The pop sounded like a hollow gunshot. The sound came from behind me, and my bike immediately began slowing down. This is never a good sign, especially when I’m headed to a story.
Riding around on a bike, collecting stories, is a challenge. Making sure the bicycle is in working condition, having enough time to get to your destination, and, for emergencies, having money for the train or bus are important to make journalism and bicycling lifestyles work.
Yet, I learned Monday that I am still not skilled enough to remedy most bike problems.
I needed to arrive in Pasadena to cover a KPCC forum on Instagraming where local East LA celebrity Javier Guillen (@goeastlos) was going to talk about his social media photo skills. Since I had two hours to spare, and I was already in downtown, I stopped over at Bici Libre to align my spokes which I thought were loose.
Turned out one spoke broke off, so I needed to take off the freewheel and replace it with a spoke of the same size. I’ve replaced a spoke only twice before – I didn’t even know how to take off the freewheel, and I stripped the nipple on another spoke. Then, my delay is compounded when I find after I fix the spoke and put the rim and tire back on the inner tube gets a flat – you have to take out the inner tube when adjusting the bike tire.
I passed my two hour cushion, and now I was in a rush. I don’t know whether it was the hastened patch job I did on the inner tube, or my rushed attempt to pump my tire that led me to my deflated fate, but by the time I was in downtown (7:15 p.m.) I was roughly eight blocks from the Gold Line and nowhere near a bus that would get me to my destination in time.
Walking to my bus to take me home, I was torn on whether I should have stopped to replace the spoke. Would the bike have been fine if I didn’t fix it? Where the hell did the hole in my inner tube come from? I wasn’t prepared to quickly replace my spoke, and I couldn’t foresee a puncture in the inner tube happening when all I was doing was removing it from the tire.
Though my friends and family will use this example to tell me that this wouldn’t happen if I owned a car – like I could afford one – this is the first time my bike has required multiple repairs and prevented me from doing my job. There are a lot of things I could have done differently – not assume I could do a fix in a couple hours for one – but as I’m growing in my reporting, I’ll need to grow more savvy as a bicyclist.