by Student Affairs Practitioner and Master’s of Higher Education Candidate, Joanne Cedan

A few years ago, I spent the entire summer biking along Toronto’s Waterfront Trail. Slowly, I expanded my route by biking throughout the city on major roads. There was one day where my tire blew out on broken glass. Caught by surprise, I almost fell on a busy road. I remember feeling extremely frustrated. I was unprepared and had to walk home. The last time I got on a bike, I wanted to see if I could bike downtown to my university. My partner offered to ride with me. Once we reached downtown, we almost got hit by a taxi cab. We retired the idea and quickly rode back home. 

After COVID-19, Toronto has approved an expansion of cycling trails to provide residents with a safe and socially distanced way to commute to work and relieve stress on public transit. While the ActiveTO program is only temporary (for now), my hope is that residents urge city council to make it permanent. 

Photo of the used red bike by Joanne Cedan

I have committed that once I return to work, I would bike there as much as possible. My apartment and workplace are located on the expanded cycling network, and my workplace is about a 35-40 minute bike ride away. This is about the same amount of time it would take me to use the train and the bus to get to work. I’d save a little over $30 a week by biking, improve my physical and mental health, and reduce my carbon footprint.

I was inspired by Danielle, who used to bike in the middle of winter in Winnipeg to beat traffic! 

Joanna Cedan
Cleaning the separated parts of the bike. Photo by Joanne Cedan

Instead of purchasing a new bike, I bought a used bike that needed some t.l.c. Danielle made me think about bringing life back into things others overlook. She also had this curious nature and drive for wanting to learn how things work. Like her, I also wanted to understand the bike’s mechanics in case I ever needed to fix something. I found a vintage Raleigh Sceptre road bike that needed a tune-up and some major cleaning. My partner and my dad kindly helped me with this project. After inspecting the bike, my partner pointed out that one of the brakes was not working, and that one of the cables was getting caught on the chain. The chain was also spray painted and was having trouble when I tried to shift gears. He also noticed that the wheel size was smaller than modern road bikes and predicted it might be difficult to find a replacement. 

Using a chain tool, wrenches, cable cutters, and ratchets to remove parts of the bike for cleaning. Photo by Joanne Cedan.

After inspection, I cleaned the bike using an old rag, an old toothbrush, a scouring pad and dish soap. I read an article that a paste using baking soda, vinegar and lime juice would remove the rust. We took out the parts, took pictures, labelled each part, and started cleaning.

The wheels were tough to clean. Using a plastic tire and tube lever wasn’t enough because they were stuck to the wheel. We had to use a screwdriver and a knife to take the tire and tube out. We used a biodegradable degreaser to clean the wheels.

Cleaning the wheels on the bike. Photo by Joanne Cedan.

After cleaning and examining each part, the only parts that needed to be replaced were the handle wraps, tires, tubes, cables, and the chain. The pedals, brakes, rear derailleur were in good condition. 

My partner showed me how to use a chain tool, wrenches, cable cutters, and ratchets to take the parts out. For the most part, the dish soap took out most of the dirt, and the paste removed most of the rust.

Finding the bike cables, handle wraps and chain to order was no issue. The tire and the tube, however, were harder to find. I managed to find them on an online shop from Holland after they were back in stock. Unfortunately, I had to exchange them as the size was incorrect.  After getting all the parts, we assembled the bike, which was the most difficult part of the process. Labelling each part and referring to pictures of the bike helped ease the process. We greased the bearings in the head tube and reattached the stem and handlebars. We screwed the brakes back on the bike along with the rear derailleur. We put new tubes and tires on the wheels and fed the cables. This bike had cables running inside the tube instead of the outside which was a bit of a challenge. We attached the wheels and adjusted the chain length before reattaching. My favourite part was wrapping the handles and changing the seat to leather, making my vision come to life.  By assembling the bike, I was able to understand how all the parts work together to make the bike function. I also learned about the tools I would need to take with me in case I were to hit a snag on my ride to work. I plan to carry a bike pump, extra bike tube, and a multipurpose tool during my travel. Being prepared has relieved some anxiousness about riding again.

The project took about two months to complete, but it was worth it!
Refurbished bike. Photo by Joanne Cedan.

I appreciated learning a new and useful skill and having the opportunity to work on a project with loved ones. I also enjoyed taking on a new challenge. Danielle encouraged me to do my first 5k run, and my first big, scary roller coaster ride. She inspired me to try new things and overcome feelings of discomfort. Her passion for sharing her knowledge with others is something I have always admired, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help continue her initiative with Waterlution.

My hope is that others will do the same! You can read more Cautious Optimist Blog posts here: