The other day, I finally put paid to my procrastination in all things involving technical repair and took a look at my bicycle that had been virtually abandoned during the first few weeks of Winter.
The last time I rode it, it felt like I was one of those insanely brave (or mad) cyclists in Delhi with a giant fridge freezer on the back of it. Of course, I had nothing of the sort on the back but it felt like it and I couldn’t work out why. Clearly there was a problem with the back wheel and it was getting stuck between the brake pads probably. I am so pathetically bad at repairing almost anything most of the time that exhausted from that last ride home, I simply resigned myself to not even looking at it again until the Spring.
Given that the vast majority of the Winter has been pretty mild, I have felt a bit guilty every time I’ve walked past the poor bike, chained up and unable to enjoy the freedom that all bikes deserve.
So, as I said, I finally forced myself to take a look and see if it might be possible to spot the problem and start riding again.
I tried adjusting the brake pads and a few other bits of wire and things that I don’t really understand but suspected might be of some significance in this situation. I had my tools at least – Allen keys, screwdrivers, adjustable spanner, and it felt like I was trying, even if nothing was actually making any sense.
No change. The wheel was still struggling. I lifted up the back of the bike, gave the pedal a good push down and it made all of three quarters of a revolution.
That’s it then, I thought to myself. Lock it up and definitely come back in the Spring.
Or maybe the Summer. Or maybe not at all. Procrastination was once again, proudly in control for a few minutes.
Then I remembered perhaps one of the most simple yet profound life lessons I have ever come across.
In M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled, the author recounts an incident when he asked his neighbour what he was doing as he approached and saw the entire innards of a lawnmower spread out across his front lawn like a miniature version of an exploded military tank. The neighbour looked up and said that he was repairing it of course. Peck was amazed and said that he would never be able to do anything like that. (Now you know why I enjoyed the book!)
But the neighbour retorted, “That’s because you’ve never tried hard enough. Or given it enough of your time.”
The author went on to recall how a few days later, a client of his came back into his Psychiatric Practice asking if anyone could help with her car. For some reason, the engine would not start and she was at her wits end.
For the first time in his life, Peck volunteered to take a look at someone else’s car and see if he could see what the problem was. He remembered the words of his neighbour as he looked inside the car. Predictably, he couldn’t find anything wrong. But instead of giving up, he lingered a while and looked beneath and beyond the steering column. There he saw something that didn’t look quite right. Amazingly, within a few minutes, he had managed to put one or two things back where they looked like they belonged and the car was working again.
Back to me and my bike.
I thought back to the days when my Dad had taught me to repair a puncture (and perform other routine tasks that I’ve never been good at mastering) and how the first thing you do is always turn the bike upside down so that you can move the wheels around freely.
With no idea what I was hoping to find and realising the self same old syndrome of trying to fix something but giving up sooner or later was threatening to engulf me at the same speed that daylight was fading, I flipped the bike over. Next, I gave the pedal another good, hard push with my hand this time and then I saw something I had completely missed earlier.
Somehow, the rear mudguard had been bent onto the back wheel and was severely restricting its movement.
That was it! A few seconds later and the mudguard “prongs” (those two thing pieces of metal that attach the mudguard to the frame of the bike) had been straightened out and the back wheel span for a thousand revolutions or so it seemed!
I could hardly contain my delight. A very simple repair performed but oh my goodness, the satisfaction was immense.
I may well be the only one who could possibly derive such fulfillment from a fairly elementary bit of adult education but what dare I say, do you need to turn upside down in order to take a closer, more successful look at something that has been nagging you for some time now?
And don’t feel guilty for perhaps not trying hard enough in the past. All it takes is for you to try a bit harder, take a bit longer, linger a while instead of losing patience, and stumble upon the solution.
You never know, it might just take you down that road less travelled that you’ve always wanted to explore in your heart really.