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Published: February 17th 2006
It was a day that I knew would come sooner or later, although preferably later. Still, when I felt a slight bump from my rear wheel, followed by a feeling of general squishiness from all parts rear of my pedals, I merely assumed that I had punctured my tire on a piece of broken glass at twilight on my way home. But a quick comparative check of tire pressure at the next traffic light dismissed that theory- both my tires were solid as could be.
“Hmm,” I thought to myself, “Maybe I busted the axle.”
The traffic light turned green and I conscientiously pedaled across the street, imminently aware of my rear wheel. But it stayed in place for another block, and at the next traffic light I reached back & wiggled the wheel from side to side. Still solid and firm, I wondered if I had just hit a pothole & made the whole thing up.
Rolling up the driveway though, towards my waiting wife and dog, I felt the back wheel shimmy again. I hopped off my bike & began inspecting the rear wheel.
“What’s wrong, honey?” Jennifer asked,
“I’m not sure,” I replied as I squatted in the driveway, trying to find the squidgy bit. And that was when I saw it, the sliver of fading twilight where none should be, “Ah, shoot…”
The dog stood eye to eye with me as I crouched, and offered a sympathetic lick of the face. “Shoot,” I muttered again, and brushed the dog away as I flipped my bike over & held the rear wheel up to the dimming sky. Sure enough, a crack ran across the weld between the left chainstay and wheel dropout. Less than an inch away from my rear wheel axle, my bike frame had broken at one of the weakest points.
“Shoot!” I grumbled in pain, throwing my bike down to the pavement, causing the dog to jump back, “It’s busted…my bike’s busted…shoot, man.”
I stood in the driveway, looking at my old friend, mortally wounded. I craved the finality of a bullet and a gun to put my trusted steed down once and for all. Instead, my bike would just lay there, looking to the untrained eye unblemished and healthy. As deceptive as appearances may be, there was no hiding from my eyes that my bike had rolled its final miles.
The last few months had been a rosy final hurrah. I had stripped my bike to its bare essentials: frame, handlebar, wheels, brakes, chain, pedals. No gears, no racks, no derailleurs. But now…now it’s dead.
Sure, sure, inanimate objects can’t die, but the spirit and meaning that we imbue them with can come to a close. More than anything I treasure the memory of the places my bike took me…down my first flight of stairs outside the dormitory courtyard…to the top of l’Alp d’Huez…across the cobblestones of London, Paris, and Rome…along a trail to an overlook above Horseshoe Curve…back and forth across two college campuses…to my ship during my Navy years…so many memories. There was a time when the whole of my bike was greater than the sum of its parts, but now the reverse is true: I locked my bike up again last night because the sum of its parts is worth more to me than the whole of it.
I picked my bike up and rolled it to the backyard, where I laid it down again on the winter-brown grass, and sat on the back steps next to my pregnant wife. "I'm sorry," she murmered as she rubbed my back, "I know this has got to be hard."
I looked up at the sky as night stole across from the west, hoping my tears wouldn't well up, "Yeah, yeah it is hard. I mean, I knew this would happen someday...but why now?" I stood up and went inside, shedding my helmet and gloves, tossing my backpack in the corner. I went to the fridge in search of a libation and spied the 6 pack of Frugal Joe's Ordinary Beer, "What the hey," I thought, "that's appropriate."
After rummaging through the utensil drawer I finally popped the cap off and went outside to stand over my bike. I took a sip of beer and then poured a jigger on the front wheel, silently offering up a prayer, "One for me. One for my homie."
I sat back down on the stoop, and Jenn sniffed at the beer, "Smells good."
"Yup, it is good. Simple, but good."
"Like your bike."
The guys down at the shop have been craving the opportunity to sell me a new bike, and I won’t deny that I’ve got my eyes on the new Gary Fisher singlespeed mountain bike with 29” wheels. But let’s be realistic: with both a baby and taxes due in April, I’m not buying a new bike. Still, if I could find a good, sold frame for cheap, I could put together a great bike…
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