Here’s a strange confession from a veteran cyclist: I’ve never changed my own bike tire.

It’s not something I’m proud of. And I have no excuse for not mastering this skill.

I’ve been shown how to change a tire several times, by a few different people. But watching someone else do it hasn’t given me the confidence that, if I strip off my tire and go through the steps of getting another one secured over the tube by myself, my bike will be safe to ride.

Instead, visions of road rash and a cracked helmet flicker through my head, the imagined result of a tire that didn’t go on quite right and sent me tumbling on the first significant downhill.

“There are a lot of Trekkers out there who don’t even know how to change a flat,” says Andy Greif, who is doing his part to change that through Biddeford’s Community Bicycle Center.

Monday through Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. is drop-in time at CBC, when kids can come in and work on their own bikes or rebuild bikes that have been donated.

It’s a chance to have access to the tools of bike repair and the knowledge that has grown through the years at the nonprofit.

Adults are welcome — as volunteers or to work on their own bikes — but must be aware that the kids always come first. Adults who are less experienced about bike repairs may even find themselves being helped by a kid who knows plenty.

According to Greif, 355 kids came through the CBC doors last year and those boys and girls took with them a lot of bike knowledge.

“There are a lot of women (bikers) who let men take over and do it for them,” Greif says. “We just don’t allow that. We work with the girls and women and help them feel more confident in what they’re doing.”

In fact, CBC started a girls/women-only bike mechanics class in March as a companion to the eight-week Bike Monkeys course offered in the winter. Some of those girls have signed up to ride the 180-mile Trek Across Maine in June.

Greif makes a point to say that CBC isn’t a bike shop, it’s a youth development program that happens to use bicycles. The skills the kids are learning will soon be helping their community in another way.

A Portland, Ore., company is in the process of building a Dutch cargo bike for CBC (paid for by a benefactor) which will be outfitted with a work bench. This mobile bike repair will allow kids in the program to pedal out to their neighborhoods and recondition bikes for other kids and adults right at their homes.

Greif expects the bike to be ready in mid-June, so if you live in Biddeford and need to learn some repair skills or brush up on your confidence, find that roving maintenance cycle — there should be some kids around it that know an awful lot about bikes.

BIKE TO WORK WEEK

I don’t have to tell you how outrageous gas prices are these days. And I’m sure you’ve heard all the tips for how to make your car run more efficiently.

How about going one step further and ditching the car?

May is Bike Month, and the League of American Bicyclists has selected this week as Bike to Work Week. By participating, you can save yourself some money at the pump and help the causes of biker safety and biker’s rights by joining the legions along the sides of the roads.

If you don’t think you can pull off the entire week, join in on Friday, which is Bike to Work Day.

Deputy Features Editor Karen Beaudoin can be reached at 791-6296 or at:

[email protected]