I learned late. A lot of things. Riding a bike was another. I think I was almost ten. Maybe 9 and still hadn't gathered up the guts to risk the balance and the embarrassment.
And I didn't have a bike. Not many kids on the street did. A lot to ask of your parents.
Gary next door had a Schwinn LaTour. I can still see the lettering and the blue paint. The glitter of the brand. What other bike did any broke American kid have back then? Schwinn was like Sears. Like Ford, Chrysler and Dodge mixed into one. Budweiser without Miller dogging their heels.
Did any company have a bigger monopoly that they just blew?
How did Schwinn go bankrupt?
Stunning. Stunningly stupid. You gotta hand it to assholes like these: Schwinn, Sears, USSteel. Thought they had it wrapped up forever, lived off the fat of the land and the bones of their employees and then screwed the pooch and blamed the unions. Well done, dicks.
Just in case you wondered about my politics.
I rode up to the top of Mt Wilson last week after I said I wouldn't but if there was ever a Mt about which it was easy to say "Because it is there" it's Wilson and up top in the Park parking lot a gaggle of leather bound moto boys were strutting their stuff and giving me hard looks as I circled the lot - one fella even shook his head, and that was enough for me to peel by and mention that maybe he should try it once without a motor.
Makes me laugh. Why is it dudes with machines think they're tougher than people doing the same work without a machine? Guys in fights with guns. Same thing.
Anyhow- Gary taught me how to make it down the street without falling. The key, and it's the key to soooooo much, the key to riding a bike is....you have to go fast enough. Speed is the fuel that keeps you upright. Speed keeps you out of accidents, speed keeps you aloft, speed is what gets you home.
I rode his Schwinn. I got a Huffy Thunder road and pulled the handle bar grip off in the rain and almost lost a tooth. My brother came back from college with something called a Puch. And when I was a junior in college myself I fixed the damn thing up, took it to New England and rode it with the Brown cycling club. Won a sprint with it and I'll never forget one of the regular kids on the team coming up behind me putting his hand at the bottom of my spine as cyclists do when they're feeling sentimental enough to give you a push and said Nice work man.
Height of my racing career.
My last chance to choose a sport over ...the arts. Ugh.
Why why why?
Do we want to be an engine? Do we want to reduce ourselves to legs and lungs? Are we trying to imitate the piston that dragged us out of the agricultural age and into this Anthropocene shitfest?
The innocent toy of the first decades of the industrial era- the bike.
But maybe what makes a bicycle great is the same thing that makes art important - a bike is a machine that doesn't make anything. It's joyous tool. Yes, it can be used to further the goals of commerce but only as much as say a horse furthers the ends of his farmer.
Its real purpose, like that of a horse, what it was made to do was....run. Just run.