Some bicycles beg to get stolen. Kristie had taken incredible security measures to protect her most treasured possession, in this particular case her Fuji SL with Dura-Ace and the lightest, most durable set of FastForward carbon wheels which were 100% carbon, made fully of carbon and exclusively carbonized through various carbon procedures. To ensure that the bike would never be stolen, she had leaned it up against her garage unlocked, which faces a busy street, for a few hours.
Later that evening, when she went out to bring her beloved bicycle into the house, she was astounded to see it gone, and in its place a beat-up POS Giant hybrid bike with brakes that didn’t work, a chain that barely turned, and gears that were a transmission in name only.
Many tears were shed and many oaths uttered as she marveled at how someone could have ridden by on a broke-down clunker, seen her shiny, beautiful, expensive bike leaning against the garage, and thought “Sweet! Time for a swap-er-oo!” and then ridden off.
It didn’t help when I pointed out that anyone who cared so little about a bike as to leave it out unlocked shouldn’t be too surprised when someone rides away on it.
Fortunately she had another, much less wonderful and less beautiful bike that she was able to continue riding, and she took the junker Giant and chucked it in the garage, where it languished, if dead things can languish.
Last week, when I met Bill who was in need of a bike, I began looking around for something that might work for him. Some people suggested the Salvation Army but that was a bust. Then I remembered the junker Giant and took a look at it. It was carbon and most of the damage could be fixed by someone with a trusty wrench.
So I called up Baby Seal at the Dropout. “Bring ‘er in,” he said, “we’d love to help.” I heard Boozy P. groan in the background as JP said “we” and recounted the dire prognosis of the patient. Boozy P. loves taking horrible, broken, worthless bikes and spending hours in order to make them look simply terrible. But, sixpack! So it’s all good.
We dropped off the bike, and Boozy P. set about refurbishing this distinctly unloved bicycle. When he was done with it, it sparkled. Brakes fixed, transmission fixed, new tars, and lots of bike polish … the junker Giant had been transformed.
Yesterday we took it over to the encampment on Lomita by the 110. Bill was in his tent, and he had great news: His caseworker had gotten him Section 8 housing and he was getting ready to move into a home for the first time in six years. He was so incredibly happy.
“We found you a bike,” I said.
“Yeah, really.” I took it out of Kristie’s car and put the front wheel on, or at least that was my plan. However, the bike had cantilever brakes and I was having difficulty.
Bill looked on sympathetically. I knew what he was thinking: “Must be a pretty sad life to be this old and unable to put on the front wheel of a bicycle.”
I fumbled a bit before he gently took over with hands accustomed to doing, you know, work. “These are cantilever brakes,” he said. “The cable slots out of this barrel adjuster by the brake lever, and it has fallen out. You have to pop it in like this.” He popped it in. “Then the wire between the brake pads has to be squeezed just a touch so that you can connect the cable.” He expertly did just that.
“Wow,” I thought. “Dude knows bikes.”
And it made sense. For one, it’s not that difficult. For another, you have to know things living out there. You can’t really pay people to do them, and they don’t happen on their own.
I gave Bill a lock to go with the bike. He was really happy and thanked us. “No worries,” I said. I told him the story about the stolen bike swap and he had a laugh. Then I told him about the refurbishing by Baby Seal & Co., and about the various people who had donated money for me pass on to others.
“Thanks so much,” he said, repeatedly. We shook hands and left, but not before I handed out tens to the other guys standing around.
We drove up to a break in the median and did a u-turn to head back home. Bill and a bunch of his friends were clustered around the bike, admiring it. Re-cycling, indeed.