Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Two wheels at a time.

It's good to have a bike.  When you're a kid, before you can drive, it gives you freedom. However, once you have your license, true freedom, it doesn't mean you want to rid yourself of your two-wheeler.  A bike is always useful.  It is healthy.  It is pure. Two clothes pegs and a hockey card--fun!

The only bikeless period of my life was when I was a graduate student in Toronto and lived in a small apartment downtown. There were subway entrances all over the place, allowing me to travel relatively easily underground, short or long distances. Pop down one hole, pop up from another.

I returned to surface life when I moved to California.  Public transit was okay, but I needed a bike for quick trips around the neighbourhood, or to the parking-starved campus and back.  After about a week, I went on a mission.  From  my sixplex in El Cerrito I walked to the main strip, San Pablo Avenue, and headed south.  I believed that, without checking the Yellowpages, which still existed but didn't come with the apartment, or asking a local, if I kept walking, I would find a bike store.  I would buy a bike, a helmet, and a lock, and I would ride home.  It was a good plan.

Eventually, before even a shadow of self-doubt crossed my mind, I came to El Cerrito Cycle.  See? Good plan. I walked in.  Within fifteen minutes, I was out for a test-ride.

The man in the bike store was suspicious of my Visa card, which was issued by a Canadian bank. I had to let him hold it while I was out on the bike.  He instructed me to ride on the trail beneath the BART track, which was just out back.  So I did.  After a few minutes I discovered that he was riding behind me, as if fearing I would head for the border, ha-ha, so long sucker.

He didn't really look like a bike-store worker, who should be young and fit, or older and sinewy from all those years of pedaling.  He was a bit heavy, and his knees poked out when he rode, like somebody's dad who hasn't ridden in twenty years.

I looped back past him and got to the store first.  I bought the bike.  Here it is:



It is a Catalina Park Pre. That likely means nothing to you.  It means next to nothing to me, except that those are the words written on my bike.  I rode my C-P-P, a few years of quick, reliable getting-around in the East Bay, and then moved to this province of rain and mountains, a very different, more challenging biking habitat.  I stopped riding.

Then I did maybe one of the worst things you can do to a bike.  I left it out on an apartment balcony, exposed to the elements.  The tires went flat.  The hand-grips dried and cracked, The rims and chain rusted. Shame on me. 

We eventually moved to Richmond, which is situated on a flat pan of silty, boggy land at sea level, at the mouth of the Fraser River.  It is ringed by dykes to keep the river and tides at bay.  It has a mild climate, with very few days of snow cover.  It is near perfect for biking.

Proof of that occurred during the 2010 Winter Olympics.  The speed-skating oval was (and still is) in Richmond, which meant that the Dutch would come.  They did, located their Olympic pavilion here, and brought their bikes. For those two weeks, you would see orange-clad people riding super-sturdy commuter bikes along the dykes.  What could be more Dutch?


By this time I had successfully and guiltily nursed C-P-P back to health, and had ridden it for a year or so before deciding to upgrade to something a little comfier.  I bought a Raleigh Sentinel, which had shock absorbers on the forks and seat post, and was a joy to ride.


Raleigh was a famous, venerable British brand.  They started making their bikes in Canada too, in Quebec.  I believe my bike was built there, not long before the brand was sold to a Dutch company, which would seem a good thing, but the vortex of globalization sent production to Viet Nam, using parts from who-knows-where.  Not the same bike.  Telling youngsters working in bike shops that I rode a Raleigh no longer even rated a shrug.

I rode the Raleigh for 15 years, including to work and back every day that wasn't snowy or icy.  I figure I racked up close to 40,000 Km, which is almost the circumference of the globe.

But wear and tear.  It happens to bike riders, and to their bikes. I replaced the tires at least three times, the seat twice, the handle bars once.  There is only so much you can replace on a bike and still have the same bike.  All that remained from the start were the frame and the drive train, and eventually they wore out too.  The forks splayed slightly, making it difficult to reinsert the wheels when changing tires.  The chain and sprockets wore down, and no matter how I fiddled with the cables, the gears kept slipping.  I could no longer suddenly pump hard to get through a yellow light or up a grade.  My pedaling became the equivalent of lily-dipping, which is a disparaging canoeing term for paddling weakly with only the tip of the paddle, not the entire blade, as if you are passing through water lilies and don't want to become mired.

I was slow.  It was becoming hazardous.

I had to let Raleigh go.

This week I started a new relationship.  A G-T Transeo 4.0.  I don't know what that means. Those are the words written on my bike.

Transeo has graceful lines and goes like the wind.  We are young again.  

Well, one of us is.

Dutch person and bike, taking in the view. They clearly enjoy each other's company.
 The Dutch--they are a people who understand the bond between person and bike. 

2 comments:

Tim said...

Congrats on the bike. The seat doesn't look as forgiving as the one on your Raleigh, probably as motivation to peddle harder instead of coasting comfortably.

Hugh said...

Tim, I'm willing to give it a chance before going back to cushy.