• Carmen Marie Fabio

Wheels of change


Photo courtesy Creative Commons

Our community said good-bye to another independently-owned business last weekend as Lemay Bicycles in Île Perrot auctioned off its remaining stock, including the turn-of-the-century antique bike on the store’s facade, closing after being a fixture in the area for decades.

And what’s sad is that we didn’t just lose another business that promoted locally made and/or assembled products, we lost the whole experience of walking into a time-warp complete with the smells, sights, and sounds of a specialized shop rather than a big box retailer that will sell you a bike along with light bulbs and dog food.

I bought my trusty blue and silver two-wheeled steed from Lemay about eight years ago, riding away, of course, as happy as a kid with a new bike. We saw many miles together in the course of a few Tour de l’Îles, excursions along the Soulanges Canal, and more than one ill-judged manoeuvre that, while the bike weathered relatively fine, left my body bruised enough to scare people at the swimming pool the following week.

After about seven years of abuse and neglect, she began to express her displeasure and revenge last year by doling out a surprise mechanical failure every time we ventured out together including a derailer that snapped whilst I was climbing a hill to a chain that broke when I was about 25km from home, both events necessitating a call to my knight in a shining silver Toyota.

Though I still spent less money on bicycle repairs than car maintenance, I limped into Lemay Bicycles with my bike in tow often enough that Brian Kanis, the owner, would narrow his eyes and exhale slowly through his nose at the mere site of me.

The broken chain was followed by a bizarre noise and irregular skipping action while pedalling that brought me back to Brian a week or so later.

“What’s wrong now?” he asked, trying to smile.

“It’s ‘ka-chunking’,” I told him describing the noise and behaviour emitted whenever I pedalled. A small repair fee and 20 minutes later, she was good as new.

It’s a personal challenge to ride my bike all year round, though the preparation for the winter excursions is almost a workout in itself. Clothing layers rule for winter cycling and though it’s far from pretty, a pair of men’s long underwear thrown on over the bike pants will add about another five degrees of protection.

The Saturday morning ice fishermen have gotten used to me and sometimes wave as I pass. But the winter riding that sprays up salt and sand into the gears takes a toll and, after Brian’s many stern glances and warnings, I’ve heeded his suggestions to pay a little more attention to cleaning, oiling, and maintenance.

I’m sure I can find someone else to fix my bike but they won’t have the same attitude, advice, or anecdotes as my small bike shop owner.

I’ll wrap by borrowing liberally from Robert Bateman in saying that before we can change direction in life, we have to challenge many of the assumptions that include ‘bigger is better’ and ‘you can’t stop progress’ and replace them with ‘small is beautiful’ and ‘roots and tradition are worth preserving.’

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