Busy as a bee this week, so here's one from the archives, see you next week:
Sunday afternoon, the doorbell rang.
I was home alone and a little leary. Twenty minutes earlier, I had pulled the car into the driveway to notice my neighbor – the one with the my-dog-has-been-poisoned-complex - hanging Christmas lights above his garage. So when I heard the doorbell ring, I thought to myself, this is it – he knows I’m in here and he’s come to make yet another accusation about my involvement in the health of his dog.
Suspiciously, I tiptoed up to the tall window next to our door and pulled the curtain over ever so slightly. Looking out, I hoped whomever was out there did not notice me so sneaky and covert concealed behind the curtain.
What I noticed on my porch was indeed a man – but definitely not the neighbor man. Instead, it was a young man, a fit man in a ballcap, sunglasses, and in his hand he was holding…..a bicycle wheel.
This is not an unusual occurrence – for a stranger to show up at our door toting a bicycle wheel in their hand – and so this stranger did not surprise me. More than once I have opened the door to accept an offering of someone’s bike parts or come home to find a new bike in our garage or bike parts on our doorstep or a box of bike stuff on our porch. One night after coming home from the gym, I even found someone’s bike in my kitchen leaning up against the pantry door. I quickly rolled the bike into the foyer and thought to myself - oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no - not in my kitchen. Therefore, whether or not I liked it, it was not unusual to see a stranger holding bike parts on my doorstep.
Relieved, but still perplexed, I opened the door, curiously looking at the wheeled man. Typically, I get some type of warning from Chris that someone will show up at some time with something for a bike. But this one was unexpected.
“I’m here to drop this wheel off for Chris,” he said handing the wheel to me. He introduced himself and explained that Chris was fixing his other wheel and needed to fix this one to make the set completely fixed.
“He’ll know what to do with it,” he said. And with that, I accepted the wheel, shook his hand and sent him on his way with acknowledgment that my husband would get the job done.
Propping the wheel against the basement door, I silently shook my head. Here I am, again, accepting yet another piece of someone else’s cycling equipment as part of an endless influx and output of bicycle-related items that circulates through our home. On any given day, there is at least one bike waiting in the foyer to go out and another waiting in Chris’ car to come back in – all bikes that are in need of or completed with maintenance or mechanical work.
And this maintenance includes anything and everything. Probably includes more mechanical possibilities than you could find at your local bike shop. Wheels trued, bike packed, bike reassembled, new cables, brake pads replaced, spokes fixed, cleats adjusted, cassettes swapped, shifters installed. If it involves two wheels and a chain Chris will fix it, clean it, adjust it, replace it, heck even sleep with it if that’s what it needs. Remember, we are talking about the man I once found in bed napping while clutching a torque wrench. He takes his tools and bike maintenance very seriously.
And maybe it’s the end of the season bike maintenance malaise, but lately this bike comes in and bike goes out system seems to have exploded exponentially in and around our house. I realized the exponential extent of this when just the day before, as Chris and I were cleaning the garage out. I noticed my mountain bike propped against the wall and wondered why it wasn’t hanging on one of the four bike racks resting against the garage wall. And that’s when I realized the racks were overflowing with wheels, frames, and built-up bikes spilling on to the floor, against the walls, and hanging from each and every rack.
I looked around trying to make sense of all the parts. Perhaps it was like a puzzle of assorted bike pieces that merely needed the time to be put together completely and then stored whole. After a few minutes, I realized this effort was futile, that some frames were too big for some wheels and that most wheels did not even match in a set.
“Whose frame is that?” I asked, pointing to a black frame with a brown leather seat and no wheels.
“That’s Bob’s frame,” Chris replied, “I’m bringing it back to him today.”
Super. That would easily free up one space on our bike racks. But still I realized that the other bike racks were an impenetrable web of wheels. Wheels were literally hanging on every rack, propped against the bikes on the racks, and resting against the wall. There had to be at least ten wheels, not attached to bikes, some attached to pumps, loitering in our garage.
“Whose wheels are these?” I asked growing frustrated by the wheel fortress that had engulfed an entire wall in our garage.
“Those are Chris’ wheels,” he said busily sweeping the leaves out of the garage. This mess obviously made complete sense to him but left me senseless, dazed, and confused. Bikes with wheels, bikes with no wheels, bikes with one wheel. Bikes against the wall, against the garbage can, the recycling bin. Everything and anything was holding up a bike in one way or another. There had to be an end to this wheeled madness. It had to stop spinning some time soon.
“Which bike do those wheels belong to?” I asked, pleading in my mind for someone to please help me make sense of what in the wheeled hell was going on in this garage.
“The one that we have in the basement,” he added, matter-of-factly. The basement, I cringed, of course – the basement. At times, the basement resembles a halfway house for bicycle belongings that belong to other people. About a year ago, it got to the point where we had two roof racks set-up on the basement floor holding at least ten bikes that belonged to other people.
Still trying to find some semblance of sense and order in the garage, I snappily asked “And whose wheels are those?” pointing to yet another set of wheels, with one wheel actually still attached to a bike pump – one of three bike pumps in the garage.
“They also belong to Chris.” Now, note that this Chris, the same as the Chris above, is actually one of nearly half of our friends that are named either Chris or Christie. Quite confusing, especially considering that we are now harboring nearly half of their cycling equipment not labeled in any particular way so I have no idea which Chris owns which wheel that belongs to Chris. See what I mean?
“What are we doing with two sets of Chris’ wheels?” I asked in disbelief of how our friend Chris could have only one bike at our house yet two sets of wheels.
“I’m borrowing them for my cross bike,” Chris explained pointing to his cross bike which was actually hanging in the garage on a rack. Lucky bastard of a bike.
“And what are those wheels?” I asked pointing to – can you believe it - another set of wheels.
“The wheels for my cross bike that I took off so I could use Chris’ cross wheels,” he said. At this point, my mind was totally and completely criss-crossed from making any sense of this circular, spoked maze. I was ready to give up. But something told me to roll on.
“And that rim over there?” I asked looking at a lonesome rim hanging in front of Bob’s wheel-less frame.
“Belongs to Kevin,” he noted. And at that point, I realized that of the four racks in our garage only one was actually occupied with something that belonged to someone that actually lived in our house.
I looked at my mountain bike. With all of these other things hanging around, there was no way there would ever be room for it in this garage. I considered the other options. I could always just leave it in my car, or put it in my bedroom closet, or, I could store it in the basement.
Determined to find some free storage space, I headed to the basement – literally the bottom of our home and the bottom of the black hole of bike stuff. I looked around at the growing mess of boxes, wheels, cables, and tools. I shook my head. Simply put, it was a mess. No, it was beyond a mess. It was like a small child tore apart a giant box filled with bike parts and threw them randomly on the floor. And that was just in one corner. Another corner was filled with wheels. A table was completely walled in and suppressed by 5 large toolboxes. Racks occupied at least half of the basement’s square footage. In another corner, I noticed a Corima frame wrapped tightly in plastic bubbles. To the left – a Fuji frame dangling from a rack. Behind it, a Trek road frame. A Schwinn frame. A Nuke Proof mountain bike. A Litespeed. A Javelin cyclocross bike. Two Surly’s. One Trek road bike. One Cannondale. Three Cervelos. Four Trek mountain bikes. And right over there in the last remaining corner was the partridge in a pear tree.
I went back upstairs.
“There’s too many bikes,” I said to Chris, defeated and knowing that I was as much of the problem as anyone else, owning at least 5 of the bikes in the house and countless other cycling parts and pieces. Add to it the fact that we currently had 3 more bikes on order and things began to look quite bleak as far as space was concerned.
“I know, I’ve got to get rid of some of this stuff,” he said pointing to the assorted bike parts that belong to assorted other people.
But I knew better. Inside, I knew that tomorrow he’d take in some other non-functional bike part to restore it to fully functioning and operational status. I knew we’d keep finding wheels perched against the door, bikes in the garage, and frames in a box. I knew I had no choice but to quietly accept this and more in life with a man that owns 5 toolboxes (not counting the 2 in the garage) and is known to sleep with his bike maintenance tools.
And so I resigned to the fact that my mountain bike would not be hanging on a rack in my garage any time soon. Or not as long as Chris’ wheels, Bob’s frame, Bert’s mountain bike, and Kevin’s rim were hanging there. And so I left it propped up against one of the few remaining open garage walls.
If we must be an orphanage for adoptable accesories, components, and repaired parts, then so be it. That's just the way the wheel turns with my husband. And that's ok.
But if I come home and find any of it in my kitchen again or find bike part spillover in the pantry, at that point we might just have a problem on our hands.