By Ambassador Ruby Woodruff

January 1st 2022

I awoke stuffed up and groggy but for once it wasn’t due to a NYE hangover. This was how I’d woken up every morning since Boxing Day, the day I got sick. I’d spent the past week indulging in the sluggish and slovenly freedoms that sickness allows – scarcely leaving my bed and binge-watching Netflix – but now I was eager to get outside and get moving again.

 Except there was something holding me back… my Covid test results.

A sliver of blue sky peeked through my suburban basement suite window and although I hate being stuck inside, I felt a strange sense of relief that I couldn’t go anywhere. I usually want to flee my place as fast as I can, using it strictly as a spot to eat, sleep and store my stuff. But since there was nowhere to run away to, I was able to face one of the tasks I’d been putting off for the last three years: fixing and cleaning my bike.

I guess I should mention that this wasn’t just some random, garage-sale-find bike either. This was my prized Kona Sutra. The one I’d ridden 10,000km on during a trip from Portland, Oregon to Lima, Peru in 2017. The same one that I’d later pedaled from Vancouver to Vernon B.C., a mountainous 500km ride over five days. Then it had done a stint on the South Island of New Zealand as well as some truly wild adventures in Australia (one which included my partner, Nick, and I building surfboard racks for our Konas and towing everything we owned from Coffs Harbour to Sydney when our van blew up).

My Sutra had carried my ass, kicked my ass, and saved my ass countless times and as a ‘Thank You’ I’d left it in a forgotten corner to rust.

The last time I’d attempted to take it for a ride, a couple of months prior, the brake pads literally disintegrated in my hands when I took them out to check on them. On top of that, the gears wouldn’t shift – a problem I’d been planning to throw money at – and my Brooks saddle was so moldy that it looked like a slice of blue cheese.

I picked up my poor forgotten friend and spent the next 12 hours nursing her back to health. I de-rusted the bike piece by piece, cleaned the chain with a toothbrush, watched YouTube ‘how-to’ tutorials, adjusted the brakes, scrubbed and hydrated the seat, troubleshot the jammed gears, and finally, I went for a ride (around the yard).

Working on my bike that day was more fulfilling and meaningful than I could’ve ever imagined. Half the time I’m running around like a headless chicken, trying to find a quick-fix to my restlessness. But while I was tediously scrubbing the rust off vital pieces of my bike with flat coca-cola and steel wool, I wasn’t worried about how long it would take or what I was going to do next, I was fully immersed in the task at hand. I was learning to slow down.

For me, biking has always been about going fast, going on adventures, and getting that adrenaline rush. If something needed to be fixed I’d take it to a mechanic or ask my dad or brother to help. Problems with my bike were a nuisance that I didn’t want to deal with. But spending my time that day doing some long-overdue maintenance taught me that taking care of a bike could be its own reward.

Looking back on the situation I’m only just realizing the irony that the whole reason I was sick in the first place was because I’d treated my body how I treated my bike; I didn’t take care of it, was always on the go, and I only dealt with the problem when it wasn’t working anymore. Clearly, I need to work on my preventive care tactics because  as much fun as it is to go fast if you don’t slow down once in a while, it’s inevitable that you’re going to crash.