ESTELLE PICKARD recently went on an island holiday where she encountered a different type of “mountain bike”.
Recently I was fortunate enough to travel to an island which has no motorised transport. You either get a lift via horse cart, you rent a bicycle or you walk. It’s a tiny island (a glorified rock really) so I tackled it on foot most days … having a little giggle at the girls who struggle to ride in the sand, thinking back to the days before I knew how to ride sand. Then one night, the 1.8km trek to the other side of the island felt like a little too much effort and I finally rented a bicycle. When I got my renta-cheapie and started riding there was a twinge of sadness when I felt the state that this bike was in and how I complain about my bike back home being “not good enough”. But soon after my feet hit the pedals I got a massively wide grin on my face (as you do) while negotiating the sandy little streets. If it’s not sandy, there are awful potholes and my mountain biking skills stood me in good stead. So down the road I went, in the dark with only the moonlight to guide me, feeling like a character from Stranger Things … with my grip shifts and brakes squealing so hard that you could hear them from the other side of the island. The locals even laughed at them. I was freeeeeee. So, while we realise how fortunate we are to be riding the bikes we are, it goes without saying that we should take good care of them too. When I started riding, I was obsessed with learning how to be a bike mechanic as I was adamant to be able to help myself on the trails. This obsession lead to me spending three weeks in the belly of a bike shop witnessing the nitty gritties. I’ve always been a firm believer that if you want to ride a bike, you need to know how to fix it. Well, to some extent. My decision to go work in a bike shop was driven by the need to know how to fix my own bike on the trails. I never had any delusion that I would start servicing my own bike at home, but I wanted to know more. Knowledge is power, and if I knew how things fit together, then it would be easier to negotiate service and repair costs in the future. I saw bikes being built from scratch, new spokes being “tuned”, brakes being bled, tubeless conversions being done, brake pads replaced … you name it, I saw it and to be honest, I wouldn’t know how confidently to do any of these things without the help of a bike mechanic. But what I promised myself when working in the bike shop is that whenever my bike needs a little love, I’ll try to do it myself first. The worst thing that can happen is that I end up having to take it to the workshop anyway, and in the process I learnt something. I realise that not all people (probably most people) are as hands on as I like to be, and that’s okay too. If you can get yourself out of a broken chain predicament, you probably know enough to get by. Even if you don’t, there are usually friendly, helpful people out on the trails – please just carry your own repair kit, at least. So no matter how you decide to take care of your bike, the bottom line is: take care of it. It will last you many years if you give it the love it needs (and deserves). It’s your happiness catalyst after all. Back to the island. The next day, I decided I wanted to ride around the island as it sounds pretty badass to say “I cycled around an island once” – no one has to know it’s only 4km in circumference … turns out riding in the sand is still hard and I had to get off to push my bicycle through the sand a few times, joking that I walked around the island, pushing my bike!