Freedom (to ride) Isn’t Free

on bike
by wvs on flickr

Wow, I think that’s one of the  longest breaks I’ve taken from blogging in a while. Silence snowballs. At this point, according to my usual rules I would bombard you with 18 posts today. I won’t do that; I will do six posts today and 3 a day for the next week. Here goes!

I’m no fun to be around when a project isn’t progressing. I like clear goals and benchmarking; I’m frustrated by inefficient directions and sloppy thinking. That’s why it’s taken me forever to get my bike fixed–because I only want to start that project when I am sure I can finish it right. I did not always think this way.

My bike has the following problems:

  1. The seat yellow foam is held on my 2 rubber-bands.
  2. It does not shift from 2nd to 3rd more than once without manual intervention.
  3. It does not shift to 1st gear, ever. The chain absconds to the hub of the wheel until I go up enough gears to coax it back.


KGS Bikes Print Ad Campaign
by KevinSaunders on flickr


Having reached the limits of my bike tools, and heard encouraging things from my biking friends, this weekend I meandered over to Free Ride. A bike co-op next to a grungy recycling center, it is a little bit of heaven for my younger, messier inner self. Deeper than my need for success metrics is a need to get filth under my fingernails, crunched into the cracks in my hands, dug into dings in my knuckles.

In the two hours I tooled around on my bike–attaching and detaching my derailer, removing my wheels, tweaking my breaks–I didn’t think much about what I needed out of the experience. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, but I focused on the machine in front of me, on the mumbles and expressions of the several dozen people around me working on their projects. After my first hour, once I had the lay of the land, I asked a quick question about one part of my derailer. Then, a while later, another.

I didn’t tell anyone where I went to school, or any of the achievements I list when I want people to take me seriously (a bad habit I’m trying to get over). Other than that I used to work in a bike shop, I didn’t really talk about myself at all. It was all about the bike, and the oil, and the dirt.

I left the bike shop with the following problems:

  1. My seat is still help on by 2 rubber-bands.
  2. Neither the front nor back breaks worked (I hopped off in the parking lot, whipped out my hex, and fixed that quickly).
  3. It cannot shift any farther that when I walked in.

But I was satisfied. I had learned how to grease my chain and adjust my detailers. I’d been friendly to strangers and had them be friendly back. Most importantly, I was covered to my elbows in dirt and oil. The ride home, uphill the whole way, I felt connected to my whole body, and quieter within my mind than I had been when I cruised down to the grungy community bike shop.

Inspirational Quote:

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”– Ernest Hemingway

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