Spoke Talk: What’s in a bike
August 2, 2017
I woke up in a humid motel room. Not New Orleans or New Delhi humid, but that Pacific Northwest, salty, cedar-filled humidity. We were on the Oregon coast without a single care or plan. Our group is diverse — artists, mostly, the creative types who tend to see the world through hues and lines and notes, rather than topo maps of mountain bike trails.
I knew this trip was not about biking. I didn't think the word bike would even enter the conversation. But this morning, it did, and we found ourselves cruising the streets with wheels beneath our feet.
The motel offered us their cruiser bikes to get around town. I had seen them the evening before, those neon orange, wide-seated touristy bikes. It seemed great, but when we walked over in the morning, the completely booked motel must have already sent out the good ones; what remained looked like they had been in that bike rack since the city was established in 1899.
They were missing pedals and springs in the seat and occasional spokes; there were flat tires, chains completely rusted onto the chain ring; handlebars you could rotate up into chopper bars … the whole spectrum of disarray. One was so far beyond repair that the next best option was a BMX bike with pegs. They were not shiny orange with flower decals, but, instead, the corrosive palate of brown. We loved them.
Despite a broken pedal smacking me in the shin each stroke, a seat (permanently) angled just enough to tweak my lower back, a rattle in the bowels of the bottom bracket and cracked sidewalls that questioned my faith in the machine to make it to the coffee shop, it was still biking, and it was glorious.
Our little gang of misfits cruised the streets as the morning fog burned away. The only bike with a basket carried a speaker blasting weekend tunes, a beach towel and a bag of snacks. We were rolling through town and down boardwalks and hanging onto our teeth when we hit potholes.
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These bikes were not thousands of dollars. You couldn't sell the whole lot for more than $20. We were not wearing all the right gear or monitoring our heart rate or mapping a 30-mile ride. It is safe to say we were not even burning calories. But this was still biking, and we felt like kids.
It made me think about all the ways to ride a bike and where you can ride a bike. I felt the connection to my friends and my environment, just as I would on a trail in the forest or out on a road ride. It didn't matter that the wheels barely turned. They turned nonetheless, and the wind in my hair was enough.
Kelly Northcutt is Routt County Riders administrator. Routt County Riders is the local source for grassroots advocacy and information for all types of cycling. Find the group at facebook.com/rcriders, routtcountyriders.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.