It’s summertime: school is out, the days are long and opportunities to play outside beckon. Summer is a nostalgic season that always seems to call up the past in the best way…how many memories do you drift back to, and your bicycle was involved? For most of us, it’s many.
After being shooed outside every afternoon and encouraged not to return before supper, I rode around and around the block, racing other neighborhood kids. As I aged and my parents became less available to watch or take me places, I biked to the public pool or a local multi-use path for exercise, to jobs, and ultimately to get wherever I needed to be.
Despite all of the technology available to kids today, a bicycle still offers the same whimsical thrills for them as it did for us when we were young. And the flat tires, that put us out of commission for a week or more until a parent could help us change it, still exist.
Basic mechanical issues—even the fear of them—can keep a kid inside on a nice day, or dependent on a parent for rides when they are old enough to be making short-distance trips.
The truth is that bicycles are not complicated at all. A gear that skips, a chain that falls off, a brake pad that rubs, and especially a flat tire are not debilitating for someone with a basic knowledge of bike mechanics. Knowing how to check and fix their own bike can help jump-start your child’s confidence. Here’s how to do a basic safety check with them to make sure it’s ready to ride…and it’s as simple as A-B-C:
- The tires will be stamped with the recommended air pressure; check with a gauge or by feel.
- Spin the wheels and make sure they rotate freely.
- Check the tires for cracks, worn tread or other visible wear.
- Some bikes have quick releases on the wheels instead of nuts; make sure they are tight and the levers are in the closed position.
B is for brakes!
- If the bike uses coaster (backpedal) brakes, make sure they work by spinning the back wheel and then applying the brake.
- If the bike has hand brakes, depress the levers to see that they don’t reach the handlebars when squeezed.
- Ideally, you should be able to fit two (adult-sized) fingers between the lever and the grip when squeezing the brake.
- Lift the wheels up, one at a time, spin, and brake to see if they stop effectively.
- The brake pads should be clean, straight and contact the rims fully (no pad on the tire or partially below the rim). They should also move roughly the same distance from resting to braking.
C is for a few things: cranks, chain, and cogs!
- With the bike propped upright, grab each of the crank arms and try to wiggle them from side to side. You shouldn’t feel any rattle.
- Lift the rear wheel and pedal to make sure the chain drives the rear wheel.
- If the bike has gears, have your “assistant” change gears while you pedal to be sure the drive train shifts cleanly into all its gears.
- The chain should be reasonably clean, free of rust and black gunk, and lightly lubricated (not dry to the touch).
It’s a pretty simple intro, right? Try demonstrating this for your kid on one bike, and then have them do the same for you on another!
The ABC safety check is just one example of what your teen or pre-teen can learn by attending the weeklong Major Taylor Summer Ride Club Day Camp offered by Reno Bike Project (RBP). At camp, our team teaches road and mountain biking skills, mechanics and more in a safe, structured, active environment. Participants just need to show up dressed and fed for a morning of active learning. RBP provides bikes, helmets, tools, snacks and enthusiastic instruction.
Reno Bike Project’s goal for our community is to get more butts on more bikes, more often. At this affordable camp, we’re committed to building up knowledge, confidence and skills on a bike, and empowering our participants to use bikes for life, whether for transportation, exercise or fun!
Two sessions are available for ages 11-14 and 15-18, the first July 18-22, the next August 1-5. Each is just $95 per child, and scholarships are available.
This post was submitted by Natasha Bourlin on behalf of the Reno Bike Project.