Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Last Days of Bikeducken (And, by Association, Living in Connecticut)

    First photo of 2015: Sunrise on West Beach in Stamford, January 1, 2015

When you collect - well, not really collect but accumulate - bicycles, you don’t really do so thinking you’re going to have to eventually move them. Suddenly presented with that reality in late 2014 when my wife and I realized we were, indeed, moving from Connecticut to California, I began to look at my collection through an anxious lens.

Over a period of nearly five months I sold, scrapped or gave away bikes, parts and other things I didn’t think I’d need in California. It took a long time mostly because I was busy doing freelance work, fixing up the house and getting it ready for a sale, and flying back and forth to California trying to bond with the place (riding through the area, especially in the Willow Glen ride planned by the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, has helped).

Over time I gathered what I thought I absolutely needed and put myself in a mental place to give up the rest. Bike related stuff that never would have deemed non-essential under any other circumstances went to either the Trafigura Work & Learn Center in Stamford or the BikePort Co-op in Bridgeport. Since we had to make the amount of stuff we needed placed in storage fall under a certain threshold (and fairly certain whatever residence we’d end up with in Silicon Valley would be smaller than what we had in Stamford anyhow) I made other, previously unthinkable choices.

Like throwing away the Bikeducken.

The Bikeducken. It began as one discarded Diamondback and ended up as the DiamondSchwinn because I wanted to see if I could cut a bike in half and weld it back together. Later, when I finally found a children’s BMX bike that had a five-speed cassette in the back I created the two-part DIYBIKING.COM Salutes the Cargo Bike feature. By the time I was done eight bikes - all throwaways - had been used to make it. I had to splice two chains of different makes together to make it work - and when pedaling I’d hear the clattering of the chain passing through the derailleur change pitch. 

The bike was used to carry an entire 4 x 8 sheet of plywood six miles from Rings End Hardware in Darien to build the one sheet workbench.

It carried anything I wanted it to, and in the last days of living in Stamford it was essential for bringing stuff to Goodwill - including a trail-a-bike. 

While closing in on Christmas 2014 I made a run to the Domus Work & Learn Business Center that topped all others before it. If Hollywood wanted to do a reboot of The Grapes of Wrath with bikes this has that covered. 

The Bikeducken was even featured on a web site called this past September. I wondered why anyone would write anything about it, but I took their publicity. I also got a lot of amusement by reading the comments section of the story: one commenter even said: “that’s not welding; more like trying to glue it with spatters of metal” which didn’t make me upset because it was not only an accurate description of the amateur welding technique I had at the time, but it was funny.

As useful and unique as the bike was, I didn’t think it had any value to anyone other than me. Save for the kickstand, bell and derailleur cable the bike was built from what people in Connecticut threw away. With few exceptions, they loaded a slightly-distressed bike into their car, drove it to the Katrina Mygatt Recycling center on Magee Avenue, and dropped it into or around the Metal Only bin without giving it another thought. 

I decided the Bikeducken should return to the scrapheap from whence it came. Even though I thought it might help with closing my relationship with Connecticut I wasn’t going to feel sentimental about it. I decided I’d buy or build another cargo bike when I got settled in California and that was that. 

I removed the rear deck to make it easier to carry up and down the basement stairs (During half of March and the start of April I had to remove all personal belongings every time a realtor came calling) and the countdown to its last ride began. 

As coldhearted as this all sounds, I saw a practical reason for this as well: All but one of my remaining bikes - The City Bike, the Recumbent, The Dahon Matrix, The Mystery of South Norwalk - were being packed up in a moving truck. In fact: I watched it happen.

The mountain bike I built (in fact, the project that led to this site in the first place) won the coveted spot of being the bike that was to come with us for the cross-country drive to California, and it needed to be packed up and ready to travel too. Having a throwaway bike on hand would actually be useful since it could be used right up until the very end. However, as a promise I made to my cycling brothers and sisters in The Constitution State, I reattached a sign (with an updated date) to the frame. 

When I wasn’t biking around Stamford I was biking around Silicon Valley on my Bike Friday, which had been in California since February. As Bike to Work Day closed in on the West Coast, I attached signs I had procured from the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.

As stressed out as I was with everything going on, I could at least sleep at night (no matter which time zone that would be in) knowing I was doing what I could to get the word out on Bike to Work Day

In addition to promoting Bike to Work Day 2015, the Bikeducken did some irrefutably useful things, such as taking my cable boxes and to the UPS store on High Ridge so I could mail them back to the most incompetent cable company that ever walked the earth. 

It was the last frontier for those cable boxes, I gotta say. 

When my last week in Stamford arrived, I welcomed four guys into my house. I only knew them by their first names and watched them carry everything I owned out of my house and place into a truck  - at one point while the song ‘Love Train’ was playing on an iPod. 

Try to get that image out of your head.

In between their visits, I went to my last yoga class at Exhale - which was even nicer because talented Stamford artist Holly Danger was among my classmates - and sipped my last hot cappuccino at Lorca

I also bought some of my favorite cookies - alfajores - for the cross country drive (and enjoyed them all the way through Iowa). The morning I was at Lorca, I treated the Bikeducken to a good parking spot and was reminded of how much cheaper it is to build a place to park many bicycles instead of a place to park one car (the following week, Stamford Mayor David Martin announced a new bike parking pilot program featuring bike hitches welded by a Stamford city worker I never had a chance to meet and thank).

And somewhere in the middle of all this, Jon from Rippowam Labs (where I taught the class on how to fix up your bike for spring), who had heard I was throwing away the Bikeducken, asked if he could have it. I was baffled at why he wanted it but decided not to argue. The night before I left Stamford he stopped in to pick it up. 

Jump ahead a couple weeks: I’m looking at the great Bike to Work Week features written by Elizabeth Kim at the Stamford Advocate and I see Jon holding a familiar-looking bike. 

It gave me a real smile, and it made me thankful I had put enough value on that strange, wonderful cargo bike to not throw it in the trash. It could go there another day, but maybe, just maybe, that picture in the Stamford Advocate inspired one other person to think one or more of the following:

Maybe I should give away that old bike to Domus or BikePort Co-op instead of throwing it in the trash. 

I have a bike and I can ride it safely. I’ll ride it. 

Rippowam Labs sounds really cool. I should check out their class schedule.

I should bike to Lorca, eat some cookies, and take a class at Exhale Stamford to cancel those cookies out - or at least make me think I did. 

I should bike more and drive less. 

Whether or not any Stamford motorists thought those things or not by seeing the Bikeducken or reading this site, they are going to be thinking those things anyway. After all, there are a lot more cyclists on the roads and a lot more coming. Hope they keep an eye out for them and notice how much faster they’re moving and how much more fun they’re having than they are. 

So farewell, Bikeducken and farewell New England. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

    Last photo I took in Stamford before moving: May 1, 2015

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