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Unexpected Lessons from an REI Bike Clinic

The other day I attended a clinic at REI called “Basic Bike Maintenance for Women”. Did I learn about bike maintenance? Yes. Is that the point of this post? No.

To be honest, if something ever malfunctioned on my bike (tire, chain or otherwise) out on the trail, and Joe wasn’t with me, I’m not sure what I would do. Hike up a hill until I got cell service and call Joe? Look up tutorials on YouTube with my phone? Laugh my head off with my girlfriends while we fumbled our way through an hour long flat tire change? Judging by the amount of time it took us to figure out one of those fancy tire inflators the other day, I’d place my bets on the latter. I knew I needed to brush up on my maintenance skills.

So when five minutes into the workshop a woman raised her hand and said “So… how do you shift into a harder gear?”, I’m ashamed to say my initial thought hovered somewhere between annoyance and impatience. Had I stumbled into the How-to-Ride-Your-Bike workshop? Of course the instructor graciously took her question and walked her though the whole process, and while I grumbled to myself about this distraction, I noticed that several women in the room had the same question.

And suddenly I felt like a complete fool.  And a hypocrit.

Here I was in a room FULL of women.  No two were the same.  They ranged from road bikers to mountain bikers, v-breakers to disc breakers, moms, daughters, 20-somethings to 50-somethings. And a good number of these women seemed to be taking up biking for the first time.

And I was annoyed? What? No way! A 40-something woman in the front row had just bought her first mountain bike! How cool is that?

Thing is, I’m a huge proponent of women entering adventure sports no matter what age they are. It gives them a chance to learn something new. To push themselves physically. To build confidence. To get outside. Be active. Reap the rewards of positive endorphins. And if I have to sit through a 5 minute lecture on gear shifting, then so be it.

I was suddenly so proud of these women. I almost wanted to go up and hug each one of them; tell them “welcome to the family.” But I didn’t. I just sat back and enjoyed their questions. Their excitement. Their apprehensiveness. I re-learned the art of tire patching, how to take better car of my bike and what to check before I set off on a ride. I left feeling empowered, inspired, and part of a community of women.

And what did we do for our “play date” last week? We worked on our bikes while the kids played.


This picture makes me laugh. Apparently by “played” I mean sit around moaning about the heat. Don’t worry, things picked up a little after we introduced bike washing…

13 Comments so far

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  1. Lauren

    Great post! Just a thought, in case you wanted to further explore bike maintenance classes as well as really good road biking or commuting classes: http://www.bikeleague.org/ I took a class with H that covered maintenance and road riding methods that were statistically the safest practices. I felt that this class made me a better and more confident rider and gave me great confidence in my maintenance skills (especially when it came to flats). Although, I think it helped that I managed to get 3 flats in a row riding over Sardine one day shortly after having taken the class….so, as always, practice makes perfect :)

    On a different note, I appreciate that you addressed your initial thoughts/reactions on the situation at hand and then your freshly gained perspective. I can completely relate to moments like these…and I am always appreciative of that moment when I could kick myself for having thought or perhaps judged a situation to quickly. It’s a breath of fresh air.

    • Lauren – Thanks! I’ll have to check those classes out. I’ve been mountain biking for over 15 years, never had to change my own flat, so I know I’m due!!

      Ya, I could stand to be less judgmental all the way around, it’s a good lesson to learn for a variety of circumstances. ;)

  2. It’s always good when we can have our perspectives shifted. And I think it’s really cool that your play date included bike repair!

    • Hiker Mama – I agree on both points. Ya, It was a very self satisfying play date! Always good when you can work in a little productivity…

  3. […] OutsideMom: Lessons From an REI Bike Class […]

  4. Thanks for sharing this very empowering anecdote. We’re supremely excited that there is now an REI in Westchester! We recently interviewed that staff to see what outdoor classes” they were offering and many seem very informative and fun indeed.

    • Monarch – Congrats on getting an REI. Looks (judging from your website) and sounds like they will be a great addition to your community! Great interview!

  5. I’m glad I read this post. Before reading it I thought, oh she’s another one of those hard core chics that I can admire from afar. But, you are hard core and you look to your man to help you with a flat, that I can relate to!!

    I love this photo! It tells so much. With three boys of my own, I feel as though I’m there.

    So glad you connected us on Twitter.

    • Jillian – Love your comment! Ya, there is nothing hardcore about this chic; except that maybe I secretly wish I would have been a hard core chic… ;)

  6. Lacey

    Look at that garage…Im jealous!

    • Lacey – I know!! Hahaaa. It’s so full of toys, and I’m pretty sure you can’t see all the kayaks… ;)

  7. Daktari

    Hey Linds! This is a great post. I’ve been meaning to take in one of those REI clinics, and this is just the recommendation I need. If it makes you feel any better, I bought my first mountain bike last year…..at age 48. Although I’ve yet to take it on its first off-road adventure. Dissertation writing will do that to you. I do enjoy street biking on a regular basis now, though.

    • Daktari – I hear that about those dissertations… Ya, you should take a class, pays to know basic bike maintain, especially if you use your bike with some regularity. Now go get on some dirt!

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    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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