10 March 2008

Love (part 1)

Sometimes in life, it goes too deep. You love someone so much you can't conceive of life without them; a heartbreak too unbearable to imagine.

That's how it was with me and my bike. O! Bikebert, how I betrayed you!

She was a 2000 Gary Fisher Gitche Gumee, a unisex frame, the perfect size for me. Frog green, 8 speeds.

It was love at first bike.

Bikebert circa August 2004
(photo circa August 2004)

We bought her from Mr. K's Bicycle Shop in Rock Falls (before they closed), after the new models had already come in. She was on sale, even! I remember the first time I rode, testing her out in a circle in the parking lot of the store. The seat was too high, but we fit like hand in glove. Or butt in seat (seat in butt, more like. have you ridden a bike?).

I remember the first time I ever went for a ride with friends-- Kim and Andrew. The first time I cut across an intersection (the same day). We went to Sinissippi Park and free-wheeled down the sledding hill, which bore, instead of snow, spring's mottled patchwork of light and shade.

I remember trying to ride home from contest play rehearsal over spring break junior year. The first time I really understood what a blizzard means for traction and why people hate driving in winter. Not that I cared-- slipping and sliding my way up 5th avenue, we were reckless youth in lurrrve.

I remember summers, riding down LeFevre out past Westwood to McCue Rd and then back into town. Downtown to the police station to register her, 2 years into our relationship. I suppose it was a commitment ceremony of sorts-- it was the first time I really took ownership and started taking care of the bike. Getting tune-ups. Cleaning her.

We quick-released the front tire to fit her in the rented mini-van we drove to Ann Arbor when I first went to college. My god, I rode everywhere on that bike 1st semester. Until it got too cold and the lock froze solid with ice inside and I couldn't get the key in (can't find the blog post I wrote at the time).

When Kris helped me move out of MoJo after my freshman year, we haphazardly hung Bikebert on the back of the Jeep with 1 1/2 2-foot bungee cords. They held my lightweight (though steel-framed) beauty just fine.

She came with me to Lester House, my first home away from my parents. It was bike heaven-- folks who rode bikes, knew about maintenance, loved bikes. Her chain guard went mysteriously missing that first semester, and I could not figure out how that would have happened casually, since you'd have to take the whole chain and back wheel off to get it, and then reassemble the whole shebang. I did (and do) have a suspicion as to who did it, but I have plenty of other reasons not to like that guy anyway. But parked on the rack in the back of the house, she was safe.

Or she would have been if I'd kept her locked up. Chained down. Bolted. I left for winter break on December 19, 2005, and never saw her again. Like an idiot, I'd left her sitting in the rack with the U-Lock carefully draped around her handlebars.

And the thief, can I blame them? Hardly. She was too fine to pass up. I know the real reason I lost her is that I took her for granted, forgot to treat her with the respect I owed her for taking me around everywhere, and with nary a complaint (well, her brakes did start making this horrible screaming around October '05... it was pretty embarrassing) .

All kidding aside, that bike was my first taste of real independence. Going for rides alone, I was in charge. The sweet taste of freedom, power, control, and probably a little grass, all rolled into one. It really was quite intoxicating, I tell you what.

And honestly, I've never gotten over the loss. Sure, I've ridden other bikes-- toyed with the idea of buying another, even. But nothing could compare to her. In fact, Gary Fisher has discontinued the line-- there will never be another like her.

Once, in the fall of 2006, I saw a doppelganger parked outside Dennison as I was coming out of class. I inspected as close as I could-- same year, same size, same color. There couldn't be 2 in Ann Arbor, could there? Surely Bikebert had been stripped down and sold for parts by then? I was all set to wait there at the bike lot until the owner came out and ask them where they got it, but then I noticed the handlebar grips-- barely scuffed, and the originals. Mine were worse for the wear, ripped in places. She was really gone.

So, in tribute to the freedom I felt the first time I set out on my own on my trusty steedette, I've decided to embark on a crazy bike trip. This summer, I'm going to bike from L.A. to Portland and back. Anyone want to come with me? I'm thinking maybe July 10 - August 10. How's that timeline sound?

[addendum: alternatively, i could ride to Michigan when I move in.]