Are you a fair weather cyclist? If you like to ride when the roads are dry and the sun is shining, you’re probably just now dusting off your bicycle for the first ride of the year. If so, Travis Martin at Second Cycle in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood has a few words of advice.
“Your bike probably needs a general tune-up,” says Martin, a shop operations manager at Second Cycle. “That includes a cleaning. Adjust all your gears. Check your air. Clean and lube your chain. And tighten all your bolts.”
Safety should be your top priority, which means wearing a helmet when you ride and outfitting your bicycle with a light.
“That’s not just the law,” Martin says, “that’s a good idea. I drive a car and ride a bike. It’s much easier to see cyclists when they have a light on at night.”
Martin recommends carrying the following when you ride: a bicycle multi-tool, a tire pump, a spare inner tube and a patch kit.
“That way if you run into trouble,” he says, “you can take care of yourself. And we all know Tacoma roads.”
Those roads, Martin says, have seen a huge influx of cyclists in the last three years, and those cyclists range from commuters riding to work to families enjoying a leisurely outing. All of them are welcome at Second Cycle, which,
along with selling new and used bikes, parts and accessories, provides an open shop area where people can work on their bikes with varying degrees of supervision.
Ten work benches are stocked with tools, rags and bicycle stands – everything you need to make repairs on your bike. The fees are modest for the general public and next to nothing (and sometimes waved) for low-income users, youth under 18 and homeless riders.
“The average person who comes in is somebody who uses the shop as their shop,” Martin explains. “They do routine maintenance in the shop because it’s a lot easier to do it here than on their back deck or inside their apartment. If they have questions, we have staff that are available to assist.”
If you’re too busy to make the repairs yourself, one of the mechanics at Second Cycle can do them for you at a reasonable rate. But Martin is quick to point out that anyone can learn to become a competent bicycle mechanic.
“Ninety percent of it is fairly simple, at least for basic tune-ups,” he says. “We teach people from 7 to 70 how to do it.”
Indeed, in addition to the shop in Hilltop, Second Cycle has opened a satellite location at South Tacoma’s iDEA High School (School of Industrial Design, Engineering and Art). As much a community resource as it is a bicycle shop, Second Cycle contributes locally with programs like Earn-A-Bike, which teaches youth how to work on bikes
and rewards them with their own bike at the end of the eight-week course.
If you’re ready to get your hands dirty, the first place to start is regular maintenance. Anyone can clean and lubricate their chain or make sure their tires are properly inflated. For the more ambitious, even something as complicated as overhauling the hubs on your wheels is, as Martin describes it, “completely within the realm of the possible.”
Martin has seen his share of “creative” repair work over the years.
“One time someone brought in a bike at the height of summer and they had used Crisco to lubricate their chain,” he recalls. “Needless to say, it had become ripe. So don’t use Crisco. They make products just for this use, and we have them for sale or use in the open shop area.”
Once you’ve got your bike whipped into shape, it’s time to get those legs pumping. Swan Creek Park, Martin’s favorite place to ride in Tacoma, is home to beginning, intermediate and advanced mountain bike trails that feature everything from gently banked turns to challenging jumplines.
“Just get out there,” Martin says. “And be aware and be safe.”
Matt Kite is an avid hiker and masters runner in Tacoma. Check out “3 Minute Hikes” on his hiking channel on YouTube.