In the beginning there was the BSO, and she was good. Or not, it’s possible she was terrible and I just didn’t know any better. BSO is a technical cycling term, referring to bikes bought at big-box retailers — your Huffys, your Magnas, and even your Schwinns — Bike-shaped objects, all of them. Cheap components put together by those who don’t know while under the supervision of those who don’t care. But it was a mind-blowing upgrade from the rusted-out shitheap I’d ridden for the two days prior, and I did love it. It was with me when the family left me, it was with me through the adventures that ensued, and it was the thing that couldn’t stop when I slammed into the side of that SUV. It was still with me after that, mostly unrepaired but I did get someone to unbend the bent things for me, and onward I rode, all the way to the next summer, when my son (who had been part of the ‘family leaving me’ thing) moved back home. He got a brand new bike just like the one I had, and he was admonished to keep it in the house, which was a hassle, so it was stolen from our porch not long after that.
Needing a bike real bad right now, and (even though at that point I was down to an 8 mile a day commute) the thought of going on a bike-getting adventure on a weekend seemed beyond me, so I found a thing on Craigslist being sold several blocks from me. I got on it, rode it in circles for a second, and asked if it was a full-sized bike and if so is this the biggest gear? Yes and yes, so I paid the lady $150 for a bike worth maybe half that. MAYBE. It seemed small to me because it was a 27″ wheel hybrid with granny gears, putting it on the mountain bike end of the range. I didn’t know, I didn’t look it up, I just gave the kid my old bike and rode Shorty No-Axles for the few weeks I was able to tolerate it. Well, until he left *my* old wrecked bike outside and it got stolen too, anyway. Kid got Shorty, I got to get a(nother) new-to-me bike (shaped object).
Well I was pretty excited about Diamond Jim, all shiny with nary a speck of rust. Jim was a comfort bike, in the sense that he was configured in a way the eye would perceive as comfortable. But bicycle comfort is not something best judged with the eyes, a fact which took me ages to stop disbelieving. They said big soft wide seats hurt more than hard ones. They were right. They said you didn’t need shocks on roads, I said have you seen the roads? They were still right.
I got up at the crack of dawn to ride a bus to Camarillo to buy the Jim, and then freaked myself out by riding him home the whole 17 miles. It was easy. I was so impressed with myself. But it was easy mostly because Jim was just another mountain-based hybrid with 27″ tires and even grannier gears than Shorty, and there was just something not right about the fit.
I lasted most of two weeks on Jim before the gearing and general awkwardness got the better of me, and holy shit we were poor back then. I remember how painful that payday was when I indulged and bought the at-the-time bike of my dreams. The kid got to ride the other two, whichever was running less badly at the time. I’m not sure I even knew that there was bike maintenance. I thought they just kind of … well, I didn’t actually think, because if I had I’d have realized things not needing maintenance doesn’t even make any sense. As such, my strategy of buying old bikes off Craigslist and riding the wheels off of them seemed a perfectly cromulent way of going about things.
Around that time, I started hanging around cycling subreddits, where I learned that I was far more uninformed than I’d suspected. I also learned that I was wrong about pretty much everything, but the only thing that changed was the way I would argue about it. I’m still woefully uninformed but at least I can tell a cyclocross bike from a land squirrel, providing the squirrel isn’t wearing too much bar tape and the bike doesn’t squeak.
I did, however, learn that the correct number of bicycles is n + 1, where (n) is the number you have now. Some things are easier to learn than others, I suppose.
If I don’t come back to this blog tomorrow and continue this story. I need to get caught up to the present day, and from there need to keep writing about bicycles. I know it doesn’t matter, but I am seriously fucking compelled to do this, so the not mattering doesn’t matter, either.