Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Two Bike Wrecks

Wreck One:

I had mountain bike, which I rode to work every day. I was charging up the left side of Church Street (which becomes Sixth Avenue), with a cab to my left and a sputtering green delivery truck to my right. The sensation was that of hurtling through a deafening, mobile, metal hallway. The green delivery truck made a sudden left, cut the cab off, and the hallway closed in on me. My handlebars hit the cab's right rear-view mirror, leaving it shattered and swinging lamely from a bundle of wires. The cab skidded to a halt with one long blast of the horn.

I executed a successful rear dismount, leveling the pedals and thrusting the bike forward into the converging maw. I hit the pavement and skidded on my ass and elbow, watching the front fork of my bike split in two and the frame crumble under the wheels of the green delivery truck. The truck, never slowing, turned and disappeared. There was a fusillade of screeching and honking behind me—I was lying in the street. 

I picked myself up and hoisted what was left of the bike over my shoulder. The cabbie was standing beside his cab now, hands open at waist-level, palms up, yelling at me. "My fucking mirror is broken! Who gonna pay for this fucking mirror?" I looked at my shining elbow, skin-free and red with blood from wrist to hinge. I looked at the cabbie. I pitched my mangled bike into the air and it landed on the trunk of his cab, resting for a moment before slithering to the street, a limp pile of inert parts held together by cables and wires. The cabbie jumped in and peeled off. I picked up my bike again.

I walked, helmeted, bike in pieces on shoulder, the remaining 40 blocks to work. It was humid and the outdoor plants on 27th street smelled amazing. I laughed when I realized I'd carried a totaled bicycle two miles, and left it there on 33rd street, where it immediately seeped into the city.

Wreck Two:

With nothing to ride, I borrowed a single-speed fixed-wheel bike from a friend. I was at first disgusted to have the bike-of-the-moment, but soon grew accustomed to the fluidity and speed.

I had a painful accident—I thought I had gotten used to the fact that you mustn't ever stop pedaling on these things. I was Manhattan-bound in industrial Brooklyn, and was challenged to race by a food delivery guy. I outpaced him with little effort, then sprinted on to drive the point home. High in the saddle, I saw a patch of rough road ahead, leveled my feet and stood in preparation for a quick jump. You can't do that on a fixed-wheel bicycle. My body was ejected, flew ten feet through the air and came down hard on the pavement. I landed on both elbows and both knees and held that position for a few seconds—a contorted child's pose—then rose to my feet. I saw the broad smile of the delivery guy drawing near. My elbows and knees were decorated with small black rocks and held the reverse topographical impression of the road. They were shocked white and had not yet begun to bleed. I got back on the bike, which was undamaged, and rode ahead so as not to be bested by my opponent. I arrived at work and shocked the receptionist once with my blood-soaked socks, and once again with my mangled elbows.

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