April 4, 2018 marks 50 years from when The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated by a racist. Imagine how different the world might be if he were allowed to live. The movement to end the US war on Vietnam, the Poor People’s Campaign, the overall condition of the African-American in the US, and many more were issues he advanced, making life better for all of us; they all could have been successes.
How much more could he have accomplished? Lives saved? Dignity restored? Barriers broken down? It breaks my heart to think these thoughts and to write these words. As well it should. We lost a true American hero that day. But to cheer us up, here is a picture of him on a bicycle a year before his death, yes, riding a bicycle on Fire Island. A Dude can link ANYTHING to bicycling!
Martin Luther King: The Man, the Legend, The Bicyclist?
When I was a baby, my mother took me to civil rights protests. Later in life, I learned how to write words in English. I learned to ride a bike. Now, much later in life, I’m REALLY writing words (sometimes in Spanish), and I’m REALLY riding my bike. I’ve written a few things about racism and alluded to the injustices that bicyclists face at the hands of car drivers. Privilege is an issue in the bicycling community as it is in the wider world.
This blog and post can’t solve that nor does it try to. It’s mostly about what I see, hear and think about while biking, and the people I meet. Or about my striving for health. I’m doing my tiny part to preserve the ozone layer. (Climate justice!) I’ve also done some things to help improve the streets to create safer spaces for all of us sharing the road. I know, this is not directly connected to the work of Dr. King. But I think he might have approved. Especially now I know he biked!
I would very much have loved to ride alongside the prophetic preacher. In his vision of the afterlife, maybe I will. For a moment, today, 50 years later, we remember the great but fallible and humble man who spoke truth to power, developed Gandhi’s ideas of nonviolence, and brought about historical societal changes like the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His work was incomplete, and yet his words inspire us today to keep striving for justice in the ways we are each able. Thank you, Dr. King. Life here goes on, and a guy needs a bike, stat!
My First Bike Coaching Client
Adam happily checking out many bikes.
Adam — appropriately named for a post that’s partially about a Baptist preacher — is a young man whose mother I know from the Austin Time Exchange Network. ATEN is about bartering services for time, not money. Kelly had helped me move recently, so I was down by a few hours.
When she asked what I would advise her about getting Adam a bike, I said, “You know, I normally would charge for that.” And then I had the bright idea: help him as a test case, ask her to pay me in time, see how it goes, and learn from the experience. If it goes well, I could explore how I might help others for a fee. I’m happy to say it was a successful experiment.
We met and examined the old bike. It was a real clunker, heavy steel mountain bike his mom got 12 years ago, with a badly out of true rear wheel. I let Adam ride my Fuji for comparison, and he liked it a lot. His short jaunt down the street showed me that he could handle himself, and then I also learned he had been a child gymnast for 12 years! Balance was not going to be a problem. We chatted a bit so I could get a feel for what kind of riding he would be doing, which was 8 miles to work and back on a busy road. Then we headed off to the first of three bike shops. Regrettably I didn’t take photos of the first two.
Sun & Ski Sports
First up was Sun & Ski Sports, which readers of this blog know as one of my go-to stores for all things bike. I had phoned ahead, and Matias was there and ready to help. Introductions and background information was shared. First, he diagnosed the wheel as not worth fixing. Then he showed us a few of the large selection of bikes that would fit the size, needs and hopefully budget of the budding bicyclist.
After looking over a few bikes, we settled on a Fuji Traverse. This versatile flat-bar hybrid has hydraulic disc brakes, front shocks that can be locked, and a smooth handling feel. Last year’s version was on sale for under $500, but it wasn’t available in the right size. Matias could get it by Saturday, but that wasn’t going to help Adam get to work tomorrow, unfortunately. I advised him to think about it while we went to another shop.
Next up was Bike Farm. This hidden gem in Austin has old bikes they fix up, and sells new ones too. A friendly young salesman named Jay whom I had not met before was there to help. Usually there is a large number of used bikes to choose from, but they had recently received and assembled a large number of new bikes. There were a few used ones that almost fit the bill, but they didn’t quite fit, or were lacking features. Jay showed us some new Marin bikes and also a brand new to me, this Retrospec Amok V3 8-Speed Urban Gravel Bike. It was pretty cool, but on the high end of the budget. But none were sure winners, so we thanked Jay and moved on.
Yellow Bike Project
Last was Yellow Bike Project, the free community shop run by volunteers. Molly, Phillip and a new coordinator Conti all pitched in to show us the mechanic-approved bikes for sale. The shop was full with a class, and Molly said that the wheel might be somewhat repaired, but Adam would have to come back another time and DIY. We went through the large selection of all kinds of bikes, and settled on a few. A Giant hybrid, a Miyata with old shifters on the top-tube, and a rebuilt bike with a single chain ring in the front. All were priced very reasonably, although the service warranty is mostly you learn to work on your own bike.
Going way over the allotted two hours, we climbed upstairs and found more bikes. There was nothing really that stared Adam in the eyes like a soulful puppy and said, “Take me home!” He desperately needed a way to get to the first day of his new job immediately, as in TOMORROW. Heading back downstairs, preparing to either settle for something or maybe spend more than they wanted, something caught my eye. A beautiful forest green Bianchi Advantage hybrid with a shock in the seat post and front tire. Good condition, nice size, new tires, three rings in the front. This was a bike even A Dude took a shine to.
I went through the features, comparing it to the other bikes, and what he needed for his frame, comfort and price. Some air in the tires, the seat and handlebars adjusted, Adam took it out for a spin. He liked it. Yeah, the seat was a little hard. It wasn’t as cool as the Retrospec Amok. And it didn’t have everything the new Fuji Traverse would have, including a service plan. But for a first real bike, it worked well for him. More adjustments, another spin. After some consultation with his mom, they bought it and some lights, I gave him some safety tips, and we ended our evening.
Just Tell Us, Dude, What Bike Did He Get?
I’m happy to report my first bike consultation was a success! Maybe we’ll be able to do some riding together and I can do some on the bike coaching, as well.
For me, as a first-time experience, I realized that I do have a good bit of knowledge to share. It will help to have a pre-shopping questionnaire and also to have a checklist that will help all clients. But I also know when to defer to the experts in sales and mechanics when it comes to the fit, technical features, parts and so on.
Regrettably we could not make everyone happy, but a satisfied customer will always need bike parts and gear, and eventually may upgrade to a new bike. And all the shops want people to ride.
Be like Dr. King. Inspire generations. Peacefully fight for justice. And ride a bike.
Are you in Austin, Texas and do you want to rediscover (or discover for the first time) your love for riding a bike? To buy or repair a bike, and then to know where to ride and how to do so safely? I know A Dude who can help you with that. My email can be found on the About page, if you’re serious and not a robot. (Or a serious robot.) Reasonable rates or a fair barter will apply.
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