Gearing Up

True confession: Neither my dad nor I know that much about bicycling. You think I’m kidding. But, really. We know how to ride. We can change a tire. We know the appropriate height for a seat. But, outside of that… we kind of struggle. What we are very good at is surrounding ourselves with expert advisors.

This truth became very clear on day two of our last mega-tour when we found ourselves stranded on the side of an Alabama road with a broken chain and no chain tool.


As my dad put it:

“We have no engine on a tandem. Only our legs. But the big bike goes nowhere without a chain. And ours just busted as we powered up a hill in the middle of nowhere. The chain tool is at home. I just tried a pliers. No luck. A chain tool is one of those special tools about which cyclists say, “Don’t leave home without it.” Oh well. Jessica just calculated the time by which we must leave if we are to reach the next town with a place to stay. We do have a tent but prefer not to go that route. So we wait. For what? For Keith. Who’s Keith? The young man at the bike shop back in Mobile. The boss let him run a private errand and we have negotiated the purchase of a bike tool, a roadside repair and the purchase of a new back tire as I see we now have a bubble emerging on the back tire. At least we have cell phone coverage here! So all things are possible.”

Keith to the rescue

For this upcoming trip, you can bet we won’t forget a chain tool and we even took a 2-hour bike maintenance class last summer. Still, there will be some tool we don’t have and some new problem we encounter that tests our bike competency. And for that, we have bike mechanics on call. Jim from Jim’s Bicycles has been advising my dad through the purchase of our new tandem and has agreed to be just a phone call away. And, we will probably make a few bike mechanic friends along the way.

In pursuit of gearing up appropriately, I just spent the afternoon testing out new seats at my new favorite Ann Arbor bike shop, Sic Transit Cycles. My cycling naiveté was exposed when Michael, one of the owners advising my purchase, asked earnestly, “well how do you generally ride your seat? More forward-leaning? More toward the back?” I responded, sheepishly, “Ummm, I just ride.” See, not a sophisticated rider here. But, cycling people (at the right shop) are friendly, or if they judge, my experience has been that they save their judgment for the workroom after hours. An hour later, I had tested out two different seats, fallen completely in love with one, and gotten my new shoes adjusted by the bike-fit master at Sic, Jess (a different one).

New shoes. Yes, they are stylish. #cyclefashion

My new friends at Sic don’t yet know it, but they may be going into my speed dial for roadside consultation.

It takes a village.

But, taking a step back, there is something pretty beautiful about the vulnerability of taking on this endeavor. If we all waited until we were experts in all facets of a project before diving in, we would accomplish very little. Riding 1350 miles. Reforming police practices. Neither are things one person can do alone. Likely two isn’t enough either. Already Pedaling Justice has benefitted from the graphic design expertise of my good friend Peter, bicycle knowledge from our local bike shops and my brother Ben, fundraising planning from the amazing staff at OJPC and CLC, the beginning donations from all of you. I expect the support to continue throughout. This is a team effort. As all good things are.

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