It's a great title isn't it! I can't claim the creativity for it though as it's actually the name of the fantastic shop which was host to my latest adventure. A bike maintenance course! As a keen cyclist I've often felt frustrated at my lack of skills in tackling my own repairs. If I ever have a puncture I struggle for ages, shouting and swearing by a London roadside, and never perform repairs, but carry spare inner tubes. I also had an extremely frustrating experience trying to change my brake blocks once and admitted defeat and took my bike to my local repair shop. Look Mum No Hands offer a series of workshops, and as this was a beginners course I was hopeful that everyone would be in the same boat. As soon as I arrived at their Old Street shop I was immediately put at ease as I was greeted by Digger, our tutor for the day. LMNH (as it is known) is such a cult meeting point for cyclists, with a really relaxed vibe, great coffee, quirky branded cycling goods and of course a great workshop.
We grabbed a (free, part of the package) coffee and headed to the workshop. I do have a road bike, but I had chosen to take my everyday hybrid bike along for this session as it is the one I used most....and I was immediately regretting it as my colleagues for the day wheeled out their high end bikes. It's the first time I have wished that I didn't have a ladybird bell on my handlebars, doh. The group were lovely though and no-one laughed at me, especially not Digger, and there is a man with a sense of humour! We all realised pretty quickly that this day was going to be as entertaining as it was informative. Digger very quickly had us laughing with his observational quips. Our first part of the day was to give our bikes a general check over. This included checking wheel alignment, and taking the bikes pulse - who knew? As we looked at our wheels Digger ran round the group asking what pressure everyone tended to have their tyres at...."90, yes, 100, yes, good, 90 when it's raining...and Denise?" "Errmm....pass?" Yes it's embarrassing isn't it. Staying on tyres we looked at how to fix a puncture. I was relieved to hear that even these competitive cyclists weren't comfortable with this skill. Digger demonstrated and of course made it look so easy. "Ah but wait" he said, "I've forgotten, I've got some goodies for you". And so he produced a helix set, tyre levers and a puncture repair kit for us all. Free stuff, the day just got even better! You have never seen such excited faces. So, tyres off, let's have a look inside the wheel and check out our rim tape (don't be rude now). Digger had a look round everyone's wheels, "uh huh, yes, mmm, bit worn..." I sheepishly offered mine up as I realised it had been patched up with electrical tape - embarrassment, what are we on now,number 3?
I tried to justify myself by saying I hadn't taped it up like that, but I'm not sure what's worse, that my local repair shop saw me coming and did it!? However, I felt I redeemed myself as I quite quickly managed to whip the tyre off and replace the inner tube. I was starting to feel a bit competitive as I was efficiently getting my tyre back on, so much so that I persisted pressing the bloody thing on even though I had opened up a cut on my thumb from the day before and was bleeding all over the wheel, oops. No pain and all that. This, along with the ever present oil covered hands explains the lack of photos from the day itself. It was lunchtime now, so get the blood/oil off the hands and upstairs to the LMNH cafe for a great breakfast, another top perk of the day.
After lunch Digger showed us how to effectively repair a puncture (ah, so don't just ditch the old inner tube then?) He's obviously got it down to a fine art and can repair a puncture without removing the whole tyre or inner tube, something I can never quite imagine doing at the side of a main road in the peeing rain. Next, onto brakes. Well, guess what, Denise's brakes look a bit worn. So, Digger would demo how to change the brake blocks, which actually turned into me doing it with direction. I guess it's the best way to learn, with an audience! I played the inevitable Scottish card asking if I would get a discount off the course for my part in this. Who doesn't love a cultural stereotype?I learned a lot here and definitely won't be sticking it in the bike shop next time that needs done. The final part of the day was looking at gears. Now here's a real surprise, mine weren't rubbish, hooray! One of the guys said how his gears had been jumping and offered up his bike...and what a bike it was for someone who was 6' 7"! Digger relished the opportunity to sort this out and gave a working demo of gear alignment. He did admit that this was a tricky example and I think was regretting how it wasn't the ideal training ground for us, but showed us a real all round working of this system. Finally we did some chain maintenance, and like so many of the great things I have done, again we were offered the opportunity of an extra hours' worth of tuition, and who could say no? Well this offer was preceded with the statement that "as cyclists you probably won't have any friends to rush off and meet" I was almost embarassed (again!) to admit that I did. Huge thanks again to the amazing Digger and all at LMNH for a really illuminating and entertaining day!
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.