Beaten Into Submission: Making It Yours

Good morning!  It's Monday, September something or other, I can't be bothered to check.  Now please stand for the National Anthem of America's dunce cap:

If you did not stand during the above anthem, please go here and enter your contact information so the Royal Canadian Secret Mounted Gestapo can find you and execute you to death.

As for me, I don't have to worry.  I'm always brimming with Canadian patriotism ("brimming with Canadian patriotism" is a euphemism for "being really drunk"), but today my Molson runneth over, for I'm pleased to announce that on Thursday, September 27th and Friday, September 28th I'll be visiting Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Earth!

Yes, I realize that's the wrong city and country, but whatever.

"So why are you going to Hamilton?," you're probably not wondering unless you're the pet cat I don't even have and you're worrying about who's going to feed you.  Well, I've been asked to participate in a bicycle-themed speakers' series at McMaster University, which means that David Byrne, Grant Petersen, the guy who runs the local bike shop, and everyone else they could have possibly asked probably said "no."  Incidentally, McMaster is the only university in North America that uses a P-Touch® for all its signage:

Also, there will be some festivities here:

As for the schedule of events, that doesn't exist yet, but I will keep you apprised as one evolves.  Also, there's a Facebook page, but I'm not on Facebook so I have no idea if it's actually useful.  Either way, this promises to be the biggest thing to hit that town since the Hamilton Wingfest:

(Woman in referee shirt proffering chicken wings in the traditional manner.)

Hamilton Wingfest is generally considered to be the Woodstock of bar food festivals.

Meanwhile, speaking of tiny delicious snack foods, about 70 Euro-miles away in Torontee a reader tells me those Robs Fords ate a baby:

"My heart bleeds for parents when I eat their babies," said Fords between wet belches, "but it's their own fault at the end of the day."

Of course, while my primary reason for visiting Hamilton is to wear a tweed jacket and smoke a pipe while strolling through the halls of academe, I also have ulterior motives.  Firstly, I'm hoping I can duck into a doctor's office and get some of that famous free Canadian health care for my bunions.  Secondly, I'm going to ask around and see if I can get refugee status and defect in the event that the state of Oregon passes this bike licensing thing:

I realize that Canada's probably not any more bike-friendly than its great big bottom boil to the south (otherwise known as the USA), but at the same time I suspect that if the state in which Portland lies were to move forward with bicycle licensing it would mark the beginning of a whole new era of oppressive bicycle legislation nationwide.  One thing's for sure though, and that is that the people of Oregon are fortunate to have an advocate like Jonathan Maus:

So far, I'm very pleased how Bob Huckaby and I have continued to have an open, respectful and candid dialogue about this. He feels as strongly about his perspective as I, and many of you, feel about yours.

I would have told this Huckaby guy to shove an AYHSMB vanity bicycle license plate right up his walnut glove compartment.

Still, this is a bicycle blog and not a political forum, and as such it would give us all hooves to turn our attention to the subject of actual bicycles.  Like any bike dork, I enjoy reading bike reviews from time to time, yet the fact is that a bike review is merely an exercise in writing marketing copy and is ultimately useless.  This is because bicycle reviews are always about new bikes, and the most you can say for them is that they're first impressions.  Sure, you can write a review of some sensory experience like a movie or a sandwich since it's fleeting and your first impression of it is really the only one that matters, but a bicycle is something else entirely.  A bicycle is like a home or a spouse.  After a year you're only just getting to know it, and ideally it's something that should be with you most of your life.  Your first impression of it is meaningless.  I was thinking of this recently with regard to the Electra Amsterdam, which I wrote something of a mock review of over three years ago.  Here's how it looked when I took delivery of it:

And here's how it looks now:

This is not a review of the Electra Amsterdam.  Rather, it's a look at the process of how a bike actually becomes yours.  In the case of the Amsterdam, it became mine in technical terms because my wife enjoyed riding it and so I made arrangements with Electra to keep it.  (By "arrangements" I mean I didn't send it back to them.)  However, it didn't become truly ours until relatively recently, and here's how that happened.

As I mentioned, my wife really liked the Amsterdam, and since she and I are the same height we can switch bicycles with minimal fuss.  (It also allows me to secretly raid her closet while she's at work.)  We'd both use the Amsterdam, but it quickly became her primary around-town locking-up bike, and apart from not being a step-through it was ideal for that purpose.  (She didn't mind that it wasn't a step-through, but I did, since it made errand-running more difficult when I'd ride around in her dresses during the day.)

Needless to say, as a semi-professional bike blogger, I am responsible for all bicycle maintenance and upkeep for the family.  Also needless to say, as a lazy and fumbling semi-incompetent I'm mostly a failure in that regard.  I especially failed with regard to the Amsterdam, since I was determined to treat it like a Dutch bike--and by that I mean I refused to give it any attention whatsoever.  Cleaning?  Fie!  Adjustments?  Pshaw!  Overhauls?  Scrotanus!  ("Scrotanus" is a medieval expression of disdain or dismay, and using words like that is why I get invited to speak at Canadian universities.)  The only time I'd ever deign to touch the thing in a proprietary fashion at all would be if it had a flat tire, and even then I couldn't even be bothered to remove the wheel.  Instead, I'd merely pop the tire off the rim on one side, pull the tube out, and patch it in situ like the food delivery guys do.

In short, I was neither a mindful owner nor a dutiful spouse.

Well, in time we became inured to the bike's many rattles until one day when my wife was riding it and I was at home the rear fender decided it had had enough of the bicycle's frame and of life and suddenly separated itself from it.  Naturally it plunged into the deadly maw between the tire and the bottom bracket and its struts became hopelessly mangled.  Forward progress was no longer possible, so she was forced to lock it to a pole and continue by subway.  I felt that deep sense of shame that only those who have failed as mechanics and as spouses know.

And my shame would soon be compounded.  As it happened, later that day life exploded in the way life tends to do from time to time, and we found ourselves with all manner of urgent business to attend.  This business involved the use of a car, and as we drove around the city admiring the David Byrne bobblehead on the dashboard and yelling at cyclists to get on the sidewalk, I had a bright idea: "Let's pick up the Electra."  If you're a Yugo owner like I am, you know the only place a bike the size of the Electra is going is up on the roof rack.  However, a bicycle like the Electra is also not going on a fork mount roof rack tray due to the front fender, which, unlike the rear fender, was still resolutely attached to the rest of the bicycle.  And naturally, as a semi-incompetent bicycle mechanic, while I did have the wrench necessary to remove the front wheel I had failed to bring the tools necessary to remove the fender as well.

"No problem," I announced to nobody in particular as I fumbled on the roof of the car.  "I'll simply bend the fender out of the way."

All was going well for about a block and a half, and then we began to hear a thumping sound coming from the roof.  "Ah, it's nothing," I declared, at which point there was a tremendous crash on the passenger side of the car and there was the Electra hanging outside the window, dangling by its rear wheel from that little ratcheting strap thingy.  I pulled over and inspected the damage.  Evidently the fender had acted as sort of a lever against the tray, bending the high tensile steel fork dropout and ultimately ejecting the bike from the fork mount like an ersatz Dutch catapult.  The side of the car was also dented, but that didn't matter to me since the rest of the car is similarly dented as well.  (I drive the sort of car that compels people who own body shops to pull up next to me and solicit my business.)  Now the bicycle was even less rideable than it was before, yet our business was no less compelling, and so I had no choice but to lock it to a nearby rack until I could return with the proper tools.

Well, a day became a week, one week became two, and soon it became more accurate to measure the amount of time the Electra had spent locked to that bike rack in months.  In any case, you know those bikes you see locked up all over the city and wonder why they were abandoned?  Like the ones with a detached fender that look like they fell off a car?  Sometimes they're not abandoned.  Sometimes they're just owned by lazy incompetents who are waiting for windows to open in their rigorous blogging and TV watching schedules but who fully intend to retrieve them.

And so it was that one fine summer day we finally rescued the Electra and brought it home on the subway.  It was still there, though it looked a lot like Saddam Hussein did when they pulled him out of that spider hole.  Once we returned I gave the bicycle some mechanical attention for the first time in its sad life.  I ham-handedly bent twisted metal back into place.  I put Loctite on those fender bolts.  I lubed the chain and the warped little Nexus pushrod.  It was back and returned to service without complaint.

Today the cockpit has a vintage "patina:"

That is complemented by the seatpost:

And the fender struts look like bacon strips:

But it rides as nicely as it does as it was new (apart from the shifting due to that bent pushrod, though that will be fixed when I replace it, which of course I never will).  More than that, after surviving its ordeal it finally feels like my bike (or at least my wife's bike), and it has endeared itself to me forever--or at least until something else falls off of it, or it gives one of us tetanus.  Again, this is not a review, nor is it meant to suggest you should buy this bike over some other bike.  It's merely a story about how this blogger is a lazy idiot who sucks at bikes, and who may or may not have tetanus.

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