you know i am a skinny kid, just about five-ten with my hair standing up straight. i ride a bike. not just any bike, but a fix. like a bike you might ride on a race track, a simple one-speed. no free wheel. no brakes. i always pedal, backwards, forwards, except when i need to come to a halt. then i lean slightly ahead, lock up my legs and drag the rear wheel and skid to slow down or to a stop. but most of the time i just pedal. i watch where i'm going and i roll, get out of the way, avoid trouble, like cab doors and jay-walking woman. i go against traffic or the wrong way up a one-way. i take my bike everywhere. even rode to d.c. once, just a little over three hundred miles. got me a sore ass and took two days.
this bike is a custom. it was built for me by w.b. hurlow in england. i flew to london, took the bus out to herne bay, walked down a mews and into to his shop. bill took my measure like a chinese tailor might for a suit, and promised delivery inside a year. eventually the thing arrived at jfk in a wooden box, wrapped in hay-wool. i built the frame up at once. all campagnolo, fiamme rims and double butted spokes. a selle d'italia. neither stay drilled for brakes, as requested. a thing of utmost beauty, hand cut lugs and all. hurlow called it his "curl and spear" pattern. painted a warm orange, the lines done up in red. as likely as not you won't care about those finer details, but you must see my love for this ride. i run it all over town. from the house to the studio. crosstown, uptown, central park, broadway, down seventh, where ever.
so i took my hurlow to visit a friend up in the sixties. he lives on the 7th floor. i pushed the elevator button and pretty soon the door opened and i rolled in and pushed seven. instead of going up, we went down. a big guy, twice my size, bulging sweaty muscle, in brown overalls, got in at the basement. “no bikes in the elevator”. - “i’m only going up to seven to visit jack abrahams, i ain't got no lock, can’t just leave this in the lobby”. “no bike in the elevator”. by then we were back on the ground floor, the door opened and the guy yanked at my bike by the saddle. i’ve only seen the movie and really have no kung-fu, but at that moment i raised my leg to a high-kick, let out a scream and, one hand as in a chop, did my very best bruce lee. wide-eyed burly brown overalls let go of my bike for that second and backed off out into the hall, long enough that the door closed and the elevator got going up.
jack wouldn’t believe me, “come one, that was the super, joe is a brute, six-five, all muscle, no way was he scared - of all guys, you?” so i dropped it. we talked about lights and cameras and jack’s current girl, a model. he showed me pictures of her, when the doorbell rang and there was joe and a cop. “that’s the guy, he attacked me”. the cop looked me over in my bike shoes and tight red track shorts, natty t-shirt, skinny legs and scrawny arms. and he started a guffaw. and joe too, began roaring. we shook hands, he nearly broke mine, he slugged my back and just about floored me. but we laughed and my shoulder hurt for a week, a blue bruise showed two days later.
a hundred years after i live in portland. that bike disappeared in my travels from the east out to the coast. now i do another fix, nowhere near as pretty, but about the same setup. i'm old. i ride like the guy who's retired, getting on both in equipment and posture. i harry no one, don't ride against traffic, mostly, and take it easy, if on a fix with no brakes. no helmet neither. guys pass me in tight-assed stream lines, logos up the gazzoo, dragging the scent of the world. me, i just ride. my run follows the river and on into town. at times and does it ever feel good, some one will holler in passing "nice bike" and if it's a girl i try to keep up. though likely they're in a race or in training, and me, i think of days past, years ago, when i flew by an old timer on a fix just like mine, riding the slow lane, just counting time, keeping the rhythm, breathing and likely like me wondering where it all went.