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VCB eNews, Vol 12, #4 - On Becoming a Bike Mechanic After 50

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In this Edition

-  Editorial: Confidence: On becoming a bike mechanic after 50

- WOW Bike Maintenance Workshop a Success

- Letter to Another Editor: Bike Licencing in HRM

- Loose Chain Links

-  Bike Buy and Sell

-  About That Funny 







I clearly recall the first time I attempted to change a flat tire on my bicycle. I was having a bit of difficulty - I knew the damaged tube had to come out and be replaced, but had no clue how that could be accomplished. So like any teenager, I went to my Dad for help. My Dad, who had shelves full of tools and drawers full of wire, nails, nuts, and bolts. Some of the tools were old, their wood or metal parts impressed with scrollwork names revered by handymen. My Dad was a tall, lean man with biceps like Mike Holmes. 


Unfortunately, that is where the resemblance ended. My Dad was a very intelligent man who understood complex concepts in economics and knew all the mysteries of taxation. He'd earned a high mark in wood shop in grade 9, so knew one end of a hammer from another but I have the dented one that proves he'd often miss the head of the nail. Working in his father's service station as a teen, he'd been taught to change oil and spark plugs, but his greatest mechanical accomplishment remained lifting the motor out of a Studebaker singlehandedly (this says much about the benefits of a summer job pitching 40 lb bales of hay). 


My Dad peered at my bicycle warily through his trifocals - the flat tire, the delicate web of wires that made up derailleur and brakes . . .  . This was nothing like the single speed CCM he'd torn up the dirt roads of Kings County with as a kid. "I have to go pick up your sister at soccer", he said, still studying the wheel, "You need a 9/16 wrench to get the wheel off. Good luck". 


By the time he got back with my sister, I had the job done. He looked proud and dismayed all at once. Like him, I have always appreciated the importance of being able to fix things, and felt the frustration of not being talented at it. I also share his lack of confidence in one's own mechanical competence. 


This past weekend I participated in a special bicycle repair and maintenance course sponsored by our own Women On Wheels group. As part of the introduction to the course, our instructor asked us "Who has tried to repair or adjust their bicycle themselves?" to which I added, "Who has adjusted or repaired their bicycle themselves and made it worse than before?" My hand was up! However, I also had to acknowledge that I have come a long way from the woman who always deferred flat- changing to the nearest man. Having to keep the newsgirl bicycles ready for work 6 days per week has forced me to up my game as a bike mechanic. However, I am still a learner, so was paying very keen attention to our instructor. He demonstrated the use of basic tools as we tried our hands at basic adjustments to brakes, derailleurs, wheels, and of course practiced the all-important flat tire change. "Just try a few things; it's very much a matter of trial and error", our teacher told us.


After the course, I went home and eagerly made adjustments to my newsgirl bicycle's back brake, which had not been working perfectly for a while. Eagerly I set off the next morning to do my route. The brake locked, full stop, less than halfway through. I had to release it completely before I could make my way home. Putting the bike aside that morning, I felt discouraged. It played on my mind through the day at my "real" job. Later that evening, I set my tools out on the floor. Just like that flat tire all those years ago, I knew what result I wanted, though only vaguely how to get to it. But this time, I had a little better understanding of how things worked and, more importantly, a fuller understanding that it was OK to get it wrong the first time. Using my newfound knowledge of the mechanisms that controlled the brake cable, I reset the brake to the default and carefully adjusted various springs, pad position, and cable length until it was functioning as it should. It was indeed a matter of trial and error, supported by a little bit of knowledge, a generous helping of patience, and a pinch or two of confidence. That brake is working fine now. Full stop.





  •  Shelley Johnson, WOW Coordinator





A beautiful sight . . . some of the bikes awaiting a good clean up at the end of season.


The weather didn't look very promising for even a car ride on Saturday, let alone for hitching the bike to the back of the car and driving in the snow to the Women on Wheels Bike Maintenance Workshop.  Yet fifteen of you gals braved the slippery roads, cold, wind, and flurries to attend.


Someone asked me what it was like, and I described it as both a wonderful day of learning new things about our bikes and an opportunity to socialize with each other.  How many of us could resist a good conversation over tea, coffee and cookies?  It was so nice to reconnect with WoW friends and meet some new female cyclists.  


One of the guidelines for Women on Wheels is to provide a comfortable learning environment where confidence can be built in terms of cycling skills.  Those 



Eager students surround instructor Jacques Cote as he demonstrates how to fix a flat tire.


cycling skills include being able to do basic maintenance on one's bike.  Typically, bike maintenance is seen as a male domain.  However, it is important for female cyclists to become familiar with how their bike works and to be able to learn new skills without assumptions based on gender.  


One of the main barriers to women performing maintenance on their bicycles is a lack of hands-on knowledge and confidence.  It is therefore important to provide an environment that is informal, where we feel comfortable to speak, ask questions, and help each other learn new skills. You ladies certainly did all of that in spades!  Thank you so much for the interest and enthusiasm you all brought to the day. You all made this workshop a great success.   Wowie!  : )


A special thank you must go to our wonderful MoW instructor, Jacques Cote.  You did such a great job at teaching us, demonstrating and answering our questions.  Thank you Jacques for imparting your knowledge and creating a great day of learning.




Instructor Jacques Cote and students; Shauna English Jackson, Carole MacLaughlin and Louise Fleming don  their gloves in preparation to work on their bikes, as part of the Women on Wheels Bike Maintenance Workshop.




Submitted by:

Shelley Johnson

WoW Co-ordinator




Good day Councillor McCluskey et al.,


 I wish to address the recent CBC news story regarding the licensing of adults that use bicycles.

I have been cycling for 30 years, and have done so in most provinces, the U.S., France, Holland, Denmark and Sweden. I am also a CAN-BIKE instructor and National Examiner which is a national bicycle safety program endorsed by Transport Canada. I also would like to state that my wife and I are blessed with large incomes, so a license fee would not impact me financially.  My concern is discouraging a healthy lifestyle, potential increasing pollution and increasing congestion and discouraging a more environmentally friendly form of travel.

 The latest attempt at a bicycle licensing system was scrapped in 1976/77. It failed because the cost to administer and police the program was prohibitive and taking valuable resources off the street for minor infractions. Such a system has been tried in other provinces and countries and the result was the same.

 One of the main reasons for charging motorists to obtain a license, register their vehicles and have insurance is that automobile operators are responsible for thousands of fatalities and tens of thousands of injuries every year. According to the Transport Canada, Statistics Canada, and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics websites, an average of 2,957 annually died in motor vehicle collisions in Canada between 1995 and 2004. The same period averaged 600,000 motor vehicle collisions annually on Canadian roadways. Additionally, during that same time, an average of 204,000 people were injured annually.  I'll direct you to a Transport Canada document entitled Analysis and Estimation of the Social Cost of Motor Vehicle Collisions in Ontario (2007) which is a study that determined the social costs of motor vehicle crashes in the 13 provinces and territories across Canada. This study states that the costs of these 600,000 motor vehicle accidents, in 2004, equates to $62.7 billion for Canadians.

 You can find that report here

 Motor vehicles are required to have insurance because the damage caused by collisions is more than a person can typically afford.

Bicycles and their riders simply don't account for such things.  Motorists, like myself, pay for the privilege, and to offset the social cost, of using fast, powerful, heavy machines on the road, they do not pay for the use of the road itself - that would be a toll.

 Unlike the motor vehicle, bicycles also have a minimal impact on street expansion and on street maintenance and repair. Thus, those who argue that cyclists should pay "their share" should consider how small -- proportionally -- that share would really be.

 As more people ride bicycles instead of driving motor vehicles, positive spin-offs result: cleaner air, healthier people, reduced traffic congestion, reduced noise, reduced parking difficulties, and cost savings on road maintenance and on public transit.

 Cycling is neither inherently dangerous nor particularly difficult; therefore, like walking, we allow people to do it for free. Requiring cyclists to pay a license fee would be like requiring pedestrians to pay a toll to use sidewalks or ped-ways and kayakers to travel upon our lakes and rivers—an absurdity that most members of society would agree disincentivizes behavior (cycling) that's beneficial to everyone.

 I ask you to please consider the following:

 What is the plan for cyclists outside of HRM, outside of the province or outside of the country that cross the HRM boundary line?  Will there be some sort of monitoring system in place to charge those that visit HRM?  What will be the cost of this monitoring system at all entry points (airports, fairies, roads and Rail-Trails)?

 What would be the cost of registering all bikes - which means identifying each and everyone, using manufacturer, model, colour and bike serial number?

What would be the cost of increasing the size of the vehicle registration department?

What will be the cost of designing number plates suitable for each type of bike?  There are many varities, shapes, sizes, formats, etc.

What will be the cost of passing legislation controlling where on a bike the plate should be placed (after report by technical experts on visibility, position, letter/no. size, etc.) 

What will be the cost of passing laws designating specific punishments for specific infractions regarding non-registration, non-standard or no plate installation, failure to maintain bike serial number in a readable condition, etc. 

What will be the cost of to train police and legal staff on said laws and encourage them to go after cycling miscreants?  Or do you feel that it would give them something to do in their copious spare time?

Different vehicle types have different advantages and disadvantages, and different people have different needs and preferences. Fortunately, our roadways and traffic laws allow accommodation of a diversity of vehicle types for transportation. If this were not the case, many people would be limited to vehicles they don't need, don't want, can't afford, or can't use. However, this diversity requires co-operation and patience of all road users because an unfortunate reality of our roadway system is that all forms of traffic affect all other forms of traffic. No road user is immune to traffic delays nor innocent of creating them for others.

 Some motorists who wish to avoid their responsibilities and occasional inconveniences of motor vehicle travel have claimed that use of slow, open vehicles on roadways is unreasonably dangerous. However,bicycle riders who follow the rules of the road and motorists who exhibit patience, pass cyclists when safe, and at a safe distance will all enjoy a better safety record. Our society's respect for the travel rights of vulnerable but lawfully operating road users is what keeps all road users safe. Those impatient road users (thankfully a minority) who treat others with disrespect and make inflammatory statements intent on depriving other groups of their legal right to travel upon our public system are the ones creating the real danger.

-Doug in HRM.




No worries if you forget to fill your bottle:


A camper you can tow with your bicycle:


80,000 Nova Scotians have German heritage:


Change with the power of a bicycle:


By the pricking of our thumbs, something innovative this way comes:




BIKE BUY AND SELL -- empty this week!






A physicist, a mathematician and an engineer stay in a hotel. The engineer is awakened by a smell and gets up to check it. He finds a fire in the hallway, sees a nearby fire extinguisher and after extinguishing it, goes back to bed.

Later that night, the physicist gets up, again because of the smell of fire. He quickly gets up and sees the fire in the hallway. After calculating air pressure, flame temperature and humidity as well as distance to the fire and projected trajectory, he extinguishes the fire with the least amount of fluid. At last, the mathematician awakes, only again to find a fire in the hallway. He instantly sees the extinguisher and thinks, "A solution exists!", and heads back into his room.                                    


Did you hear about the man who got cooled to absolute zero. He's 0K now . . .  .





Regular articles, including Loose Chain Links:

Word document or compatible, 12 pt Times New Roman. Please have submissions for the current edition submitted by the Monday prior.


Ads for Bike Buy & Sell: Word document or compatible, 12 pt, Times New Roman, submitted by the Monday prior. Ads will run for 3 weeks. Please inform the editor if the item is sold before that term is up. If the item doesn't sell, you may re-submit your ad.  


Photos: high resolution (photos taken with a phone are usually too low, but there may be exceptions); please name all the people in the photo, and give the event, date, and location.







Shelley Porter,  

Editor, Velo Cape Breton eNewsletter

VCB Cycling Ambassador.

November 27th, 2014

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