Dropping the Chain

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During the early part of this school year, our schools were in a prolonged strike. These were tough days for the education system. As administrators, we were in a unique but not great situation. As the days went by, our team planned and re-planned our school start up plan. We changed the calendar so many times that there were times that we wanted to just trash the whole thing and start from scratch. We met with students and counselling them on course changes. We went into every classroom and moved desks/chairs in anticipation for the start of school.

The strike, though a terrible situation, did provide me an opportunity to get on my bike. I have enjoyed cycling for a long time but I find it difficult to ride to school most days due to meetings and the lack of light in the mornings. Cycling in Surrey can be an adventure and a number of my co-workers have mentioned how I am taking my life in my hands.

So, my ride is 30km one way along several different routes. The easiest route is on a new highway that cuts through Delta. It can definitely save time but you are traveling on a 80kmh highway, although there is wide bike lane, where there are cars well in excess of that speed. Overall, I can average just under 30kmh on that route. It is nice and flat until I get to Surrey and a couple of hills. However, there has been a fear of that highway. Twice I have dropped my chain at speed – basically, the chain slips off one of The chainrings when shifting. At high speeds, this is quite scary as you end up spinning your cranks with zero tension. So, I fixed the issue by adjusting my gears so that the chain would be limited at the Upper and lower limits. I should have no more chain drops.

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So, there I am spinning nicely feeling some burn in my legs, lungs working and enjoying a spirited ride. Suddenly, I hit a rock and hear a bang and a hiss. My back tire kicked out and I knew I had a blowout – at speed. Again, this is a dangerous situation but less so on flats. I moved as far away form the traffic as I could and set about changing the flat. Having had my fair share of flats in my life, I was quite proficient at changing flats and in about 2 minutes. My saddle bag had a spare tube and I had a pump. My only issue was in the knowledge that I had no more spares. The rest of my ride and rides since then have had no issues. The lesson that came from this one day helps to inform my current practice as a leader in a school.

It is easy to drop a chain at anytime. There are many situations that lead to this. Perhaps, you are shifting under stress or shifting too quickly. In my job, this also happens. I could equate this to a situation that gets out of control too quickly. Often when I drop the chain in my job, I tend to slow down immediately. I move into quick reflective mode. Early on, I would use a triage method to assess situations but as I have gotten older and wiser, I no longer do things without thinking about first. Urgency is not always the best policy. The goal for me has is in how I an work to prevent those situations from happening again in the same manner

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Getting a flat tire is something that is much more common but usually avoidable. Keeping your tires inflated to correct pressure helps in this. On road bikes, under inflated tires can flatten in a situation called a pinch flat – completely avoidable. Sometimes the spokes can poke through the rim and puncture the tube. However, you can use a strip of fabric or plastic in the rim that prevents this. The danger lies with road debris such as glass, sharp rocks or garbage. You cannot anticipate these and often will flatten your ride.

In my career, the explosive situations are the road debris ones. How can you prepare for those? It might be that child who has some major needs and we must have the child and protection ministry called on their behalf. It might be a violent situation at your school. It could be a furious parent. These are the things that are unanticipated. How can we prepare for those? Having a tube and pump in your bag can help you just in case. For my job, you must have a strong support system around you. Form a team that works as a wrap around not just for students but also for staff. I always have somebody to bounce ideas off. Create a support plan that helps you with both the surprises and the regular situations.

Those support structures will be my repair kit just in case.

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