A long, rambling story about bicycles

•December 4, 2009 • 5 Comments

Back in the Spring, I decided that my ass had gotten soft and my legs had gotten jiggly. I further concluded that this was a “bad” thing. My Friend Ryan O’Rear told me I should get a bike. I figured this sounded like a prudent course of action since YMCA memberships are expensive and I’m not a “reasonable”candidate for a gastric bypass. So, I posted a Craig’s List ad that said something along the lines of “Wanted- Ugly 5 speed road bike- I will not pay more than $100.”

I got a response almost immediately from a woman named Kim in Spring Hill. She had gotten a new, lighter bike and needed to just get her old bike out of her garage. Now, here’s something you may not know about me. I lack any and all sense of “delay of gratification.” If someone asked me if I wanted $100 now or $1000 in 20 minutes, I’d have a hard time not walking away right then with a crisp new Benjamin. I told the lady with the bike that I wanted to come get it immediately. Unfortunately, though, she was about to leave to go out of town and no one would be home to show me the bike or receive the money until Sunday.

Another thing you should know about me is that I am VERY persuasive. So, I basically tried to convince this person I’ve never met to just leave the bike outside her house where I could find it and try it out. If I liked it, I was to leave the money under her doormat. Did i think this would work? REALLY? Yes. Did it work? IT SURE DID.

She emailed me directions to her house and at 6 pm that day, I met up with Ryan, and we hopped in my truck, headed for Spring Hill or bust. As we worked our way through one of the many, many nearly identical subdivisions that we dubbed “Saturntowns”, we planned our hopeful ride for the next day and cheerfully discussed Greenways and Knog Frogs. We found the lady’s house with no trouble and the bike was there as promised.

First examination revealed that the seat was not attached to the bike, but Ryan was able to put it back on with no trouble  and I was soon doing circles in the cul de sac. Kim had attached a note explaining that it was a Kmart brand Gold Cup racing bike from the 70s’. There were a few nicks and scratches on the frame but the tires were in good shape and the brakes worked so I left her the $65 we agreed upon and headed back to Nashville. On my first ride that night, I named the bike RuPaul, because it was a men’s bike but very clearly “a lady.” The next day I found the perfect handlebar tape, and her signature look was born.

Pretty smoking hot, huh? I was so proud of that crazy grip tape that I had Halcyon (bike shop of preference for myself and Mr. O’Rear) order me another box for when the first round wore out. I removed all of the stock decals from RuPaul and then started agonizing about what kind of stickers she should wear. I didn’t feel like buying any, so I dug up my last Buddy Christ sticker and put it on the seat tube. RuPaul was officially the only drag queen bike in town that was representing for Jesus (in a strictly comical sense).

Then one day, Ryan called and told me that he had found a seat that matched my grip tape. After some discussion, I eventually let him talk me into letting him buy it for me. It seems like RuPaul’s look really became complete that day. I wish I had a better picture.

Over the course of the summer, I managed to lose 30 disgusting pounds pushing around town with RuPaul. I took a lot of little short trips around the East Side but I also ventured far and wide. Sometimes I rode from my house in East Nashville, all the way to the Belmont neighborhood, then down into Sylvan park, occasionally venturing back up the hill on Charlotte and over to Elliston place to have a treat at the Gold Rush or all the way over to Melrose on 8th for a game of pool. The rides home were always difficult for me. Woodland street seems flat in a car, but when you’ve pedaled 25 miles already that day, the small inclines on that street look like MOUNTAINS. I rode the home stretch with tears in my eyes on more than one occasion. As time passed and the more we rode together, Ryan kind of became something of a bike sherpa to me.

He taught me how to adjust brakes and derailleurs and seats. He taught me how to keep pushing even when you’re going down a hill, so you can keep your momentum for going up the next hill. He taught me that the ride home drunk is easier because you’re drunk so it hurts less (until the next day). And most importantly, he never made fun of that silly looking headband I insisted on wearing to keep the sweat out of my eyes.

For my birthday (August 21st if you’ve got your calendar handy and want to add it), my freind Eryk Datura gave me a gift certificate to Halcyon. As soon as I opened it, the thing immediately began to burn a hole in my pocket, so the next day I got up and spent it on a new rack and fenders. It was like bedecking Rupaul with shiny, chrome jewelry.

(Yes that’s Ryan holding RuPaul up for her photo shoot.)

With the addition of a rack, I had a place to put my new Coach bag! YAYYYYYYYYYYY! And the fenders meant I could ride in the rain without getting that awesome stripe of wet on my ass. I tried to ride pretty much anywhere within a reasonable distance from my house when weather permitted. I had a couple of near-death brushes with cars, but no broken bones and no stitches. My horribly bruised legs looked so fantastic to me that the 6 inch long cut-off shorts I made in June had become 2 inches long by September.

As the weather got cooler, my rides naturally became less frequent, and a terrible thing happened the week before Thanksgiving. Sometime during that week, a currently unidentified BASTARD pried the lock off of RuPauls’ apartment (the shed in my backyard) and STOLE HER away into the night, along with my roomie’s awesome vintage Puch road bike, her parent’s mountain bikes, and a crap-ton of tools. I’m not sure what night it happened because the thieves carefully put the lock and hardware back in place so that from 10 feet away, the shed looked normal.

On the morning of November the 22nd, I went outside to wake RuPaul up for a ride I had planned with my reporter friend, Dan Potter. When I got to the shed and saw that the lock and latch had been pried away and forced back into place, my unseasonably warm November morning turned very cold. I opened the shed, foolishly hoping that RuPaul would be right there in her place, but she was gone. After much screaming of four letter words and “WHYYY GOD!!!”, I called the cops and filed a report. The detective that came to the house to talk to me was really nice and offered what hope he could. Apparently they do find a lot of bikes a few months after they’re stolen, once they show up in the pawn shops.

Unfortunately, I’ve lost hope. I put a lot of love in that bike. RuPaul was my Tranny Queen. I just don’t really have a lot of faith in humanity when it comes to her safe return. I’ve been having terrible nightmares that someone will “go through with the surgery” and turn my good ole 10 speed into a fixie. It makes me shudder. That’s why, when Lindsey (aforementioned roomie) told me I was entitled to a chunk of the check she was getting from her homeowner’s insurance, I immediately started shopping for a new ride to fill the hole in my heart. A few days later, I found Hedwig.

Hedwig is a 1976 Schwinn Collegiate. I bought her from a nice fella in Old Hickory. I didn’t even get his name. I fell in love with this bike as soon as I saw her on CL, so I called the seller, told him I wanted her, and drove out to pick her up. Stephanie rode with me for safety’s sake and on the way there she asked me if I was going to actually buy it or not. I tried to act like I wasn’t sure, but I’d pretty much made up my mind.

When I pulled into the driveway of Hedwig’s soon-to-be former home, my new bicycle was sitting in the middle of the patio waiting for me. I knew immediately that she had been taken pretty good care of. Despite the age of the bike, the paint job was in fairly good shape with minimal rust on the chrome parts. The guy whose name I never bothered to ask for told me to feel free to take her for a spin. Admittedly, I had trouble riding Hedwig at first because of her handlebars.

Rupaul had regular drop style handlebars, whereas Hedwig is sporting a style known as townie, tourist, upright or North Road handlebars. I nearly ate shit in my first turn, but after a 90 second ride around the block to assure that the brakes worked and that I could shift into all 5 gears without difficulty, I eagerly paid the man his money and drove away grinning.  The next stop was Lowe’s, where Stephanie waited in the truck while I bought the mother of all bike locks.

That’s an 8 foot long, 8 mm chain that wraps around my wait 2 times, secured by a nearly uncuttable Master Lock. On the way home, we stopped for (several) celebratory margaritas and I had no worries about locking my new treasure to the bench outside the restaurant because I knew she was secured by about 15 pounds of chains. As soon as I got stationary for a little while, I texted Ryan and he helped me decide to call her Hedwig, and the rest is history in the making.

I’ve not had the chance to really take Hedwig to the limit yet. I need to adjust her brakes a little bit and get some new lights, so I’m wary of getting her too far from home. I can already tell I’m going to love the big, springy touring seat and she’ll be a better workout to get into and out of the house too, because Hedwig weighs about 10 pounds more than RuPaul did. It is my understanding that if I remove Hedwig’s fenders and chain guard, the bike becomes surprisingly lighter but I’m hesitant to strip her of her accoutrements. Right now she’s all original right down to the handlebar grips. I’m looking forward to getting to know Hedwig and so far I am very pleased, but I will never forget RuPaul. If you’re out there girl, come home! There’s room for 2 blue bikes in my heart!