Monday, September 08, 2008

Bicycles Are For Me

I got Loops tuned up last week, and wow she's humming like a dream. The love affair continues with no signs of ever fizzling. Tim, the young mechanic at my local bike shop, is warm and charged with bike enthusiasm. He looks at all bikes with affection, whether it's a ten thousand dollar stunner or a hand-me-down like Loops. Tim wears the uniform of a fixie junkie; old straight jeans rolled up to the knees, cool and sleek sneakers, ankle socks and a fitted t-shirt. He has a chain of elephants tattooed on his forearm that melts me. When I brought in Loops, he was backed up with work, said he didn't think he could get to her for six days. I said, "Oh no, what do I do until then?" Looking lovingly at Loop's stickered frame, he said, "I'd feel exactly the same." When he looked in my back basket and saw Mina's toy ring with a huge plastic purple diamond accidentally left there, he sighed and said, "I'll try to push her to the front of the line." Loops was ready in three days, running like a charm and affixed with a new brake handle that Tim had replaced for free with a salvaged part that happened to fit perfectly. I slipped Tim a tip for the tender care, but I think he appreciated most my over-expressed gratitude.

I told you Loops was a stray? Left alongside a millionaire's house in Newport Beach with a herd of other decent bikes. The ocean air got to them a little, rusted up some bits here and there. The bikes had stiffened from lack of use. Husband rescued two of the bikes for me, Loops and a mangy sweet thing that seems beyond repair to me, but may not be for a savvy mechanic. My intention is to donate the mangy one to a bike CoOp for the parts. Speaking of which, there are a few great ones in LA: The Bicycle Kitchen in the east West Hollywood area, and their sister shops The Bike Oven in Highland Park and Bikerowave in Santa Monica. You can use the bike shop and tools for $7 an hour --less if you don't have that kind of money-- and they'll teach you things while you're there, like how to fix a flat and beyond. They'll let you have parts too if they have them. It's all run by volunteers. It ain't fancy; it's for the those who have found true love in a bike, from the goofy to the serious. I'm heading over soon to learn this flat fixing business, at the very least.

I've been reading a lot lately about the history of the bicycle. Fascinating stuff actually; about how the roads in the U.S. were improved mainly because of the outcry of bicycle advocates whose teeth were pretty much falling out of their heads as they tried to commute on our tore-up roads back in the 1880's. About how a lot of the blueprints of the car stemmed from the bicycle; Henry Ford and the Wright Brothers all were fine bike mechanics. About how the bicycle back then was the fastest thing after a steam locomotive, even outracing horse-drawn carriages. About how African Americans were part of the sport from the very beginning at the turn of the 1900’s, and how the bicycle was an early and rather stealthy symbol of feminism. Susan B. Anthony said: "Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

The bicycle has been a liberator since the beginning of its history! And I havent met a bike enthusiast that doesn't say the same today. I never feel a more elated sense of freedom than when I'm riding my bike.

I've been reading another book called Over the Hills. It's written by David Lamb a former war correspondent for the LA Times. Around his fifty-fifth birthday, he decided he'd buy a touring bike, pack it up with a minimal amount of stuff and ride across the country alone from Virginia to the Santa Monica pier. What I love most about this guy is that he had high cholesterol, was out of shape, hardly trained, smoked, drank, but he was like screw it, I'm off to experience the states like I can't in a car. The book is a detailed account of the ride and I love every single word of it. The book also goes into much detail about the history of cycling and the history of the areas he rides through. He stops for smoke and coffee and whiskey breaks and talks to curious locals. He's a regular guy doing an extraordinary thing. Needless to say, I’m inspired. I've been looking into California touring maps and sparkly new touring bikes. We'll see. One thing's for sure though, Loops has nothing to fear. She's still my number one.

14 comments:

Maven said...

What I love is how personal the feeling is when I'm on my bike. I feel so awesome and looking at it objectively, I'm sure everyone else on a bike feels the same way, but it's really all about me and my frowsy steed.

The first research paper I ever wrote, an elementary school assignment from notecards to outline to finished paper, was called The Origin of Bicycles. I should try to dig it up.

hotelindialima said...

Sing along "I like to ride my biii-sick-el! I like to ride my bike. I like to ride my bi-sick-eeeeeellll, I like to ride it where I liiiiiiiiiike."

Daniel Zegiel said...

Bikes are the best! drawing: http://www.zegiel.net/?p=468

greenish gold said...

Oh, I'll have to read that book. My bike is a heavy ass piece o' something or other. It does the trick for now and what the heaviness doesn't allow for in speed it makes up for in workout value.
And it was a freebie. And it's purple. A puple freebie.

greenish gold said...

Must learn to use preview feature. Puple, geez.

madness rivera said...

Yes, Maven, yes. And yes Hil and Daniel. On all of it.

Puple and free is cool. (I didn't notice the typo until the second comment because I'm a Typo Queen and I read fluent Typo without a glitch.) I'm lucky that Loops was a good bike and fairly light from the gate. That's what happens I guess when you get hand-me-downs from millionaires. But you can get a very decent new and light bike for $200-300. That may still be out of the budget, but with some saving, you're right there. The touring bikes I'm looking at have a comma in the price. Yikes.

zoey said...

Hmm maybe I should start trolling Newport Beach for my new bike. Keith totally tuned up his wheels at the Bicycle Kitchen on Heliotrope!

madness rivera said...

Zoey, you can totally have the Mangy One especially if Keith knows what he's doing at the Bike Kitchen. She looks way rusted (to me), but the frame is a good one.

zoey said...

Woot! Thanks so much!!! Keith has agreed to help me clean her up at the B.K. Are you sure Maya won't be growing in to it soon? Let me know...If not, we can pick it up from you one of these days soon!!

I'm so excited for bike rides! "O Bicycle I christen thee The Mangy One."

Jonathan K. Cohen said...

My father used to work in a bicycle factory -- well, he was corporate counsel, anyway, and his office was in the factory. I used to visit him and look at the rows and rows of beautiful bicycles hanging from the ceiling, imagining myself riding them around the neighborhood. But the factory closed in 1976, due to Japanese competition. No bike for me.

John Mc said...

bikes, cheaper than therapy or Prozac.

Madness if you are investing, think of stretching to a carbon bike, its the closest to flying under your own power that you can get without being born with feathers and wings

Kathleen said...

sister.
you are so rawkin'.

also. i have your bike pic as my desktop pic right now. i LOVE it!

zoey said...

thank you again for the rechristened Sexy Beast!!! I've been admiring her hotness all day.

You are the absolute sweetest and best. :o)

madness rivera said...

Girl, you're so welcome. Recycle, reuse = Rebicycle!

John, pff, I'd love some carbon in my frame . . .a girl can dream.

Jonathan! Nice to see you in the comments. Hope you're well.