In many ways, building a bike is like baking a cake. Whilst lots of the ingredients are likely to be the same for various cakes, there’s always going to be a few different ways of going about it, and while some people may delight in the preparation itself, for others it’s purely the end result that justifies the effort. But whatever the case, I think for most of us, every attempt leaves us feeling a touch of pride and satisfaction when we get to say those three gratifying words ‘I made this’.
So too, for some of the half-a-dozen kids, and mums, at Saturday’s inaugural Build A Bike session, the task of assembling a bike was a process they relished, whilst for others it was really the payoff that would make it all worth it.
First we gathered and weighed our ingredients: we attached dangling handlebars and de-bubble-wrapped our frames, and began to build our bikes from the wheels up. Commence the typical wrestling of tyres, stuffing of tubes, and coaxing of wheels into frames. This happily became a group activity with mums in attendance getting stuck in too, and before long what was previously a pile of bicycle parts was becoming pleasingly bicycle shaped!
Next we mixed our ingredients together: bolting on wheels and setting up brakes had many kids and parents a bit more stretched — as it can be a fiddly job getting everything balanced and quiet at the best of times — but everyone still had a go at tackling it. Some of the more practised amongst the kids were really in their element at this stage, and it was lovely to see some of our attendees find an enthusiasm for bike building that they apparently didn’t have had for other subjects at school.
And so finally, to the baking. And to complete the build came everyone’s favourite: fitting pedals with confusingly topsy-turvy bolt threads (regular righty-tighty on the right, chain-side pedal 🙂, but backwards lefty-tighty on the left pedal 🙃), and the dark art of gears.
Gear-adjustment, whilst pleasantly intuitive once you grasp the core concepts of it, takes some of the same patience as waiting for the magical power of heat to take effect on the ingredients that you’ve so carefully curated into a cake batter. At this stage it’s edible and you could eat it, but if you spend a little longer making sure it’s cooked through and risen, you’ll be glad you waited! Understandably, setting up our gears was a trickier task but still one that some of the kids were interested in learning more about.
After a couple hours of twisting, turning, tightening and tweaking, the anticipation of getting on a working bike and actually taking it for spin was tangible. And so, with our bikes all bicycle shaped and ship-shape, a small amount of huffing and puffing with bike pumps later, and it was time to taste the fruits of our labour and take the bikes out for a ride!
As you’d imagine, it was endlessly rewarding to see a group of kids so eager to go out and ride have a hand in actually putting together their own bikes. Whilst some of the build may have been slightly daunting at times, or perhaps just not of particular interest — after all, not everyone is as besotted with building bicycles as I am! — I think hopefully kids and parents alike left with a bit more confidence in doing some basic bike jobs, and sense that bikes are something that we shouldn’t worry too much about when they have problems, because more likely than not, and sometimes with a guiding hand, they’re things that we can fix and feel self-empowered by in the process.
Disclaimer: any comparison between bikes and cakes is purely for illustrative purposes, please do not attempt to put bikes in the oven or consume any bike parts or products no matter how delicious they may appear!