Now that I’ve freed myself of all things bike, including shoes, pedals, knickers, arm warmers (although I still wear the knitted variety) and my foot pump (but only because I lost it), I’ve been thinking about cyclocross.
I know. It’s very K-typical (typical of Katie). As soon as something’s out of my life, I want it back.
The thing is, cyclocross reminds me of mountain biking when I first got into it. Back when cross country races didn’t require 8 inches of travel and a 40 pound bike. Back when there were like 3 women racing NORBA Sport class and we all knew each other and we all helped each other finish strong.
Back when mountain bikers wore lycra instead of gangster clothing.
Not that I ever actually enjoyed wearing the lycra, but at least it made sense. The baggy apparel? I don’t understand it.
And all these bike thoughts reminded me of the best bike I ever owned.
A found treasure, Rainbow Bike had green rims, a blue frame, red handlebars and an aftermarket purple horn (a birthday present from my folks). There was yellow on it, too, but I can’t remember where. I found it in the alley behind Zeno’s. I worked there, and one night when I walked out back to toss a trash bag, I noticed Rainbow Bike on top of the garbage pile. It was raining that night – it was Pennsylvania, after all – so the bike looked shiny and new.
“So much depends on a red wheelbarrow, glazed with rainwater, beside the white chickens.”
When my shift ended, I walked it home (two flat tires on wheels badly in need of truing) and showed it to my housemate Eric, who nobly carried it into our workshop, emerging a few hours later with my functional, rollable art.
It was beautiful. 3 speed. Springy seat. Basket. I miss it.
I pedaled it all over State College and on one ill-advised kayak shuttle, through Bellefonte. It was a fun way to travel. With wide handlebars and big tires, it threw people off; it made them smile.
I parked Rainbow Bike on our sagging, wooden back porch amidst prayer flags, empty IPA bottles, an old rope spool that served as a table and a couple cracked plastic chairs.
Four days a week I walked it off the porch, off the curb and pedaled down Buckhout Street. At Beaver Avenue I took a left, and at Pugh Street I took another. A few blocks north, I crossed College Avenue – pausing at the corner to window shop at Moyer’s Jewelers – and rolled onto campus.
I always locked Rainbow Bike around a skinny elm in front of the Burroughs building, which housed most of my English and poetry classes. That particular tree – among the dozens of others on that mall in front of Patee Library – reminded me of a old man: a little wrinkled, a little gaunt, but proud enough to stand up straight. I looped a chainlock around the trunk and secured everything with a hot pink padlock. I still remember the combination: my grandparents’ wedding anniversary.