77.61 miles traveled this month by bicycle. So, I think it should be mentioned that PBM had a lot to do with the success of this month. He found a sweet bike for me, fixed it up, fixed it again, fixed it some more, and reminded me that it’s all worth it.
He has a lot more to say on this subject than I ever could. So I asked him to write about bikes. No other rules. Just write about bikes for my blog. Knowing PBM, AKA Scott Baker, I half-expected to get a stack of damp pages, poured over on a typewriter. Each letter of each word carefully thought out and put on paper with only the power of his elegant machine and his twisting fingers, fighting to put the thoughts to paper as fast as they come. Thankfully, he knew I would have to re-type whatever he gave me, so he was kind enough to email it to me.
I think it should be mentioned that in addition to saving young women from the perils of bikelessness, he also makes pretty amazing music under the name Simple Heart. If nothing else, you should open another tab http://simpleheart.bandcamp.com/ and play “Lucky Strike” while reading his musings. But seriously, he’s a bike mechanic. So you should totally buy the album, and also take him out and buy him a drink and/or a hot meal.
Of all the analogs of movement that I find the most difficult to ignore, it’s the bicycle.
The bicycle has propelled me from hobby, to career, to lifestyle. It’s daunting to say that the machine has always been an inexorable part of my ontology, but it’s more difficult for me to name a passage of my life where it wasn’t. There have been times where I’ve felt a sort of guilt for this, moments of personal reflection where modern paradigms and conventions of employment impose their judgments on my psyche, feeding feral neuroses about climbing certain ladders and, as some may say, growing up.
Of course, there is an inherent innocence to its mechanism that yields itself to casual dismissal as a youthful plaything, a sort of modal cryogeny in the evolution of human movement. We have since distracted ourselves with lessons of combustion, the pornographic explosion of propulsion born of the lust between fire upon fuel. We’ve taken to the heavens with this power, moving through the boundless dimensions beyond our sphere, as far as we’ve dared to venture.
But there is yet a complexity to its iterations that demands the most celestial of adorations. Could the bicycle have taken us to the moon and back?
It did when I first learned to ride it, and every time I’ve ridden it since.
At its most rudimentary and elemental it can be described as circles that turn circles, that turn circles… a brilliant implementation of the most fundamental of physical principles; Cycles of cellular momentum that leverage and bend our own bodily redox into a slavery of angular velocity. A terrestrial lesson borrowed from sidereal principles, put into motion eras and eons before we found the corporeal cognizance to capture its essence in a mechanical system. Cosmos, turned common.
Of course, the wheel was invented ages ago, revealing its prowess as magistrate of leverage, cantilever, and commotion. But it took time, experience, and experimentation to establish its supreme reign over the kingdoms of friction and force. Eventually,through veritable revolutions of ratio and reduction, the modern bicycle was born. Man’s most perfect and personal transmission, powered by pistons of flesh and bone.
The contemporary cyclist has oft skewed this eloquence and economy of travel into timbres of status-riddled posturing… poses of accomplishment worn proudly like a badge of rank. It is confined inside this graduated caste- scored by spandex, Strava, and superlative parlance- that we work far too hard to occlude one simple truth of modern travel: It’s really fucking rad to get there under your own power.
Me? I still wear jeans. I don’t track miles. My bicycle was born a couple of years after me. Because it’s not about anything other than the feeling that you get when the road unfolds before you, a conduit to the core of where our anxious, electrical complexities unfurl and only one simple, empowered emotion remains. Delight.
i take to the night in cadences unexplored
i do not pioneer or arrive in prime
it feels a sort of slither,
a waltz swung out of time
a dog that catches his own tail
an eighth of a measure
before the metronome breaks the spell.
tonight is a magpie stood in front of a mirror, wondering
the wind rushes
(but I do not)
my patience is rewarded
and the city bows at my request,
its green lights flowing
to the emperor in my chest.
of the somnambulisms that I wander there is one I cherish most,
its path a plain, pinched charity to its walking, waking host.
Scott Baker, PBM
Last ride of the month. Time to go big. Want to get more than 20 miles in one shot. It’ll be my longest bike ride yet. I bring along PBM just in case his personal bike mechanic skills are required and also because he’s kinda cool.
Meet him outside PAM and jet across the river to hop on the Springwater Corridor. This is a bike/hike/walk path that starts on the Eastbank Esplanade and goes all the way to Gresham. It’s a really easy path, crosses intersections rarely and has very minimal elevation changes.
We take it out to mile marker 12.5 so that we can hit an even 25 miles. This was around SE 128th Street. Not quite to Gresham, but good enough for me. Took a short water break and headed back to town.
On the way back, PBM commented that it was nice to take it slow and have time to take in the scenery. I was pretty sure we were going fast until that point. My legs felt a bit like jell-o and every time we had to stop, it was increasingly more difficult to start up again. The ass pain was back and I shifted frequently to find a more comfortable position that didn’t exist.
When I got home and mapped our route, it turned out to be 25.97 miles in a little over 2.5 hours. I was almost slightly heartbroken that it didn’t reach the marathon length, but I guess that’s a goal for next time. 25.97 miles is a new record for me. A record that signifies the distance my own exerted energy can take me in literal miles. My own exerted energy has taken me a lot of places and has done a lot of amazing things, but this is a quantifiable figure. An immediate gratification for a thoughtful and physical endeavor. And it wasn’t that hard. I can do two times that distance, after a bit more practice I imagine.
Went to the bike exhibit at the Portland Art Museum this morning. Pretty excited there just so happens to be a bike exhibit during bike month. It’s the first time I’ve ever been to an exhibit here and was surprised at the $15 admission fee. The exhibit took up one very large room and had 40 different bikes hanging from the ceiling with descriptions of how they broke the bike mold or influenced different trends.
I was hoping for more. I had thought it would be an evolution of the bicycle. Not to say that it wasn’t informative and cool to see, because it was. There were several bikes built to fold in half or more to be used as carry-on luggage or be hurled out of an airplane for military use.
That yellow tandem “buddy bike” can only be used with two people. The one on the left controls the steering even though they both have independent handlebars. There was also one so rare and priceless that was blinged out with a gold chain. So fancy!
Time for the true test: Bike through the city to downtown Portland. I’ll admit I’m still a little apprehensive about riding a bike downtown and on busy streets, even though most have a bike lane. But I decide today is the day. And there’s no crying in bike-riding.
I take a slightly longer route through back streets to avoid traffic and the possibility of being mauled by soccer moms. It takes me about 45 minutes to travel the 8 miles to PBM’s place. After an hour or so, it gets super dark and starts to sprinkle, so I decide to catch the bus back. This time, I’m prepared. I know exactly how to finagle the hardware latches and mechanisms necessary to secure my precious cargo. I go through the motions in my head before the bus arrives, mapping out each move before I make it and how that move will impact the next. I’ve calculated the time it will take from start to finish, even with a slight cushion to compensate for rain and slippery hands. When the bus pulls up, it’s game time. I’ve been practicing for this exact moment in my head for at least the last 45 seconds. Minimum. Grab the top handle, squeeze, pull down. Done. Lift the bike into the tracks. Boom. Pull the rubber arm over the front wheel. Uh, nailed it. I wiped my hands together in the universal sign for “job well done” and proudly ascended the steps to my chariot. This, my friends, was a much different experience from my previous attempt at bus/bike riding where all I felt was shame and defeat.
I paid the man the standard fare, finger-snap-pointed to one passenger, high-fived another, and dance-walked to a seat in the back. Well, I would have done that if I didn’t instantly realize that I was on a bus populated with people who gave up on life and the celebration of small wins long ago. So, I grabbed a seat and played on my phone like everyone else.
By the time I got to my stop, it was straight up raining. No more dainty sprinkles. This was big ass rain. Which supplied me with my very first bike ride in the rain. It was very slippery and (thankfully) only 2 blocks. And I don’t recommend it to anyone riding without a helmet and/or bike lights. Seriously. That shit is dangerous.