“I need a doctor!”
“I know you ‘need’ a doctor, Daniel, but he’s miles away. Shut up and keep pedalling.”
Daniel’s face was spectral, eyes withdrawn, expression pessimistically blank. A tiny white cap perched on his blond head, looking like the result of a miscommunication with a washing machine. Daniel: urban viking adrift in a suddenly rural scene. He viewed the farm fields with a timorous leer. What were these people doing with horse-drawn plows? Who cursed me with this bicycle?
The bike was a bootleg Czech copy of a Mexican Colnago. The paint was rotting cherry red and clotted smoke with a side of iron oxide. You needed a dose of Dramamine just to look at it. The frame designer had clearly specialized in something other than bike design. Perhaps patio furniture, or decorative cinder blocks. The welder had been trained to weld while blindfolded and severely intoxicated. The bike, whom went by many names, none of which are repeatable in a public forum, was relegated to a single gear. Frame flex was so pervasive that ghost shifts were a matter of course even under light pedalling. So she became a singlespeed, for the good of humanity.
With a single gear, the bike only occasionally threw her chain. Manifesting itself mainly on out of the saddle climbs, the hapless rider, standing to push the colossal gear, would suddenly find themselves sprawled on the macadam, missing substantial swaths of epidermis. The headset was made of melted down Soviet AM radios with bearings made from the teeth of political malefactors. The bike turned like a sailboat without a tiller. We had once used the bike as a sort of mechanical bull ride, cajoling unsuspecting riders into a quick lap around the block. Invariably, regardless of current blood alcohol levels, riders found themselves on the ground within seconds, clueless as to how they arrived there.
The fact that Daniel was on a bike at all was incogitable. The prior night was a lengthy conference between Daniel, Mr. Beam, Mr. Yuengling and Senor Cuervo. The conference ended in a debate with a bush and a nap in the street. Simply rousting the man for the ride required a particular force of will and a large pot of sinfully dark coffee.
Hills rolled under and away from us. We rolled into a remote valley village. Horses were tied up to hitching posts outside the local market. Wagons full of hay rolled past, metal wheels clattering on the pavement. We found the Doctor on hand outside the market. He rolled out of the Pepsi machine for 75 cents. We filled our jersey pockets with obscene quantities of Slim Jims, whoopie pies, Polaroid film and extra Dr. Pepper cans. We were about to get down to business. The climb wound south through old logging roads, up twisting grades and around blind bends.
Daniel, post Dr. Pepper infusion, climbed ahead of our small pack, dancing on the pedals with an elegance that impressed the bike so much that she kept her chain. Frequent doses from the Doctor kept him off the front for the remainder of the day, until evening set in and his supply ran low. A dusk stop at a mountain spring did not quench his thirst. His Merckxian sprint back to the house was chalked up to a desperate fear of a sugar crash combined with a bad need for a pee.
I see Daniel every few years. He’ll be in town for a photo project or conference. We’ll collaborate across the continent, designing jerseys, editing the Vanilla Journal or working on photo projects like the Rapha Continental. He keeps himself busy on the left coast, shooting rich, veritas photographs. Documents of events both banal and epic, transforming the average into the memorable and the amazing into the mythic. Check out his recent work with Castelli clothing (which we will be selling this spring) and his unsupported expedition to the badlands with a crew of outcasts on fatbikes. For the record, it’s all analog photography, so he has to nail it, right off.
We have some stuff going on this week, rides, the start of our clinic season.
First the clinics. We’ll have a whole series of clinics this winter season. We like to do them, and some times people even show up, and when they do, that’s great and fun, and everyone learns something useful. They’ll be every Wednesday at 6. Figure an hour or maybe a little more for each class. All free. Here is the schedule, which is pretty self-explanatory, I reckon:
1/18: Adjust a derailler. Make it shift ok, rub less. We’ll demystify the magical front derailler, and explain what all the knobs, dials and oscillators do on the rear one.
1/25: how to true a wheel on a bike, if it gets all out of wack. Its easy enough to true it in a truing stand, and this will help with that, too, but really, if you wack say, a really fat ground-hog, and your rear wheel goes catywhompus, then you might need to straighten it out, just to get home. This clinic will be about that.
2/1: Bring in the first Wednesday of the outcast month of February with a fix a flat clinic. Not only will you learn how to shove a new tube in your tire, but also how to boot a torn tire, patch a hole in a tube, and how to use an old tube to make a really nice bungee cord for zero dollars.
2/8: Clean your Drivetrain at home with not much time and very little money Clinic. Self explanatory, that.
2/15: Tuning your mountain bike for your riding style and location Clinic. Adjust the suspension, tire pressure, gearing, bars, tire choice, etc etc, for where ever you are riding.
2/22: Rebuild a rebuildable normal shimano style hub clinic: Shimano style hubs should be rebuilt occasionally, to keep the boogie man at bay. We’ll show you how to perform this yearly ritual. If you want to do it at home, you’ll need a few tools we can point out and source for you, including the elusive and under used axle clamp.
2/29: LIMITED CLASS SIZE, email us at bikedrfrederick (at) gmail (d0t) com to get in on the action: James (that’s me!) will teach you how to lace a wheel (you pick, front or rear) and tension it so it won’t explode on you, or crumble like Michelle Bachmann’s presidential chances. You’ll be buying some basic spokes (or really nice ones, whatever you want) a cheap rim, and a cheap hub to learn this skill. Get something you can put on your commuter, so it doesn’t go to waste. If you want to take this class, ya gotta buy the stuff from us, but we’ll point out OK cheap stuff. Figure this class will go to about 9pm.
Tuesday- Meet at the 7th street Starbucks if it isn’t crappy out for a 8am ride of a super casual 40ish mile ride on a mixed surface.
Thursday: Meet at the same Starbucks for a 7 am ride around our fair county. 40ish miles, moderate pace, lead by our very own Dan the Younger and Don BranDon. Back in town by lunchtime.
Thanks for reading!
-The Bike Doctor Frederick Crew of Gossamer Fluidity