It was on my first bike, and there’s a slim chance that it may have still had its stabilisers on. He took me into the garage and showed me where what we needed were in his beat-up blue tool box. The pressed-steel Raleigh spanner, that had come with the bike, the puncture repair kit and the pump. It was at this point that he then told me to “pay attention, because this is the only time I will ever do this for you.” And do you know what? It was*.
The next time I had a puncture there was something I couldn’t quite do and I did I ask him for help, and whilst he did tell me what to do he didn’t come through to the garage. From here on in I was on my own and repaired my bike myself. Not only that but my sisters too. It didn’t always go to plan, but I worked at it and learned mainly through trial and error what to do.
From having to do it from such a young age, I was pretty adept at changing bike tires, so I kind of assumed that everybody could do it. So when I started work in Halfords I was totally blown away by the amount of people that couldn’t. What got me the most though was the amount of people who would bring in just a wheel and tire and ask for a new tube to be fitted. In my eyes if they were bringng in a rear wheel, so had the chain and gears to contend with, they’d got the trickiest bit. Why couldn’t they do this bit? So, even though there was a booking in procedure and usually a few days lead time on repairs, I’d always do these particular tube swaps on the spot. Not though because it cut down on booking them in, but because I childishly wanted to show how easy it was to do. At this point I’d done so many that I could see from the off what wheel and tire combinations wouldn’t need tire levers to remove the tire, so could be done whilst still talking to the customer about how much it would cost and trying to sell the something else. So I’d just do it there in front of them and then hand it back. The set labour charge cost more than a pump and tire levers. I did have a nasty habit of showboating if it was a father and son, and would do it as quickly as I could in front of them both to really show how simple it was. Some of the mountain bikes we sold had combinations of tyres and wheels that were so easy to change once the tube was in you could pretty much flip the wheel round and by the time the bottom hit the floor you’d been able to get the top in and seated. In hindsight, or maybe it’s because of the age I am now, it would have been better to show the children how easy to do, as opposed to how quickly I could do it.
It’s now 20 or so years on from then, and I still find myself marvelling at how some people I ride and work with can’t change a tube or fit a tire. The photo above is from one such instance of this, where I ended up taking over. Although, and this person it’s happened with more than once, I’m pretty sure they’re pretending to be inept so that I then step in at do it for them.
*Bringing it back to my dad, for years I was certain his approach had been to make me self-reliant. However, over the intervening years I’ve become aware that my dad doesn’t appear to be technically or mechanically minded it all. In fact, there’s a little bit of me that is surprised that he was able to fix that first puncture for me in the first place. He actually reminded me that for the first year of me having a bike he had fitted the forks on facing backwards, and it was only when we moved and one of our new neighbours pointed it out to him did they get turned around. But for whatever reason that he did what he did, I am grateful that he did it.