Tag Archives: skills

Learning the skills of slow – or zen and the art of bike maintenance

Milanese bike

Milanese bike

It was a fine autumn day today and I was visiting a friend who lives on the other side of south London to me – 18km to be precise according to Google maps. It would take me 1 hr 10 mins to cycle there, Google told me. I decided I would give it a go. I needed some fresh air and exercise.

But first I had to get my bike ready as it has been a few months since I have cycled. An hour later, and after all nearly giving up, I had managed to get a working bike together, taking a wheel off one bike and putting it on another. Set to one side, I had one wheel that needs a new inner tube, and another which needs a puncture fixed. And, thanks to a flat tyre on the way back, I now have another one that needs fixing.

My first thought was that I will take them to a bike shop tomorrow and get them fixed. But I can do the fixing myself, even if I have to look it up and remind myself of how to do it.

My experience today in trying to get a bike working reminded me of the skills that are actually required to live a slow-moving life. Because we are more self-reliant, we need to know how to be able to do and fix stuff. But these are not skills that are widely taught – and it is the type of skill that it is easier to learn from someone else rather than trying to teach yourself. I learnt what little I know from an ex-boyfriend. But if I wanted to up my skills where would I go?

I read in The Big Issue this week about The Cycle Hub in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which is a bike shop/café/repair centre and runs workshops – the two upcoming maintenance workshops are fully booked. Doing a quick Google search revealed that there are numerous places in London where you can learn the skills you need to keep your bike on the road. I like the look of the ones at the London Bike Kitchen.

What I was reminded of today is that slow (some types at least) actually require preparation and skill. But that the actual preparation is a form of slow in itself (albeit rather frustrating at times when you don’t have the skill), and that learning the hands-on skill is a form of slow too. One thing leads to another. I’m actually looking forward to getting my hands dirty at a bike maintenance course. Next thing you know, I’ll be building a bike.

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