In Retrospect of Bicycle Month
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.
The Bicycle. By Scott Baker
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.
A Poem About Bikes In Downtown Portland
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
Bike Ride – VI
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!
Bike Ride – V
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.
Bike Ride – IV
Finally got my bike fixed and she’s running like a champ! Good thing because my bestie from Burque flies in today and we’ve got a whole day to roam the streets looking for trouble. After a very satisfying and coma-inducing brunch, we set off on our bikes (one she’s borrowed for the day from my former squatter housemate) to Mount Tabor. This is the tallest peak in Portland and an active volcano. We make it about halfway up before we realize that there is going to be no foreseeable break in the incline. So we walk up the second half. Don’t judge.
It’s a beautiful view of the city and we hang up top for a bit. She poses at the top of the stairs that lead to nowhere.
We rocket down the hill, riding our brakes most of the way and still going way too fast. Grab Italian Sodas and walk our bikes to practice some vinyasa at Mandala Yoga on Belmont. It was an amazing class. We take it slow on the way back to my place, relaxed and tired from a fun and stress-free day of bikes, yoga, and conversation. Finally, some tacos and margaritas finished off the best day of the year.
…In Bike Related News
Because I’ve been sick for a week and PBM hasn’t fixed the damage done to my beautiful two-wheeled machine, here’s some random stuff about bikes!
There’s a bike barn in North Portland that fixes bikes or strips them down for parts. Welding chain links together to make belt buckles and other random re-purposed stuff. Check out their stuff. http://www.etsy.com/shop/RhythmicMetal
There’s a bike exhibit at the Portland Art Museum. http://www.portlandartmuseum.org/special/cyclepedia
Bikes played a pretty significant role in the feminist movement. Seriously. Look it up.
There’s a pretty sweet app called Portland Bike that tells you the easiest way to travel by bike without getting run over. It’s $0.99 and totally worth it.
Next month is the Bike Commute Challenge to see what company in Oregon can have the most amount of people take their bike to work. http://bikecommutechallenge.com/
Bike Ride – Part III
So, I’m feeling pretty confident in my bike fixing skills. I think I can manage another long ride before it’s professionally adjusted. I decide to go before work to find the path that leads down to Marine Drive, a street that follows the Columbia River and has a path down by the water.
I set off from the house with about 3 hours before I have to be home to get ready for work. It’s a beautiful ride, mostly downhill from my house and I dread the trek back up. But for now, it’s amazing. I finally come to Marine Dr. It’s only about a 15 minute ride from my house and it goes off in both directions. It’s a beautiful morning when the sun is out but it’s still overcast enough to not be too hot. It was incredible! Riding along the flat path next to the river, I lost track of how far I’d come and how long it would take me to get back home. I just wanted to keep riding.
And then this happened.
I was about 8 miles from home. And I had to be to work in 2 hours. And the items I had in my possession were my cell phone, debit card, and ID.
This would have been the perfect time for my squatter housemate to come and save the day. An ideal moment for redemption. If there ever was a good time to have someone living in your house rent free with no job and minuscule responsibilities would come in handy, it is right.fucking.now. However, most opportunities for “being in the right place at the right time” or “coming to the rescue” or even “being a good guy” have been lost on him in the past and continue to evade his nonchalant approach to life. Most of you might be asking me, “why would you write such terrible things about a person you’ve been friends with for 13 years?” To that, I say, A.) You don’t know him. B.) I know he will never read this because he doesn’t care about the things his friends care about unless they coincide with the things he cares about. This is not one of them. And finally C.) You don’t know him.
After several phone calls and text messages, I decide to seek alternate means of transportation. I need to find an ATM so I can catch the bus. I’m in a very industrial part of town and there aren’t a lot of businesses or ATMs around. But I do happen to be on a bus line that will take me directly home so I walk and walk and walk until I find a convenience store. I pull out $20 (with a $2.50 service charge) and take it to the counter to buy a $1.75 water so I can get exact change for the bus. I figure out when the bus is coming and head to the nearest stop. It’s been 2.5 miles since my chain broke. I’m tired. My feet hurt. Some dude just yelled at me while driving by. I just want to get on the bus and get home before I’m late for work.
The bus pulls up and the bike rack on front is empty. I was secretly hoping there would be another bike there to guide me on how to secure mine properly, but there was nothing! What do I do?!? I forced a forgiving smile and leaned my head through the door and said, “hey! This is the first time I’m hooking my bike up.” He was not impressed. He sighed audibly and quickly gave me directions while his eyes made at least one complete rotation in his skull. I attempted to follow the directions but when it took longer than he deemed appropriate, he honked at me, yelled at me, and made inconclusive gestures with his hands through the windshield. Blowing on it, or turning it off and back on won’t work in this scenario. Thanks for nothing, Nintendo.
I finally figured it out, with very little actual help and a lot of exasperation from the bus driver. I sank into my seat. Holding my head down and keeping my sunglasses on to hide the shame and defeat of the day. Hiding the tears welling up in my eyes and thinking about how different this morning had seemed. How a bike can give you freedom and exhilaration. And a moment later, take it all away and leave you stranded, publicly shamed, and nearly late to work.