Maintenance is key to bicycle bliss |

Maintenance is key to bicycle bliss

Susan Wood
Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune Cyclist Jackie Johnson displays the items that she carries on her bike when riding.

Jackie Johnson remembers the day she couldn’t perform the most basic bike maintenance task – changing a flat tire.

“When I first started riding, it clicked with me when I found other women to ride with. One of us got a flat and it took us three hours to change it, but we did it,” the South Shore woman said. “For the longest time, if I was with my husband (Ross), he’d just change it for me. Now I can do it.”

As late spring lures many to the roads, the need to overcome the intimidation of the gear and fear of being stranded is strong. Many wannabe riders want to go out on long-distance romps because it’s energy efficient and promotes good health.

Johnson, a 16-year rider who’s active with Alta Alpina Bicycle Club, pointed out how some novice riders have trouble learning how to shift.

“I see so many people who don’t know how to change gears. They’re either struggling up the hill, or they’re spinning and not getting anywhere,” she said. “There are mechanical things on the bike that intimidate people.”

Johnson understands the need for security – whether it comes from a patch kit or a ride.

“We’ve got rough roads. I take a patch kit and two tubes,” she said.

To those who take to the road, there’s no substitute to applied learning.

That’s why Brent Springbett of Tahoe Bike Shop will put on basic bike maintenance clinics starting at 7 p.m. June 10. They’ll be scheduled once a month at the Highway 50 shop.

“What I’ll ask them is: ‘What’s their biggest fear?'” Springbett said, adding clinics can be confidence-building. “Road bikers especially, we want to get them on the road again. We don’t want them stranded.”

With mountain bikes, Springbett added chain and spoke wrenches to the mix of what to carry with tire levers and pumps.

Springbett and Mike Olson of 123 Bikes at Roundhill Square noted that mini tool kits have become popular with riders who put all their tools in one box.

“Fixing flat tires is a basic maintenance thing. They either don’t want to take time to do it or don’t know how,” Olson said.

There are tricks of the trades. Some riders carry dollar bills to stick inside the tire if it’s punctured.

He recommended riders even take a cellular phone for added protection.

Finding strength in numbers, many riders have found comfort participating in organized events such as club rides. (Check There are also fun rides assembled around the state, races and California Bike Commute Week. The annual event, slated for May 17-21, is designed to increase bicycle awareness, safety and education.

On the first day, the entire Alpen Sierra wholesale and retail crew will ride their bikes. The South Lake Tahoe-based business is offering a free, 12-ounce cup of coffee to patrons who ride between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Even Marketing Director Megan Waskiewicz will ride at four months pregnant.

“We want to do our part,” she said Thursday.

Organizers have provided the following list of recommendations for those wanting to ride to work on those days:

nCheck out your bike to ensure it’s in proper working order.

nPump up the tires – make sure they are inflated.

nDetermine your route to work.

nTalk to your employer about where the bike should be parked.

nDress for the occasion.

nDon’t cycle on an empty stomach.

nGet an early start.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 541-3880 or via e-mail at

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