22 August 2012

Archival footage: The Wrong Bike

The following post was originally published in January 2003 at FlagstaffBiking.org.




When I was in grade school I delivered newspapers, The Scottsdale Daily Progress, for 45 minutes after school everyday, plus Saturdays at sun-up, on my 1976 JCPenney bike. Years of demanding daily deliveries took their toll on it. The once-fluorescent orange paint faded to a strange pinkish color, the rear wheel lost any knowledge or recollection of truth, the bars and stem regularly stripped and swung away with little or no notice, and the saddle gave up its vinyl veneer for cheap foam.

But it was, nonetheless, a masterful ride: I could pedal it no-handed for hours, wobbly rear wheel notwithstanding, up driveways and back down, around suburban block after block, rubber-banding each newspaper in succession from a ready supply I kept looped on the handlebars. By design it was a bike ill-suited for newsboy work. But I never considered buying a new rig with my meager profits.

My faded orange JCPenny might have been the wrong bike for the job, but it would always be my bike for the job.

If you often (or exclusively) ride a singlespeed, a fixed gear, a vintage cruiser or maybe even a cyclocross bike, you probably already know: you’re riding the wrong bike. Not the wrong brand. Not the wrong size. Not the wrong vintage. The wrong bike; a bike that’s often not the most ideally suited to the ride you’re on. A bike that is somewhat (if not radically) ill-suited to many of the myriad tasks you demand of it. A bike that will challenge you to meet the landscape with less mechanical or technological advantage; a bike that will occasionally make you hurt, suffer, or cry out in pain and frustration; a bike that will regularly cause others to shake their heads in wonder at your compulsion to so obviously sabotage your innate capabilities. You know it: you’re riding the wrong bike. And that’s just fine with you.

The wrong bike can show you things the right bike is designed to miss, like rocks, hills, and time. The wrong bike can reinstate a sense of challenge and accomplishment where such has been lost. The wrong bike can be a lot of fun to ride. But, if you’re not already riding the wrong bike once in a while, here’s a suggestion: try riding the wrong bike! Do it as often as you like. And as often as you can! Sometime soon, just for grins: choose a ride and a bike that are logically mismatched.

You see: given the right (or wrong!) circumstances, every bike is the wrong bike! Try this: leave your fully suspended demi-motorcycle at home and ride an old rigid bike on your favorite Sedona ride. Take your fixed gear or singlespeed on your fast weekly group ride. Century on anything other than your lightest, fastest road bike. Hop on your vintage cruiser and go on a long, hilly ride off road. Or ride a few of your regular singletrack loops on your ‘cross bike, just after a good snow.

However you choose, whatever you choose... Ride the wrong bike!

20 August 2012

The unforeseen tragedy of the day

Today was a long day.

However, I came home after work and was compelled to smile, finding my wife happily walking the dog down the street, just as the sky began to drizzle.  Such beauty in so mundane a thing.

We drove over the hill together to retrieve our daughter from dance class.  I'm pretty sure I said very little.  Not out of animosity.  From exhaustion.

Once home again, I settled in by myself on the couch in the garage, with my feet propped up on the bumper of the Subie (I'm still so-posed right now), to listen to a little music while I flipped quickly through the new issue of Mountain Gazette, which had arrived in the mail this afternoon.

Instead of flipping aimlessly as I'd planned, I ended up completely engrossed in the editor's excellent three-part article about Ed Abbey and Hunter S. Thompson and read for perhaps 30 minutes, undisturbed, and for a few moments there, completely forgot about the tears and tragedy that had otherwise indelibly marred the day.

You know, I imagine myself as a kind of writer sometimes.  And I'm pleased that my friends at Commute By Bike occasionally give my words a somewhat more public venue, such as they have again today.

But, having now spent most of my day dealing with profound grief and a community's collective sorrow, and subsequently a part of my afternoon being reminded of what good writing really sounds like, and what good writing can really accomplish, my online review of a crate to carry beer bottles, which I'd hope to tout to you today with great fanfare, seems a little trite.

Therefore, with the unforeseen tragedy of the day in mind, and for a guy I didn't really know all that well, but who seemed to me to be a man who, while he lived lived Life with great purpose and vitality, I'd like to pass along a few great words, from another great writer, Henry Thoreau, of which I've been reminded repeatedly today:
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.

I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. "

05 August 2012

Jerome, Arizona

For no particular reason, we drove down to Jerome and walked around a bit today.