bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses just don't bring me your rad power bike
September 16, 2021
I know a guy that has his finger on the pulse of the ebike industry. Actually he’s all up in there with both hands. In his shop they’ve had to draw the line with a policy that’s kinda sorta summed up by this sign.
Any jackass can buy anything these days and have it shipped to their door. This includes an ebike. When it arrives they pull it out of the box, charge the battery, finger-tight the bolts and ride away at 25 mph. When things go wrong they bring it into their local bike shop where the average mechanic says “we don’t work on ebikes” So they take it to a shop that specializes in ebikes and the mechanics there have to say “we don’t work on piece-of-shit internet ebikes”
if the bike retails for $1000 it probably cost about $157 dollars to produce in a HUGE factory in China. Which means the quality of the components is less than Huffy level. Down below Wal-Mart bikes bro. Sketchy shit that goes really fast.
Because he’s a fictional character, there are no photos of the real Todd Beamer. He’s not real but there’s a high school named after him right down here in Federal Way. Is there a Holden Caulfield High somewhere? Or a Dean Moriarty Middle School?
Because there are no photos of him, they had to make a comic book. A really c r e e p y comic book.
Because it fits in with the narrative they’ve been selling you for 20 years I’m wearing my Todd Beamer t-shirt today. Don’t ask questions. Swallow it whole. Let’s Roll.
Roundabout almost exactly 11 years ago today (I thought you said you’d never forget) I laid down my Nextel and walked away.
In the weeks and months that followed I experienced a few flashes of phantom ass pocket u-lock syndrome (PAPULS) which as you know, is a very specific form of phantom nostalgia syndrome (PNS) that affects former bike messengers.
You know those rose colored glasses that pop up in retrospect? I chucked those long ago. I can cherry pick memories from the good old days but I won’t say it was all fun and games.
The nostalgia wore off sooner and sooner with each time I quit and came back.
Q: What did the messenger say when he stopped drinking beer?
A: This job sucks.
Today I’m looking back over my jacked up right shoulder. Looking towards Junior and Junior Junior and wondering how eleven years went by. Asking myself, how did I get here?
During this little global pandemic thing I stopped toting around any lock at all for a year or so because there was no place to go, before or after work. It was neither here nor there. It was only here or there.
These days my u-lock is along for the ride swimming around all the way at the bottom of an Ortlieb backpack. It gets used at the following locations:
Big Time Brewery
Columbia City Ale House
my dentist’s office
All of this may just be a thinly veiled excuse to once again draw your attention to my favorite Ortlieb messenger backpack model:
A few Fridays ago I was riding home on the train trying to read a Rachel Kushner novel when a dude got on at Capitol Hill. He chucked a wad of paper towards me which came to rest just below my bike. There was a lot of loud talking and gesturing. At first I thought: whatever, another crazy person. But the loud talking and overly fake exaggerated laughter guffaws continued and I looked up and realized it was the quintessential brogrammer. He got up and paced back and forth and switched seats several times during the trip all the while cracking jokes to his virtual phone friend. Commenting on the state of public transportation and various stupid brogrammer shit as well as a string of snide comments about Seattle in the context of wherever the fuck he came from. It was as if a series of variables fell into place and created a perfect storm in my mind:
bro stayed on the train until Othello
bro kept moving around talking LOUDLY
it was a new train with lots of room and clear lines of sight so he never disappeared from view or out of earshot
it was my Friday and I had a couple beers on the way to the train
18 months of pandemic frustration gurgled below the surface
30 years of Seattle gentrification flashed before my eyes
bro embodied everything that’s going wrong with Seattle including a skyrocketing cost of living, pronounced income disparity and a huge influx of entitled brogrammer attitude
As the train approached Columbia City I picked up the wad of paper he chucked when he got on. It was a Whole Foods breakfast receipt, matching his brogrammer lifestyle. (let me remind you how much it takes for me to actually open my mouth and speak to someone) As he moved around again to stand by the door next to me I said, “hey bro, you dropped this” and sort of surprised him. Then he said “no, I’m good” and I said “No bro, it’s all you. Remember your breakfast this morning. Maybe you can tell your friend on the phone about it” then he mumbled some shit and got off the train.
When I tried to tell my old lady about it later I couldn’t really explain why it got to me so much. Two weeks later I recounted the story to friends and I got angry and red faced all over again, as if the guy was barking on the barstool next to me. Now a month later I’m still trying to figure it out.
I ride the train every day. Both ways. I’ve seen some shit. Heard some things. Smelled some smells. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring things and tuning out with thicker skin, so to speak. Maintaining the illusion of personal space on public transportation is essential. But that bro broke through my delusion. If he chucked down a dental pick I would have shit my pants.
Of all the variables that fell into place that day, I believe 18+ months of pandemic rollercoaster yo-yo frustration bubbling beneath the surface played the biggest part. Stand by until further notice lock down shut down keep out stay in stay put 50 gallons of hand sanitizer social distance dancing mean muggin mask face sourpuss aftertaste essential worker working vaccination attestation frustration mask up scrub down with two disinfectant wipes mandating mandatory mandate burnout.
...I mean a Bodhi and to swap out the handlebars. Moving on from the little arc flat bar onto an old man swept back riser. For now I think I’m done. New saddle, new chainring, cables and housing and a few other changes. Slow and steady. The only OE today is the headset on the frame & fork.
The last time I paid any attention to the parts in the getup of this bike it looked like this and my kids were about 3 feet shorter. Since then I’ve paid it no mind only to ride it in the rain to the train. I was still rolling the FSA wheel set bro-dealed at Mad Fiber. Those wheels retired a few years ago with Seattle sidewall syndrome.
roundabout 11 years ago Sally Claus had this Raleigh delivered to me straight from the factory because it was all I wanted for Christmas. A lot of the OE parts can be seen in the mix in this random shot taken some years ago between Mad Fiber and Bike Works on my resume. Note the bar end shifters jerry rigged into down tubers. V-brake levers halfassing cantilever brakes. And I was still trying to kick the clipless habit.