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I Don't Need No 12-Step
(As long as I can ride my bike instead.)
By Chip Haynes
This piece first appeared in Mason's Wire Donkey Bike Zine.
"Hi. I'm Chip and I'm a bikaholic."
It all started way back in the mid 50's. We were wild and crazy then, and it didn't matter what we did--we could do no wrong. My first bike was a little J.C. Higgins with solid rubber 16-inch tires. I rode it all over, and why not? All of my friends were doing it. What's the harm? Ok, so maybe we fell down a little from time to time, but it was no big deal. I can handle it, Mom.
When we moved to Germany, I got one of those sleek European models--a metallic green Parisienne with 24-inch wheels. I was stylin' with the in crowd. It didn't help that dear old Dad fed my addiction by changing the gearing to let me go faster. Thanks, Dad, that was just the fix I needed! I kept that bike when we moved back to the states, but then sold it to my junior high school shop teacher. Addictions make us do stupid things, I guess.
The Huffy rocked. Twenty-six-inch wheels, a chrome cantilever frame and a metallic red frame tank with dual headlights and a horn. Wow. Just try to stop me now! I rode that beast all over town, and when we moved to rural Ohio, the Huffy came with me. By 1969, the tank and rear rack were long gone, as were the fenders. I'd replaced the massive handlebars with narrow ones and added a knobby rear tire for my off-road adventures on the fire roads in the Wayne National Forest. Was I an early mountain biker?
Nah, I was just a kid, experimenting with new things. Sadly, the Huffy stayed behind as we moved to Florida, and I went without a bicycle for several years. (The Dark Years, as they are known now.) I went to art school, and met a guy with a three-speed Triumph bicycle. It was cool, but I had to be cooler. I bought a ten speed. To say "everyone was doing it" would be a massive understatement. It was the early 70s--the First Great Gas Crisis. Everybody bought ten speeds. The difference was, I used mine. I fell in with a hard crowd--the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club.
That first ten speed, a Vista, was soon replaced by some mighty exclusive iron: A Schwinn Paramount P15 touring bike. Yeowzah! I rode century rides like some people go to the movies. Then came the Paramount Tandem and a new, scary word in my vocabulary: Bikecentennial.
By 1975, I knew what I had to do: I had to ride a bicycle across the United States. I ordered a new bicycle: A Bob Jackson. It was my first "keep forever" bike. The Jackson got me up some incredibly steep climbs, and could drop down the other side at speeds that today scare me on my motorcycle! I did, indeed, ride across America--and have the bicycle to prove it. But then, a funny thing happened: I stopped riding my bicycle. My addiction was in remission. It was weird. After I covered the continent, I had no desire to ride across town. Was my bicycle addition cured by that 4,000 mile overdose? Hardly.
From 1977 to 1997, I hardly touched a bicycle. Oh, sure, I still owned several, but I almost never rode them. I kept my Bob Jackson, of course, and also had a '57 Schwinn Wasp Newsboy Special, a '61 Schwinn Town 'n Country tandem out in the garage, and that unrideable high wheeler I built as a display for the Schwinn shop. About the only riding I did in those 20 years was on a little Bianchi folding bike that I used to haul my kayak (by trailer) up to the Dunedin marina. At some point, I sold both the kayak and the Bianchi. Then I saw the Raleigh Twenty, and that old addiction reared its ugly head again. Big time.
I bought the little Raleigh Twenty in November of 1996, and started riding it to work in January of 1997. The addiction was in full swing again. Other bikes followed, and soon the garage was full again. How many now? Twenty? Something like that. I have tandems and high wheelers and folding bikes and rickshaws and, well, a lot of different bikes. I could ride a lot of different bikes. I could ride a different bike to work every day for a month. Is that too many bikes? I think not. I revel in my addiction. I flaunt it publicly. I grin like a loon at those who don't understand. I am happily hopeless, and I hope to ride this addiction to the end of my days. So there.
As addictions go, bicycling has to be one of the best. Few addictions keep you as healthy and cost as little. Sure, I spent a bundle on a couple of those bikes, but most of my collection was had for well under a hundred bucks apiece. That's one cheap addiction. I see other poor lost souls addicted to far worse things every day, from cigarettes to Jerry Springer or worse: SUV's and cell phones. Together. And we all know it's not healthy to mix your addictions. Me? I'm hooked on bicycles and orange juice and daily banana. And I am most decidedly not looking for a cure.
And maybe that's the way we need to promote bicycling: The World's Best Addiction. Better than booze, better than caffeine, better than the Swedish Bikini Team. (Well, ok, maybe just better than booze and caffeine.) Still, that's not so bad. How many addictions are really good for you? (SBT aside?) Very few. Most leave you fat, stupid and/or dead. Bicycling makes you lean, healthy and happy. You can't beat that.
So here I am, a happy bike addict. No need for a 12 step program--just give me an open road and air in my tires. I can feed my addiction all day long and feel good that evening as the sun goes down. I'm in great shape and saving money had over fist. All addictions should be this bad for you.
What about you? Are you addicted? Do you sit there and glance over at your bicycle as you read this? Do you picture in your mind the roads and trails you want to ride? Can't you almost feel the wind in your hair? Can you hear the hum of the tires on the pavement? The whirr of the chain? Do your legs flex with a pedaling cadence as you sit at the kitchen table? Oh, you've got it bad. I think you need to go for a bike ride. I know I do.
I plan to feed my addiction in just a couple of hours. The three miles between the office and home are just enough to get me all loosened up and ready to ride more. And I'm torn: Ride fast for the speed and excitement, or ride slow to make it last? Tough call there. At least I know I've got another ride tomorrow--to work and back. I feed my addiction almost every day now, and it's a bad day indeed when all of the bikes stay parked in the garage. I hate those days. I long to race down the street with Robert Palmer echoing in my head:
Might as well face it, you're addicted to bike.
To subscribe to Mason's Wire Donkey Bike Zine, contact Mason St. Clair at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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