Thursday, November 24, 2005

What is the deathbike?

I was pushing the DeathBike7 through a local park two weeks ago, enduring a double-shock to the system. The first event to mark the day was the loss of another bike pedal to the ditch whilst in the middle of a high speed, far-too-sharp, left hand turn across the highway (with oncoming traffic) onto a tarred gravel "road" that seemed to be constructed of washboard, potholes and large loose cobbles. There's nothing like the rush of disaster, barely averted; and near-disaster is so much more tactile on a bicycle than in a motorized, enclosed vehicle.

What, exactly, is a Deathbike?
How, exactly, did I "last until" Deathbike 7?

A Deathbike is an inanimate object that has a physical relationship with you and also emotional issues. Since bicycles do not have mouths, larynxes, dexterous fingers or any non-dedicated moving parts; the bicycle's only method of communication is to dump its rider. In practice, it's an effective means of getting the rider's attention; but, it is an extremely poor method of conveying any meaning at all. Your average hamster is capable of conveying more emotion and empathy than your most brilliant bicycle. The end result of all this pent-up frustration is the inevitable insanity of the poor bike. And it can happen rather quickly.

This is the most important consideration when choosing a bicycle; How healthy is its mental state?
Most bicycles will be put out of their misery, long before their madness takes hold. They go to the great recycler in the sky, with mouse-like quiet, dreaming their little Harley dreams.

Other bikes are just born wrong and for some reason I can pick 'em out of a crowd. We gravitate like cheap asteroids. The Deathbikes and me.

I said this is Deathbike 7, but that number is only a tiny little defense mechanism that my brain has set up for me, I think, to protect me from the brutal reality of the fact that every bicycle that I have ever owned... has tried to kill me. Every one.

The Deathbike 1 has a special place in my memory, because it chose to spit out its front wheel while I was descending the steepest paved hill in Red Lake, Ontario, around twenty-eight years ago. There may be greater surprises in life than losing the front tire of a bicycle while flying down the steepest paved hill in Red Lake, Ontario; but I would wager that there are fewer, more delicious moments to be had on a bicycle in any other situation. Especially those two nanoseconds before the handlebars start to drop.

It wasn't, strictly, the Deathbike 3's fault that my right brake levers were not working; because of a broken cable that I had neglected to fix. It was, however, entirely my fault that I was carrying a tennis racket in my left hand while flying down a hill in Kenora, Ontario (behind and inland from the Rec. Centre). So when I negotiated the bicycle through one tight right turn, I was not happy to see the T-intersection at the bottom of the suddenly steep hill. My tennis racket strings' got caught up in the left brake lever and I sailed, gracefully, through the T-intersection and the bicycle met the 9-inch curb, with enthusiasm.

I have a distinct memory of flying through the ether just like superman, with my arms outstretched before me. I also distinctly recall lying on a thick carpet of grass in someone's front yard, wondering where my bike was. Half a moment later, it landed, one tire on each side of my head, before it went bouncing on, down the lawn.

While I was living in Wisconsin, the Deathbike 5 was my partner-in-trouble on many an ill-lit ride from the Yellow Lake golf course back to my Shack at the park.
Remind me to write a story about the Shack, sometime, that's a story on its own. Anyways...

The Deathbike 5's only working brake, on the right side (rear tire) broke one day. The cable had been frayed badly and had finally snapped. Instead of buying a new cable, I had (in a fit of badly-applied creativity) simply tied the hanging cable to a discarded tomahawk handle (Yes, I have discarded tomahawk handles.) that I could reach down and yank, to apply my brakes. This method of braking. however, demanded that I only have one hand on the handlebars at the time. The Deathbike and I made many a trip the morning after, to pick up the golf clubs that had spilled out of my bag on the way, due to numerous near-disasters. My favourite golf club find of all time: I found my seven-iron wrapped -nay, tied- around a stop sign pole. I guess one of the locals had gotten tired of seeing my clubs strewn on the side of the road on Thursday mornings.

Why do I bring this stuff up, now? The bike that cast off the pedal, about two weeks ago, is still my main mode of transportation. It's possible to pedal, effectively enough, by stepping directly on the crank. Last night my pony threw me for the first time since last winter. It hurt like a son-of-a-bitch, but there's nothing broke. My bike even had the good graces to toss me in a deserted back alley, so that there were no witnesses to my humiliation. I lay there for nearly two minutes, testing bones and joints, then rolling on my back to look at the stars for a minute; surfing that good hurt that lets you know you're alive.

One of the deathbikes.



Jade L Blackwater said...

Glad you survived... whether intentional or not, the various Death Bike scenarios had me in stitches! :) The sheer ingenuity of the tomahawk-handle-pull-brake method was simply outstanding.

Hoka-shay-honaqut said...

"Necessity is the mother of invention."
I can't recall whose quote that is; but, it's a good one.
I wish that I had a picture of that brake-handle, because it's an example of
a super low tech mod that some rat-bikers might appreciate.
I think that I'll work on a bike this winter, I have
enough parts, just need to wheedle a welder for a few weeks.

357martini said...

That's some funny shite....careful on da bike those handle bars look more like a sling-shot