Commuter Rigs of the Early Days

I started commuting by bike daily around 2003. I rode from Reston to Falls Church in Virginia along the W&OD. This was pre-smartphones and ride tracking apps. I don’t have many photos from back then. A few though from the archives. [1] The first was my daily rider for several years – A @gary_fisher HooKooEKoo. It belonged to my Uncle-in-law and i inherited it when he passed away. I put a Surly rigid fork on it, flat bars cut real skinny with bar ends – pretty much to mimic the hoods of a drop bar bike. I eventually rode it into the ground. I stripped the bottom-bracket threads and I thought it was done, so I gave it a hero’s send off [2] and figured that was it.

I didn’t want to give up though and researching on the internet I found out that you could re-thread stripped BBs the opposite way and use a EuroItalian bottom bracket. So I found a shop in Maryland – College Park Bikes – who said they could do it. The bike lives on now, sitting in my garage. Around 2004 we moved to Annandale and I had the dream commute to Falls Church – we lived literally on the edge of Wakefield Park, so I could get an MTB rip in on my way to AND from work.

[3,4] Here’s a few pictures form those commutes. First, a Schwinn Moab that was actually my wife’s and way too small for me, and second, a nice slice of trail in Wakefield. When the Gary Fisher first died, a buddy of mine sent me a beater MTB frame and fork from Colorado – a Schwinn High Plains. I built it up as a drop bar single speed. [4]

I rode that to work for years and it was in the stable until just last year when I finally sold it. As with every bike I’ve ever sold, I regret it now, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Never sell bikes, kids. We moved to New Brunswick in October of 2006, and in January of 2007 was one of my first commutes here – on a fixed-gear beater Specialized MTB that I’d bought off Craigslist in DC for $100 [5].

It was -28ºC in this photo. I’m finding it really hard to believe I’ve been commuting for over 15 years. You’d have thought I might have stopped then. I’m sure my fingers and toes wish I had.

Lunch Loop

The challenge of a good Lunch Loop photo is a daunting one. The very nature of the Lunch Loop (a loop on your bike from the office at lunch) constrains things as you’re limited to a certain radius by time and distance. If you Loop regularly enough, you soon exhaust all the obvious and usual points of interest – graffiti spots, scenic overlooks, etc. Given that you’ll always be shooting relatively the same subject one of several bikes or just A bike sets the bar even higher. You have to start looking deeper into the environment to find interesting stuff. Backgrounds, textures, colors. A highly entertaining enterprise and a great way to see your local ‘hood in a whole new light. In the cracks and crevices there’s treasure to be found.

The Overstory

Today’s Lunch Loop was a Library Run to return this book, The Overstory by Richard Powers. To be honest, I didn’t want to, I wanted to read it again. That doesn’t happen often. I wonder sometimes if one wants to re-read a book if it makes more sense to do it immediately or wait, and discover it again, only with a hint of familiarity, at a later time. My reading queue is currently backed up so this one will have to wait.

I can’t remember the last time a book affected me such as this one – fiction or otherwise. Powers is a master of the written word and the subject matter is of monumental weight, yet presented in a way not to be overbearing on the story. After finishing it I’m left feeling alternately exhilarated and helpless, still trying to process it all. I think the fact that this book and the discussion around it isn’t a bigger deal points to the fact that we’re still not ‘getting it’ as a species.

If this is on your to-read list, I suggest you bump it up several notches. If it wasn’t even on your radar, it should be – read it. If you’re saying, “meh, I don’t read so much anymore and the kinds of books I like to read aren’t really-“ stop. You probably need to read it the most.