A fictional story inspired by the theft of my dear friend’s Kona Humu, and the joy of klunking. –Shae James, Kona Ambassador
I am supposed to be holding one endless circle of hardened chain, a symbol of trust. It is supposed to be looped through my favorite front triangle, into my rear triangle, and around a solid piece of metal. As I stand outside of a busy restaurant, on a busy street, I am holding pieces of the bike lock that I had woven through my beloved mountain bike. I look through the window of the restaurant. How can people be eating? I look out to the street. How can cars be moving? I stand there for a few minutes. Blank. If I’d have known, I would have skipped the post-ride beer in a heartbeat.
Well, I guess it’s time to start walking home.
Two blocks down. I stare at the red crosswalk light. I wonder if I would have dabbed on that track stand. Two more blocks. I’ve never noticed that gap. I wonder if I would have cased it. Downtown turns into neighborhood, and I can’t believe how long walking takes. Just as I let out an aggravated sigh, I see a quaint yellow house. Its yard is covered in junk and treasure.
Well, this is taking forever. Might as well stop and take a look. I think to myself.
Toys. Blankets. Lamps. Vintage alarm clocks.
Wow. How old is this stuff?
“Hey, there,” I say as I notice an older man sitting in a camp chair, smiling at me. “Any RC cars, or something?”
“No, I’m afraid not.”, he replies with a little chuckle. “Those things sure are fun, and you look like you could use some kind of pick me up.”
“Oh. Yeah… “ I look down at my shoes. “My bike was stolen and it’s still pretty fresh.”
“Jeez. I’m sorry to hear that. That’s like having a piece of yer soul ripped out.”
He looks at me hard for a moment.
“Tell ya what.”, he starts, as he reaches for the cane parked next to him. With much effort, he stands up and shuffles towards his garage. “I know it can’t replace your old one, but I’ve got a bike that you can have if you want it.”
“Really?! Wha… Why would you do that?”
“Look at me! I can’t ride it anymore, and I’ve been waiting for the right person to need it. You just gotta promise me you’ll take her to the top of a mountain, where she belongs.”
“You’ve got a mountain bike? For free??” I say in disbelief.
“Yep. Here she is, in all her glory!” He pulls a cloth cover off of a cruiser bike from the 70’s. It’s yellow and heavy. He stands there, beaming at it. Like it’s a trophy.
“Uh…Will it make it to the top of a mountain?”
“Hah! This thing has been to the top of more peaks than you! I guarantee it!”
“…Do you know what mountain biking is?” I ask with a raised brow.
“Kid, do YOU know what mountain biking is?”
We both stand our ground.
He breaks, “Just go ride it once. If you don’t have fun, you can bring it back. No harm, no foul. Whadda ya say?”
“Blehhh. Okay. Fine. Fine.”
Why am I agreeing to this?
“Great! I’ll be here all day tomorrow, too. Maybe you could ride it tomorrow, and come by after? I’d love to hear about it,” he says excitedly.
“Sure. Sure. Um. Thank you. I’ll let you know how it goes.” I try to sound optimistic, but don’t do a great job.
I wheel the bike to the end of the garage and swing a leg around it.
“Uh… where are the brakes?!” I say as I look around the bike.
“It’s a coaster brake.” He replies.
What the heck is a coaster brake?
“You know. Pedal-back. You pedal backwards, and it engages the brake,” he explains like I’m new to this planet.
“Uh sure. Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, if I survive,” I say, as I test the brakes down the driveway. “Thank you. Mister….?” I look back to ask the old man’s name and the garage door is already halfway closed.
I start pedaling home.
Wow. Even for a tank, this is so much faster than walking.
I am home in minutes, put the bike away, and head to bed.
The next morning, I wake up and start getting ready like I’m going to shred all day. As I’m pulling my riding clothes together, my heart sinks.
Oh yeah. I forgot. My bike is gone…
I sit down on my bed and wallow in my misery until I remember the old man’s bike.
Might as well, I guess.
I finish getting ready, pull the bike out of my garage, and set out for the first loop that comes to mind. After about five miles, the sound of my tires changed tune. The smooth buzzing turns into a crunchy, grinding noise. A gravel road.
Okay. Let’s really hammer this thing.
I stand up and start really pedaling. My eyes focus on nothing, and my legs become two pistons as I sink heavy into the grind. The scenery around me begins to blur. I dig deeper. The sound of my tires, the birds, the wind, it all starts to blur as well. Eventually, it sounds like someone has put their hands over my ears and I feel a hard jolt that almost knocks me off my bike.
I snap out of my self-made hypnosis and look around.
Wha…? Where am I?
Everything looks different. The same… but different. The trees are… smaller?
What the hell am I wearing?!
As I look around, I catch my clothing in my peripheral. My bike shorts are short. Really short. And tight. Really tight. My comfortable, and breathable mountain bike shoes are now stiff, hiking boots. I reach my hand up to my helmet. My visor is gone.
What is happening?!
I continue pedaling up the hill, frantically looking for any kind of familiar landmark or trail. Nothing. I feel around my clothing for the bulk of my smartphone. It isn’t on me.
Great. No GPS. How am I supposed to find my way around now?
I get off my bike, take a few steps, and just stand there with my hands on my hips. I look left. I look right.
Hmmm. I don’t see any chance of me finding a trail without my app. I’m just going to head back down.
I get back on my bike and start down the gravel logging road I had just come from. As I gain speed down the hill, I momentarily forget about the whole coaster brake thing. I squeeze my pointed index fingers and just get air.
I begin to panic as I realize that just because I ride with my fingers habitually pointed towards a brake lever, doesn’t mean there is always a brake lever there to be pulled!
Uh. PEDAL BACK! I remember.
I drive my back leg down into the pedal as hard as I can in an attempt to shut down the massive amount of speed I have acquired; the rear tire locks up and begins skidding. My eyes grow wide as my rear end is fishtailing back and forth. I lift my foot up and release the hub. I re-engage, but this time with some tact. I am able to slow down enough to step off the bike and come to a stop. I breathe relief.
Woah. Am I crazy? Or was that actually insanely fun?
I place my bulky shoes back on to the pedals and start rolling down the road. This time with a mischievous smile on my face.
As I come around a long right-hand corner, I’m spraying gravel and laughing. I look like a maniac. There is a group of four cyclists pedaling up the road, and I’m headed straight towards them. They look up, eyes wide, and all dart to each side of the road. I narrowly squeeze between them, before I slam on my brake, plant a foot on the ground, and spin my bike in a 180 to face them.
“Jump back, man!”
“You almost reamed us!”
“Jeez, hot pants!”
“Take a chill pill, dude!”
They all exclaim differently.
“Sorry, guys. Just had a little too much fun looking for the trail, ” I explain.
“Well, you’re going the wrong way, first off,” the tallest one points out.
“Yeah. I was just giving up, actually,” I admit.
“Look, we were just headed up. If you can keep up, you can stick with us, ya dig? “Oh. Yeah. I can dig. Do you have tools somewhere or something?” I ask.
“What? No! ‘Ya dig?’ Like, do you dig it? Do you understand? You cool?” he demands.
“Oh! Yeah. Uh… totally, man.” I respond as I realize what he meant.
They all continue pedaling up the hill, this time with me in tow. I don’t say much during the climb but instead, listen to their conversation. After a while, I piece together an impossible theory.
“Hey guys, uhh, weird question. What day is it, exactly?” I ask, afraid of the answer.
“Man, did you hit your head or something? We haven’t even started the real ridin’ yet!” Laughs the one with the thickest mustache. “It’s Wednesday. June 20th.”
“Right. Right. Just for fun, what year?”
“Man! You DID hit your head, didn’t ya! 1979!” he responds, shaking his head. Half in amusement, half in concern. He laughs again and goes back to talking to his friends about some girl named Mary Ann.
Okay. Don’t panic. You somehow traveled to 1979. You broke some kind of time barrier while pedaling your face off, and traveled back to 1979. It’s fine. You’ll be fine. At least there’s still biking. Just ride. And figure it out later. Yeah. Groovy.
As I talk myself into living in the moment, whenever that moment happens to be, the fellas stop at what looks like an overgrown trailhead.
“ Okay! Here we are! Is everyone ready? New girl! You’ll go second to last, so we don’t lose you. Better ride fast, so you don’t spoil his good time, ya dig?”
With barely a moment to get into formation, we drop in and it’s absolute chaos. The fully rigid frame of my bike feels bombproof yet somehow rattles me to my very bones. The first corner I come across, I brake a little late and end up skidding into it. The tires hook up at the last possible second, and I shoot out of it. I can hear dirt flying behind me. The rider behind me gives a delighted holler in approval. I pedal through the next flat section and graze the bottom of my right pedal on the top of a rock.
Woah! No freewheel. I really gotta pay attention to where my feet are with this thing!
A minute into the trail and I really start to warm up. Once I connect all the dots, I realize this is true mountain biking. It is controlled chaos. Endless creativity in slashing the earth behind you. I’ve never had so much fun on a bike. You let it out, get scared, and reel it back in. Over and over. Thankfully there is more laughing than crashing, but the numbers are close. There is so much fun to be had, but we all know the trail will end soon. The fast pace, the non-stop riding, is refreshing. No apps. No photos. No line discussion. Just riding.
The trail finishes with a bang! Three consecutive corners, and final ping pong through some rocks and we explode out of the trail and back onto the road we started on. Everyone is laughing and exclaiming at what they had just witnessed.
“Did you see me almost hit that rock?”
“Did you see me definitely hit that rock!”
“I cleared that gap!”
“I saw! That was so sick, dude!”
“Far out, New Girl! You survived! And kept up!”
“Heh. Yeah, I did. Didn’t I?” I say, thinking of what I had said to the old man in the garage. “That was insanely fun, you guys. Thanks for letting me tag along.”
“Oh yeah! We didn’t know anyone else liked to do this kind of stupid stuff! Or even knew what it was! Happy to ride with you!” he chuckles.
“You’d be surprised who could get into a sport like this.”, I grin. “Thanks again! I’ll catch ya on the flip side!”
I wave my good-bye and head down the last bit of the road I had originally started on. I throw one last skid, before my tires touch where gravel meets pavement. Time shifts and my surroundings change again. I’m home. I head straight for the quaint yellow house. As it comes into view, I see the garage door begin to slowly slide open. I put the power down, and pedal up the driveway, and skid into the garage. I stop just before the old man who gave me this fantastic yellow bike.
“So? How are my friends doing?” he says with a big grin.