After this class I can do a full tune up on my bikes as well as some more advanced skills like brake bleeds and hub overhauls.

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My first try at wheel truing.  Does this look straight to you?

The (more than qualified) instructor for the class is Bruce Wenting, owner of Wentings Cycle & Mountain Shop.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that this man knows and loves bikes.  He had awesome stories about every kind of biking you can think of from road races, to cyclocross, to old school mountain biking.  We were all definitely in good hands.  He taught us so much and was able to answer all of our questions, and even solved the mystery of my constantly breaking spokes!  We worked on a variety of types of bikes and the last couple of classes we paired up to work on our own bikes!  Jenny has never looked so good!

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Dirty brake fluid from my gnarly summer of hard riding.

Now, I know you all don’t just come here for stories about me learning things completely successfully without any bumps along the way.  We all know how awkward of a person I am and this class wasn’t an exception.  There are a couple of things I’ve learned from this course (parallel to and outside of the curriculum) and they are:

1.)  No matter how many times I’m told not to, the only thing I ever want to do is squeeze the brake levers when the wheels are off on hydraulic brakes.  This is a no-no as it can cause the pistons in the calliper to get stuck which means you need to reset them.  I did this no fewer than FOUR times when working on my partner’s bike and eventually stopped apologizing and just pulled out the brake pads to fix my blunder yet again.  It was funny the first 2-3 times.

2.)  If you’re going to crouch down to take somebody’s picture in a quiet room filled with cool, bike people, make damn sure you aren’t going to fart.  It happened… loudly…. people noticed.  *sigh*

3.)  When throwing out cables and housing in a metal garbage can, either don’t coil them at all or make sure they’re secured well when coiled so they don’t spring open in the garbage can with a loud crashing noise and get yourself called “rowdy” by the teacher.

Another cool thing I’d like to note about this program is that it’s held in the UFV Aerospace Centre in Abbotsford.  This is where people learn to work on planes.  Planes!  How cool is that?!  So we were all fixing our bikes next to empty planes in a hangar.  Not to mention the bunch of them outside.

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Bikes were also made to fly.

 

This is also the home of Paul Brodie’s Bike Frame Building Course where you actually design and build a frame from start to finish, all the while being guided by the legendary Paul Brodie.  You walk away with a bike frame that you get to build.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to do that for a hardtail frame.  But one thing at a time.  I will most likely be taking the Level 2 of the bike maintenance course when it’s offered in the new year to learn things like suspension maintenance and wheel building.

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Jenny ready for her makeover.

I’m so excited to not have to take my bike into the shop for everything anymore.  Working on your bike may seem scary at first but it is honestly so fun and accessible!  I encourage anyone out there with a bike to take some sort of course to at least know the basics of how to take care of it.  It saves you money and gives you a deeper understanding of your bike and how it works.

Happy trails and stay dry!

 

 

Conclusions: The Smell

This tale starts off in a romantic whirlwind. I had just finished riding and, after dropping my bike off at home, went straight to Ryan’s house. I hadn’t changed yet and was sporting my usual shorts and whatever shirt I had clean at the moment. He pulled me in close for an embrace… looked deeply into my eyes and said something I’ll always remember:

“You should write about how all your riding clothes stink all the time now.”

Ah, young love…

While not exactly tactful, he did have a point. I had a grand total of two sports bras and two pairs of shorts and I definitely did not have time to be washing them every day or every other day. Let alone how wasteful that would be water-wise just to wash those items. That led to a kind of.. well you could call it a build up. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I couldn’t wash my pads because they needed to hang to dry and where I live is too damp for them to dry within a day.

So I embarked on a journey of de-stinkifying myself. Of course I was showering like crazy and I, personally, was not smelly but the minute my gear went on you could smell me from a mile away. Eyes watered and dogs scattered.

I googled how to get rid of permasmells on clothing and came across several things saying I should soak my clothes in white vinegar. I did this with my beloved Sombrio jersey and then soaked it in detergent and then washed it in more. The result: a now vinegarry perma-BO. It was even more glorious than before! This was definitely a side effect that I didn’t even consider when starting my 45 day journey and it ended up being one that really got to me. Even my CamelBak backpack stank! It was an olfactory awakening and a clear indication that perhaps I should buy some more gear if I’m going to ride that often.

Luckily, I can report, that since then I have managed to de-stinkify my clothing. It took numerous washings with long pre-wash soaking periods in detergent to get them back to normal but at least I didn’t lose any of my favourite pieces to such an unworthy cause.

What about you? Anyone else have smell problems? Any amazing solutions out there?

Conclusions: The People

I clearly had  a lot of support on this journey.  When I first came up with the idea to ride for 45 days straight I was worried about what people would say when I told them.  I thought I would definitely be met with some doubts, criticisms, or outright laughter.  What actually happened completely surprised me!  While I did get some “wow you’re crazy!”s everyone I know was overwhelmingly supportive.  When I was getting tired and not wanting to go out that day instead of the expected temptation of “you could just skip this ONE day” I got suggestions on easier rides to go on that would be lower impact.  When I said I was going to enter a race everyone said “amazing!” instead of “you’ll never finish.”  Honestly, I don’t know why I expected to receive such a negative reaction but I now know that I have the most lovely, supportive friends, family, and colleagues that anyone can ask for.

Not only was it existing friends who supported me.  Since I was riding so often I was alone most of the time when riding.  Usually I’d take the opportunity to become a hermit, worried about what others will think about me huffing and puffing up the hill or walking down a feature, but this time I figured why not make some new friends?  Yet again, I was met with overwhelming friendliness and support.  Even if it was just chatting with some people as we rode the climb together it made me love this community even more.  I also got the opportunity to talk about the 45 day journey I was on and everyone was excited and even a little jealous at times.  This definitely fuelled my desire to work extra hard during the year and become as close to a full time bike bum next summer as I can.

The kindness and welcoming was extended even further when I went on a trip to Whistler with Laura and ran into a very interesting woman. We first spotted her at the top of Crank It Up where she was perched on her bike and making these jerky motions outwards with her arms over and over.  All I could think is “I want to ride behind her because she’s going to do something really cool I bet.” We ended up going in front but as luck would have it this woman and I happened to stop at the same pull off point on the trail.  Although Laura had gone ahead of me and most certainly would think I was dead (she did) if I took too long chatting my curiosity got the better of me and I asked what she was doing.  Turns out I was right and it was super cool.  She was practicing no handers!  After commiserating over our shared new skill struggles I found out that she’s a mountain bike coach named Anita Naidu and completely amazing!  She more recently gave me this picture to use so you can see the arm motion I was talking about.

Imagine that on the ground, over and over in rapid succession! Anyways, she even gave me a few tips on jumping which has totally been a game changer for me.  Once again, this is another instance of how amazing and supportive this community is.

Overall, I finished my challenge feeling uplifted by those around me.  Inspired by the kindness showed to me, I am always sure to ask people if they’re okay if they’re stopped on the side of the trail, or offer some encouraging words if someone is struggling with something.  If we all remember that we were beginners just learning once, the sport will be a fantastic place to thrive for newbies and veterans alike.  Shred on, peeps!

Conclusions: The Skills

One of the biggest things that I was hoping to notice at the end of 45 days was an increase in skill. I was worried I may come out the other end still having the same struggles and not having progressed at all. How much is natural ability (that I may or may not have) and how much is practice and training? To help myself out in this regard, I took every chance I could to learn. I asked questions about skills and lines, watched ‘how-to’ videos, I rode with some awesome folks, I spent hours working on a single skill some days, and I even took classes. There were a few days for sure when I would just ride to get my ride done and move on. Something easy on my mind and body. But most of the time I continued to challenge myself with new skills and new trails.

If you recall, I took a video of my first day on this challenge with the intention of filming the same trails on the last day. I was at Coast Gravity Park on the last day so this ended up being Day 46 instead of 45. I think the idea is still the same.

As far as timing goes, I shaved 20 seconds off of my Bobsled run and a whopping 1 minute and 7 seconds off of Floppy Bunny.

So how do I feel? Did I progress? Did I progress enough to feel like it was all worth it? I have to say absolutely. In these 45 days I’ve learned (at a basic level) how to jump, do manuals, bunny hops, and started on drops. I’m way more confident on bikes in general (“less squirrley” is what my friend Bryan called it), my stamina is way better, and I achieved things with ease that I couldn’t even THINK about doing before.

Did I achieve everything I wanted to? No. I was determined to be able to do drops by the end so I could do the wooden drop on Floppy Bunny but it was just too high risk and I wasn’t getting it fast enough to risk it just for the “after” video. I will continue to work on drops, however, and hopefully will have figured them out by next summer.

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A lot of my progression came from “just ride your bike” for sure, but I think that if I had not been so curious and wanting to learn I may not have achieved as much as I did. Actively seeking out information about the skills you want to learn is definitely the best way to do it. You get the benefit of many peoples’ years of experience. Their trails and errors. So no matter what your level, never stop being curious. To those experienced riders who rode with me or just met me on the trail and put up with my questions, thank you! Never forget, we were all beginners once.