Empty Days

Saturday, August 07, 2004



Wet biking.

Went to the library and got caught up in the rain. Which reminded me - it's absolutely imperative and essential to have a full rain suit of long rides, which actually means: waterproof full-length pants (for jeans), real waterproof jacket (not just nylon windbreaker), and most importantly: shoes that repell water instead of absorbing it like a sponge (my leather shoes, haha). Sneakers should do it as they are supposed to be fairly waterproof, otherwise I don't see why there is so much rubber and synthetics in them.

I guess light velcro top and pants would do a fine job and it doesn't matter that velcro rips easily - it can also be patched up with plain duck-tape, I imagine, since it's not a fancy suit but just a lot of plastic designed to repell water. Boo.

Today I sorta got away with a simple velcro poncho but it was a short ride, there was no rain on the way back, and I was able to change into dry clothes once home.

There are a couple of other things about biking in the rain that I need solving somehow. I wear eyeglasses and basically what happens is that I push them down on my nose in the rain because I simply can't see through them, so I might as well take them off altogether. But then I become somewhat myopic - not blind, but things get a bit blurred. Possible solution: wearing a cap with a visor and getting the hood over it.

The other problem is that my bike doesn't really break on steep descents when it's wet. Heh. It's in pretty bad shape since it's made up of junk parts and wheels are too wobbly to really adjust breaks for those wonderful rusty steel rims - plus break-pads are really lousy 'n messed-up. The mountain bike I use in winter has aluminium rims and great break-pads, so wetness does not impact any. It'd be a great bike if the frame was my size and the handle-bar were not so low. But it's a junior bike, so there's nothing I can really adjust on it - even pedals are ridiculously small. It was found in the garbage.


Garbage bikes.

I fully realize that if I wanted to "take care" of my bike and make it into a fully reliable machine, I'd need to spend money on it. I'd have to buy new wheels and new tyres; I'd have to buy break-pads, replace cables, get a new chain, derailleur - at the very minimum. Essentially, if I wanted to make it better than it is, I might as well buy a new bike - because everything in this bike is crooked, rusted and fucked up, even the pedal system and chainring are crooked, and I've long dismantled the front derailleur because the rear-derailleur couldn't possibly handle the chain after I replaced rear-wheel twice with junky less wobbly equivalents found in garbage.

I am not a bike enthousiast - I am a garbage-biker, actually, which is a breed in itself because I could not possibly live a minute of my life without a bike.

Of course there is an easy "solution" to these worries - I could very well steal biking parts from parked bikes all over town. The reason I don't do this, despite my easy attitude towards stealing, is because all these bikes out there belong to people who actually use them - I can steal from big department stores and defy the law, but not from individuals even if it's essentially risk-free. I also never steal from small businesses for the same reason and not because it's too risky.

I used to scavange used parts from junk-bikes - the kind of bikes that are left in the open in a state of abandonment. They quickly rust, and taking parts from them is a good idea. Except that those parts are real garbage. So I have a lot of wheels and tyres and nuts 'n bolts but none of them could go to build a decent bike - only another garbage-bike. Soaking rusty chains in kerosine, anyone? That's me.

In essence, a garbage bike should not and cannot be treated as a new bike - it would be worse off for it. Example: instead of cleaning and treating the chain on my bike with proper lube, I greased it with pretty heavy machine oil years ago - it gathers tremendous amounts of dirt of course, but I can leave the bike in the open all year long and the chain doesn't rust, because the grease doesn't come off no matter what rains and snows it's exposed to. Some of it rubbed on the rear cogs and derailleur, and so these parts are also protected from rust despite being full of dirt.

Another interesting truth about garbage-bikes is that it's actually a bad idea to try and ameliorate them. Whenever you change one part for something better, you immediately realize that a whole system of parts needs updating in order for that one new part to work properly. Don't even try to put a new chain on a garbage bike. Why? Because the cogs on that old chainring and those on the rear free-wheel are not new - they're badly worn out and they won't work well with that shining new chain. Rather scavange an old chain from some other bike, seeing to it that its worn pattern matches the worn-out pattern of your cogs.

In tinkering with my little monster, I managed to acquired a few basic bike skills though the word is probably hardly appropriate because it's not so much skill as just a primitive know-how. I never tried to true a wheel, for instance - all my wheels are wobbly and it doesn't bother me in the least. I can't break well on steep descents in wet weather - so I start applying breaks way before I would apply them in normal weather. Motorists are taught to slow down in rain, not matter what luxury corvet they drive - my junk bike abides by the same principle. Going up a steel hill is another matter. Since I have few gears and the highest gear is naturally all wobbly, I rarely ever go up very steep hills, I choose an alternative less steep route even if it means a longer ride - but I don't mind long rides, I mind exhausting rides.

Another problem I have is that my bike is too heavy for me. It's hard steel frame and steel wheels make for a lot of weight that I could dispense with, frankly. In my long rides through the outskirts of the city I've found myself in situations where I had to get the bike over pretty high fences, carry it over rail-road tracks and ditches, and pull it up a nearly 45% slop obstructed with shrubbery - portage is sometimes unavoidable, since I am so wildly attracted to really secluded places. I must say that it was a huge feat every time - I can't for the life of me raise that bike over my shoulders or carry it for long. So I had to climb on the fence, pull the bike up, have it stuck there on the pedal, take a rest, then basically drag it over the fence, or up the slop, or out of the ditch... Phew! I am confident that I could very well ride a heavy motorbike and pull it off the ground too if it fell - just because I am used to being weak and having to deal with things beyond my strength.

Sometimes I really envy those people who ride aluminium-frame/wheel bikes and all that fancy stuff - it does make life easier, I know it does. Heh.

However I would hesitate to buy a new bike even if I got the money all of a sudden. There are great disadvantages in having a new bike: it needs constant care, it really wants to get stolen so it's a risk to leave it unattached even for a few minutes, parts may go missing when you're not there, it is so perfect and nice it makes you wince when you have various accidents and hard hits, and throwing it over a fence would feel like a sacrilege.

I am not good with things - not careful. And I don't like to be careful and worry about minor damage, and then blame myself or others for it. People with shiny new cars are afraid of the smallest scratch - I had some motorists yell at me and chase me because I happened to bump a little into their precious car in heavy traffic. It might have left an imperceptible scratch - but psychologically the owner of a very new car feels that it's a great outrage to his perfect machine. A shiny new and expensive bike produces the same state of mind. I don't need it.

I had myself hit by a car once, all my fault because I was in a foolish mood and riding against traffic. There was a lot of blood and a hematosis thereafter, but it didn't occur to me that I should get any damages from the owner of the car - he was really worried about my state, and that was a natural human reaction. Getting money out of him on top of the worry he had to feel would have been truly inhuman - yet a friend who heard my story was nonplussed that I didn't try to get some "compensation" at least for my ruined bike. He drives new cars, so to him any material damage requires immediate compensation, no matter what the circumstances. I don't see it that way - I ride garbage-bikes.

***

Will I ever go on that out-of-town trip? I don't know anymore. It's become a ridiculous dilemma.





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