“Every day there was something new to mourn
and something old to celebrate:
Civilization had learned this long ago
and continued to remind us. Was that what
the biker had meant? I moved toward the buffet table.”
— Lorrie Moore, “Bark”
His name’s Elmo. We’ve been friends since we met, somewhere around the Roosevelt administration. I can’t remember which Roosevelt.
He was being built illegally many years ago by a mechanic at the old Tempe Bicycle shop. The guy was building a bike in his spare time at the shop, and only when Big Doug, the chief mechanic, noticed a Campy derailleur was missing did he notice that it was residing on this bike, and that the guy assembling the bike had swiped ALL the parts. Stolen in plain sight, as they say. I think that’s a Roosevelt quote. I’m not sure which one.
The gruppo compenents didn’t match, some Record here and Chorus there, with a little Mavic thrown in for luck, which mattered to me not in the least. An Olmo frame made out of Columbus tubing, the stuff they used before everything got Fancy, and it was exactly my size. It was fate. Since it was almost complete, Big Doug gave me a good deal rather than having to disassemble it.
He was fast. Lordy, he was fast. We were best friends for a long time, members of the 10:00 Cycling Society, unfortunate holders of a USCF license for one frightful season, partakers of many, many crashes. A new front fork when the headset froze (it didn’t match, but I cared not. Seemed appropriate.) A new set of wheels now and then, a Snoopy horn. What. A. Bike.
Running lured me back to the dark side. And anyhow, an unfortunate incident that required a monkey heart transplant and a blood thinner for life meant a proper crash would likely be fatal. Also, kids made fun of me in lycra. Mostly that one. So Elmo got stashed away in a closet for a couple of decades.
We had a washer and dryer thrust upon us yesterday. The upside: I don’t have to wear the same boxers for a month before getting around to doing laundry. The downside: The closet where the appliances now reside meant we had to move the bikes indoors. So now he’s living in my room.
Mo says it’s like life in a college dorm, with bikes strewn all over the apartment. She says it like it’s a bad thing. I agree, but I love it. Every time I walk by him, I grip the cork handlebar and squeeze the brake. I picture screaming down South Mountain behind Polito, a gravel stretch away from meeting my untimely demise. My first century. The ride to Tortilla Flat. That day when it was 122 degrees and the pavement was melting. Tucking in between the wheels of a tractor on a farm road, on that thin line between exhilaration and death. Miles and miles. So many miles.
I pat the old Rolls seat as I walk by him in search of popsicles, squeeze the flat tire just in case it magically inflated overnight, and thank the cycling gods for old friends. Sure, new bikes are more technologically advanced. But this one’s just right for me.
It’s probably time for a ride. The mad dog route does cross over Roosevelt Street, you know. I’m not sure which one.
Thanks for the memories, Elmo. Here’s to making some new ones.