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Friday, February 04, 2011

An Appreciation of the Unique Bike

Yeah, so, I know that the eastern reaches of this country now resemble the North Pole. Due to the maritime influence we get in Cascadia, we saw a balmy temp of 50F/10C here in Justify FullPortland. Nice day for a bike ride, eh? (Bet everyone under 30 feet of snow is salivating at the idea by now!) But no, no bike ride. Because I got sick.

It seems I've been in a particular pattern the past few years, I get a cold in January, another one in February, and another one at some other time during the year. And this year has been no exception. One cold soon after the new year began (which I got from April), and now this one. It hasn't been that bad, however, I haven't had any energy to leave the house the past few days. Oh yeah, and this one has turned into the dreaded "coughing" cold, my least favorite ailment.

Yesterday (Thursday) I felt the itch to leave the house for at least a little while. I decided to visit Bi-Partisan for a coffee (bad idea for my throat in this condition, but habit is habit) and to do some drawing. It didn't take that long before I started to do that "hack up a lung" type coughing. And it wasn't going away. I started to feel eyes move towards me. I didn't want to become "that guy" who is out in public while sick, so I packed it up and headed to America's ubiquitous drugstore,* Walgreens, to pick up NyQuil, Mucilex, and Ricolah cough drops.

That's when I noticed this interesting specimen locked to the bike rack:

Portland's a city of bikes of all shapes and sizes. But most of those fall into pretty pedestrian categories: road bike, hybrid, MTB, fixie, and so on. We do have our share of Freak Bike Culture, but those bikes are purposely built to stand out. It's more interesting when I run across a bike that is so unique, so customized, so kludged. Like this one.

The frame is a Schwinn cruiser from probably the 50's or 60's. It has a quick release front wheel, an old coaster on the back. The basket is only mounted to the handlebars, which appear to be BMX bars. A generator headlamp is also clamped on, yet it is not attached to any generator (or battery for that matter.) The original chrome fenders are gone, replaced by a lone MTB style mudguard. The seat looks bombproof. And the very high seatpost is tailored with reflective tape.

After my "photo session", the owner of the bike came out. He was older, over 55 I would guess, decked out in one of those old-school styrofoam helmets. He put his purchase of Colgate toothpaste in the basket, and rode off into the night.

I always feel weird taking photos like this, worried that the owner will show up right when I do it. Which is exactly what happened the last time I did this. I caught this very interestingly lit bike on Hawthorne, adorned with cheap dollar store book lights. See how many you can find!

Now this post is not to mock or make fun of these types of bikes. I do genuinely have an appreciation for the "Lone Wolf" cyclists out there, that modify their bike with any regard to fashion or whether the add-on "matches" the bike. Often times they are making do with what they have. And they are riding!

I think someday I will be one of these cyclists.

*As opposed to "Today's Neighborhood Drugstore", CVS. The less I say about them, the better.


  1. hey Shawn - hope you're feeling better.

    I often see odd bikes and think about taking pictures. often I don't for the similar reasons - concern that the owner might come out and wonder "who is this idiot taking pictures of my bike...?!" Maybe it's because a bicycle is a very personal thing and people taking pictures of it seems like an invasion of privacy....? I don't know.. people seem to have no problem taking pictures of me and my bike (and familyy). The other day I was riding back from the eye center with my son and noticed someone up ahead, stopped at a light, and it looked like they were shooting video of me out their car window as we were trundling along... Really...? Are we that weird...?

    Anyway, hope you're feeling better soon. I've had a similar sort of prolonged coughing spell and is SUCKS!

  2. "I do genuinely have an appreciation for the "Lone Wolf" cyclists out there, that modify their bike with any regard to fashion or whether the add-on "matches" the bike."

    Perception of style is subjective, these bikes have a style all their own :-) And yeah, I have a tendency to frakenstein bikes like the ones in the photos, to a lesser degree...


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