33 tagged with #pedaling

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songs


i tune my bicycle the way i've tuned pianos, violins, guitars. there's a physicality, a rhythm, a sonorance that i need to understand. this front wheel is old enough to vote; dented rims compromise my braking ability, and the spokes freeze in place even as i rotate the nipples. i pluck each spoke and listen to the sound it makes, knowing by feel what is too tight or too loose. they snap with a startling pop when the most recent set of adjustments settle in.

wheels can be assessed for trueness in three reasonable ways: lateral centering of the rim (if you roll the wheel, does the rim seem to drift from left to right?), radial consistency (is the distance between each point on the rim and the center of the hub the same?), and dishing (is the rim centered on the axle?). guides that describe how to check trueness refer to spinning the wheel in place and checking for uneven scraping; over time, i've learned that this is an auditory cue, rather than a visual one.

i spent weekends one summer riding over to the shop, locking up my bike, and going straight to the stack of trashed wheels in the corner that no one would touch. the truing stands were unfortunately located in the middle of the workshop, so i had to learn to tune out the chatter of other mechanics and visitors if i wanted to have a productive wheel truing session at all. sometimes, i wore headphones to tune them out, keeping a finger against the calipers so i could feel the vibration that the scrape would make. i worked with my eyes closed; the spoke wrench fit into my palm so well that it felt like turning the nipples with my bare fingers. the wheel hummed as it spun, and i hummed back. each click of the calipers rang out through the hollow rims, a steady rhythm that cued to me exactly which spokes needed adjustment.

but when i learned to tune my piano, it was by taste, not sound. upper notes had three strings per key, middle notes had two; when the strings were not aligned perfectly with each other, my mouth felt uncomfortable, like tasting a rotten pistachio i didn't expect. i'd bring each string up, down, far past the correct point to taste the worst it can get, then ease it slowly into harmony with my tongue pressed against the roof of my mouth, tasting a cool, creamy smoothness when the notes were corrected.

my mother cooked fish once while i was trying to tune my piano, and the briny smells distracted me so much that i needed a piece of chocolate in my mouth to counteract the fish, and then hoped to taste the strings by leaning my cheek against the wood and feeling the vibrations through my cheekbones, wiggling the roof of my mouth, settling in my sinuses.

this is touch, maybe. this is sound and smell and taste. sometimes, i wonder, if i ever use my eyes for anything at all.

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15 April 2018 22:47


blooms


umbrellas sprout in the rain; they swing across the sidewalk, blindly, and i careen through them on my bicycle. i know if i tuck down over my handlebars, i can slip under the taller ones. it's a game, and i laugh.

one student walks towards me with an umbrella patterned like a daisy, wearing orange rubber boots that cover her shins. she swings out of my way while i swerve.

the grass swells, puddles glistening. my phone blows up with half a dozen flash flood warnings. it's still cold out. it's april.

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03 April 2018 21:11


broom


i needed to bring a broom from my house to the studio; it laid laterally across the top tube, the bristles comfortably nestled between my panniers on the rear rack. a bungee cord wrapped thrice around it kept it in place, but i kept knocking into it with my knees.

i had to straddle it, like i was riding a broomstick, like a witch. pedestrians stared.

this was not the strangest thing i've carried by bicycle.

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13 March 2018 22:20


broom


i needed to bring a broom from my house to the studio; it laid laterally across the top tube, the bristles comfortably nestled between my panniers on the rear rack. a bungee cord wrapped thrice around it kept it in place, but i kept knocking into it with my knees.

i had to straddle it, like i was riding a broomstick, like a witch. pedestrians stared.

this was not the strangest thing i've carried by bicycle.

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12 March 2018 18:51


tradeoffs


one of the days i was at clingman's dome, listening, i overheard a couple of people discussing the signage that explained the perpetual haze as a result of air pollution from vehicle traffic. 'what do they expect is gonna happen?' one of them asked in frustration. 'we all drove our cars to get here. it's not like we can just not get back in them to go home.'

rarely do i find it worthwhile to confront people in this situation anymore, but my rehearsed responses stick to me. 'of course you have to drive home,' i'd say with understanding, while sitting on my motorcycle that i also clearly used to contribute to the toxic haze. 'drive home, but think about this when you get there. think about if you can carpool to work, or if you can walk to the store in your community, or if you can change your habits of idling in the parking lot while waiting for someone to run in for a gallon of milk.'

i think about my own suburban adolescence, where the middle school, half a mile from my house, banned me from walking because there was no crosswalk cutting through the busy throughway. 'vote in local officials who will prioritize safe walking infrastructure for your children,' i'd ask them. 'be a good example to your neighbors by driving safely.'

i can advocate for a lot of these things because i have the luxury of living within a few miles of where i work and play, i have the luxury of a body that can take me places without needing a device that burns oil or gas or coal, i have the luxury of possessing the willingness to engage with streets that are not quite optimized for my mode of travel. i also have access to a car, and a motorcycle, and the frequent offers of rides to faraway places or during inclement weather, but i cannot participate in using those without feeling a heavy guilt. leave that seat in the car for someone who cannot ride their bicycle to the store; let that cup of gasoline be burned for an urgent need, not my instantaneous comfort.

i don't know if anyone will listen to me, though, so i keep my mouth shut when i hear them complain about dirty hippies pressuring them to give up their cars. i don't want anyone to give up something that gives them freedom and happiness; i also don't want anyone making a regular decision that commits us to a path that seems to steadily narrow towards a destination choked with poison and riddled with dangerous travel.

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07 March 2018 23:21


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