Last night, in a dark alley in Old Town, I encountered a bike freak. I had just stepped out of one of our fine local business establishments (cough72North) and was approaching my bicycle, Mindful Mule, who was hitched to a post in the alley. This guy rolls up on a mountain bike all crazy-eyed and wild-haired just itching to let out his day’s story. “Are you a biker?” he asks. Before I can think to answer he quickly sizes me up: already double pegged pants, a bike lock now in my hand, standing next to a fairly trick jalopy of a bike. “Dude, you’re a biker! Man! we just came down off Brown Mountain and El Prieto! It was fucking insane up there today!” He stoked.
“Uh, yeah, seriously, must’ve been pretty wet and dark up there,” I stammered. It had been raining all day. A lot. “How was it?” He’d already told me it was insane but I didn’t know what else to say and/or if I should run away from this guy – or if he was insane – he was pretty lit up in a number of ways – albeit, par for the course in that alley.
“Dude, we were tearing it up, up there. It was epic slashing around those curves and crashing through the creek. I totally ate shit, man. My handlebars were like bent sideways, man. I couldn’t even get them back straightened out. These things are tight! It’s hard enough riding El Pri normally but I had to ride the whole thing with my handlebars sideways…” I guess his story did go on.
“Yeah, turning right the whole way down,” I added. Nobody ever gets my jokes.
“Dude, but this bike is super awesome, man,” he continued. “Feel how light it is!” He lifted the bike up to me. I had one hand holding up Mindful Mule who was getting a little skittish at the commotion and trying to roll away. I reached over and held his bike up with my one free hand. It was pretty light.
“That’s pretty light,” I said.
“It’s Specialized!” he beamed, reading the brand of the bike off the downtube.
At that point another guy on a bike, an old girls-bike cruiser, rolled by and they seemed to know each other (as everyone in that alley seems to know each other.)
I started clicking on my lights and sneaking away, but before I could, Crazy Bike Freak noticed my helmet dangling from my handlebars and reminded me, “Don’t forget to put on your helmet.”
“Thanks, man,” I was catching his lingo (or do I always talk like that?) “Always gotta wear it…” He sped off before I could get going. Destination unknown. I don’t think he was wearing a helmet.
Kind of a weird and wacky interaction but I think he was pretty genuinely stoked and glad to be able to share his experience with some fellow bicycle-soul. I know where he’s coming from. It’s like a total reentry effect when you come into town after being up on the mountain. You feel like a ghost without anywhere to set aground. In his case, he may have actually been a ghost.
I rode home and, maybe having absorbed some of his stoke, really, really enjoyed the cold, dry, night air.