I was coming out of a grocery store the other day and a young boy about 11 or 12 years old was standing beside his bike which had a flat tire. He was wearing spiffy shorts, a T-shirt and new sneakers. With his back to school haircut, he reminded me of generations of many other young boys on a September day, except for one thing.
He was using his cell phone to call his Mom to come pick him up because his tire was flat. I suppose my generation has to accept the fact that life has moved on and technology has created ways and means for us to live a much less complicated life.
As I drove home I found myself visualizing my old CCM paper route bike. On the back of the seat were two slots that the straps of the tool kit buckled to. Inside the kit were a few important tools that would save you from having to walk the last half of your route if you had a break down.
The bicycle wrench was a truly amazing invention, rivalling the Swiss army knife for its versatility. The wrench had 10 or 12 different sized hexagon and square cut outs that could loosen or tighten any bolt on your bike and usually had one or more tabs to be used as a screw driver.
Most guys carried a small can of 3-in-1 oil in their pouch and maybe a pair of pliers. I always had wire cutters to cut the copper wire that held the paper bundles together when they got tossed off the truck. But a vital addition to the tool kit was the puncture repair kit.
They came in metal tins in various sizes and shapes marked Dunlop or Goodyear. If you had a flat at the corner of Carvolth and New McLellan, you were a long way from home. Even if you did have the courage to knock on someone’s door and ask to use the phone, nobody was going to jump in the car and come to get you.
You would take the tool kit off, flip the bike up so it rested on the seat and handlebars and undo the nuts holding the wheel to the frame. The front one was easy, but if it was the rear, you had to contend with the chain.
Next you had to pull the tube out. Good bikes had a bicycle pump attached to the lower bar of the frame. After you pumped up the tube you had two options, you could put the tube up to your face and spin it until you felt the air coming out or you could hold it in a puddle and watch for bubbles.
Once the hole was found, you buffed it with the small rasp in the puncture kit, let the glue dry for a minute then put on the patch. After you ran your fingers around inside the tire to check for anything sharp, you put it all back together, pumped it up, bolted it on and went on your way.
Today, if the professionals break down in the French Alps, they don’t phone Mom; they just grab a new bike and carry on.
Maybe next week, I’ll discuss how to get your pants leg out of the bicycle chain. I can’t believe my buddies and I survived our childhood without cell phones. At least that’s what McGregor says.