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.