I REALLY LIKE RIDING BIKES
I love bicycles. I'm not a big collector, or a major gearhead, or a former bike messenger, or even a brilliant mechanic. But I love riding. And in the first fall of the pandemic, my partner and I rode across the country.
When I was a kid, some friends of ours took us skiing and, being little, I went out on the slopes with no poles. It felt about as close to flying as it was possible to get. As a grown-up, I get that same sensation on a bicycle (that is, when I'm not climbing up a mountain).
Bikes weren't a big part of my childhood. We lived in the country down a quarter-mile-long gravel driveway. I didn't really learn to ride with any confidence until after college, when some friends gave me my first real bike — an old red Fuji Special Road Racer. My then-boyfriend kindly had the downtube shifters converted to bar shifters because I was still nervous about letting go of the steering to shift. That bike got me through grad school.
Then, in NYC—out of high-speed-city-life necessity and growing passion—I started becoming a more serious rider. I loved commuting by bike, flying over those bridges and down through Prospect Park. Eventually, I gave the Fuji to a friend and got a vintage Canopus Epsilon off of Ebay. God, I loved that bike. Columbus SL tubes, Columbus dropouts, beautiful Cinelli lugs, and a vintage Shimano group set. I had to get used to drop bars, and old leather strap toe cages, and downtube shifters (finally!) — but eventually that bike felt like an extension of my limbs. I rode it everywhere. I rode it until I tragically cracked one of its lugs in a stupid little crash trying to avoid a jerk of a minivan on Ocean Parkway. Oh, I cried. I still have the frame and dream of getting it fixed someday.
Then came the Basso Coral. I ordered another vintage road bike frame off of Ebay (not a Canopus — they're kind of unicorns!) and transferred all the parts over. The Basso is great. Not quite as feather-light as the Canopus was, but still a wonderful bike and my loyal friend for three years now. Starting with the Canopus (which was named in retrospect, after the accident), all my bikes have been named after songs by my favorite band, the Decemberists. The Canopus is Poor Madeleine. The Basso is Clementine. For a while, I had a Motobecane that I found for cheap and tried to turn into a touring bike, but it wasn't the right fit ultimately and I sold it on. But while it lasted, its name was Myla Goldbike. I also have a ridiculous vintage Frejus with a wild post-facto neon paint job (seems like it might actually be a 60s or 70s bike with an 80s repaint). It's gorgeous, and I rode the bus from Manhattan up to Piermont to pick it up and rode it back down to Brooklyn... But I have to admit, I've never ridden it like I want to. It's an awesome old bike, but I probably need to find it a more actively loving home. (The fact that a name hasn't suggested itself is a sign.)
And now, there's the All City Cosmic Stallion. When my human, Beau, and I decided we wanted to ride across America, we started looking for bikes that would get us there — I'd been wanting to set up a touring rig for a while, and the time had finally come. We both went for All Cities (he's got a Space Horse), and they did well by us. The All City is my first new (as in contemporary) bike. Carbon fork, modern shifting, clipless pedals all that jazz. It's a huge change from the Basso and took a long time getting used to. But it's also pretty beastly, and snazzy to look at, too. It got me across a continent — 3,866 miles. For a long time, I didn't know its name. It's less quaint than my other bikes, more forceful. But then I remembered "The Hazards of Love" — Beau's bike is called The Kid (a Cormac McCarthy reference), and mine, still true to my Decemberism, is called The Queen.