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Monday, March 14, 2011

Post: Apocalypse

The bicycle that I have ridden for the last fifteen years is named Apocalypse, and it is my most favorite mode of transport that I have ever owned. It is a black and blue 1957 Schwinn Spitfire ladies’ step-thru cruiser, and it looks like it barely survived a nuclear blast, which is only one of the reasons I love it. I got it in 1994 from my then-girlfriend Julie The Bruce’s mom Susan. Susan lived in Red Bluff, CA and the bike had been mouldering in her garage for who knows how long. She told me she used it to ride to her college classes in Weed in the late 1960s so I knew the bike was old, plus just looking at it, you can tell.

When I first saw my beloved Schwinn, there was an old grouchy cat perched on the ancient wide cruiser seat. The hateful feline hissed at me as I shooed it away and I was disgusted to find about five years worth of matted cat hair caked on the seat. Apparently this was the cat’s favorite sleeping spot and it was pissed at me for interrupting its quiet time. I expressed admiration for the grand old piece of machinery and Susan promptly offered it to me, saying she hadn’t ridden it in at least ten years. I loaded it into my old Chevy tour van and took it home to fix it up.

The bike had definitely seen its share of wear. It had a million little dings and dents, but every piece on it was of original stock. It looked like it had been blue originally, but someone had spray painted it black. Perhaps Susan had gone through a bohemian phase in college and hated the bright robin’s-egg-blue original Schwinn paint job, who knows, I never found out why. The black paint job was starting to chip and flake away, making the bicycle mostly black with blue specks. This was fine with me because it made me think of my favorite album of the time, GI by the Germs. I scraped all the gross cat hair off the seat to find a badly decayed seat cover. The foam was old and dry but still there, so I just wrapped an old punk t-shirt around it and called it good. Both tires were flat but in good shape with original 1957 pinstriping on the time-yellowed white painted rims. I replaced the tubes and pumped up the tires and it was good to go.

The bicycle was a little small for me, being a ladies bike, but I made it work. I preferred the ladies step-thru style crossbars because honestly, who wants to bust your balls on a cross bar every time you have to slam on your brakes to keep from getting hit by some ignorant driver? The stock handlebars were a little low as well, even though I had raised the stem all the way up. This soon became a non-issue, as the stock handlebars broke in half about four months later. I was kind of screwed, because at this point I was practically homeless, paying $38 a month to live in a closet inside a barn on 24th and J and I didn’t have any extra money. Luckily, I was dumpster diving a few days later and found a pair of apehanger handlebars in a dumpster behind a bike shop. I put them on and they fit perfectly, plus they allowed me to raise the seat up even more, making the bike the actual proper height for my 6 foot 4 frame. I know it looked a bit silly, but I really didn’t give a shit, still don’t. I hadn’t given the bike a name yet, so I decided to name it Apocalypse, because it looked like it had been through one, plus it was hilarious to me in a really geeky sort of way. I’ll let you figure that one out.

Apocalypse has served me well for many years despite the many times I’ve wrecked on it, jumped it off of curbs and launched it off of makeshift ramps in my idiotic attempts to emulate Evel Knievel. We have gone on many adventures together. She has helped me block the streets of Midtown Sacramento in Critical Mass rides, rocket down the hills of San Diego during Comicon 2008, and we may have even appeared on the cover of a legendary punk rock band's CD together. She’s broken a few of my bones and I’ve broken her pedals, dented her fenders and snapped a few of her chains, but we’re still together and hopefully always will be.

You can still occasionally see me flying down the streets of Midtown Sacto on my way to or from work on my trusty steed Apocalypse. If you do, honk and wave and try not to run us over.

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