I do not know much about Buddhism, but so far I have heard that Buddhists believe in reincarnation. Rebirth of one been into something new in an infinite fashion. The karma refers to the “been´s bill of actions”, whether they are good or bad which then have an influence the been´s “future lifes”
(For more detailed information check Wikipedia, Buddhist terms and concepts)
I will dare to use this Buddhist philosophy to pose my bike story analogy.
Bicycle riding in The Netherlands is a very common thing. Almost everybody does it in a daily basis. In general most students do not own luxurious bikes. Most students tend to ride (at least) one ´crapy´ bike, this under the assumption that a crapy bike is less likely to be stolen. Therefore the life of a bike most of the times account for several owners, bikes ownership passes from hand to hand in a very dynamic way.
In this particular case I will refer to a bike that I got from a good friend of mine called Ellí. Ellí is a cool Greek physicist, we arrived to The Netherlands almost at the same time to study the same masters program: Sustainable Energy Technology. During our first year in The Netherlands we were living in the same building. Eventually I saw Ellí many times struggling with her bike. Sometimes she was fixing a tire, some other times I do not know what else it was, but it was very clear that she spent quite some hours ´building up´ a relationship with her bike. I assume she has bought the bike from someone else for a good price as everybody does.
Elli´s bike belongs to a category of bikes called “The Grandmother´s bike” which in dutch is “De Oma fiets”. This type of bike is a classic and simple design which was used in the Netherlands since long time ago. There are good stories of this type of bike during the second world war, in fact they appear in most old movies that refer to those times.
The “Oma fiets” (Grandmother´s bike) has a very simple mechanism most of the times you find them with a fixed speed and the break system is the pedal itself. The bike breaking mechanism is somehow activated by putting some pressure while pedalling backwards; this makes the gear-chain mechanism to get locked and according to the tension applied the bike either diminishes its speed or stops. The “Oma” bike allows you to ride it in a comfortable straight position and it is a nice simple bike. It is a very popular bike. There are also “Opa fiets” (Grandfather´s bikes), the main difference between these two is the frame, but that is another story.
Maybe due to its characteristics “Oma & Opa” bikes just go on and on and on…
That was the case of Ellí´s bike I think. This bike seemed to had gotten parts from other bikes along the years. Some parts did appear to be the original ones and some others did not. Ellí´s bike was painted black, but the paint was falling apart and it showed underneath a layer of orange paint. Even when it was not particularly a pretty bike, it was very easy to ride and charming in a way. Ellí always looked very happy on her bike. Ellí is a very styli-shed girl and the “Oma” bike matched her very well somehow, you know: cool girl + cool bike (combo), kind of thing.
When Ellí graduated and left The Netherlands she left her bike in charge of another friend of us Sybren alias “Syb” or “Cheap”. Around that time I was in an urgent need of an extra bike, since mine was a nightmare to ride. So, I asked Ellí & “Syb/Cheap” if I could have it, and I got it since then. I discovered that it was indeed really nice to ride it, it was very “light” or maybe I should say much lighter compared with the one I had before. It was a comfortable bike, thus we became good friends since the beginning.
I built my own relationship with Ellí´s bike since I also spent quite some hours changing tires and getting to know the bike´s screws and nuts. Those long bike fixing hours, when I was mostly talking bad words to the bike and most of the time due to the weather conditions I was also freezing outside of the house. My bike fixing training consisted mainly of watching a couple of youtube videos that more or less gave an idea of what needed to be done, and then trying it out myself. I have stablished world records of time required to repair a tire. Most six year old kids in this country take an average of fifteen minutes repairing a flat tire, meanwhile for me it took something like five hours the first time. However I survived!
Thus, Ellí´s bike and me kicked-off our good times together.
After about three years of riding Ellí´s (my) bike, I noticed that it became quite hard to ride and also that it was extremely noisy. However the noise for me was something normal since all the bikes I had before were extremely noisy, so my own concept of a bike before was something that would communicate the movement of its parts to all the people around it, (a sort of greeting). Now I know, I was wrong! There are some silent bikes!
Finally after all these years I developed the ability to distinguish between bike types & styles. I am not yet an expert, -not at all- but at least now I am able to identify: fixies, racing bikes, mountain bikes, city bikes, among other types of bikes, therefore I can also see some of the differences between them. Maybe because of this I became more naive and at some point I decided that I wanted to have a “decent” bike. I might even deserve it! (I thought to myself) Thus, I started looking around in those big fancy bike stores. I really had no idea of what type of bike I would like to have for myself, there are so many nice & expensive options! After doing also some internet research, my final conclusion was: If I ever have a fancy bike which suits my lifestyle, I will anyway need my crapy shitty city bike. So, I would make myself a favour if before I would get a new bike I would fix the one I have.
After this agreement with myself I started my journey.
My target was to fix Ellí´s bike. I must say that just before I started my bike fixing project I really felt scared, since I knew that once I would had started, then I would step into the point of no return. It was challenging and it promised not to be an easy task.
First, I disassembled most of the bike parts. This was a bit of a critical situation since most of the pieces I took out were broken, else they broke along the fixing process.
I grinded the frame in order to remove the old paint and repaint the bike.
Tape it all!
I painted the bike on white as base colour.
I loved the white bike!
The bike did not get dry. I blame the bad quality of the (old) paint because it just never dried!!
GRRRRR!!! -The monster inside me wakes up very angry!!!
Then I had a discussion with my self and it was extended to my best friends about the bike color infinite possibilities.
Green here and there..
Wait for it to get dry!
For God´s sake PLEASE get DRY!!!
I fixed some holes using pieces of an aluminium metal from a can.
Was then when the whole rebirth idea came to my mind.
I decided that this time my bike would experience a Mantis religiouse life. Just because of the green and the round lines that it has. In a way it resembles a religious mantis body: two thin green feet and hands folded to the front with an arched back (insects core-dorsal spine).
I did some research about it, from where I have found some similarities between my bike´s characteristics and the religious mantis. My broad imagination also helped.
So, I had fully decided about the colours, I had bought a lot of new parts, I was almost ready to start the assembly procedure… BUT, after days and days the paint was not yet dry!
However I started doing the assembly and screwing up the paint in many cases.
The whole procedure brought also some feelings of frustration since I had spent a lot of time and energy on this proyect and things were not going as I wanted them to go.
One night very late I decided to “finish it”. Around 1 a.m., while I was doing the assembly of the rear wheel I ended up breaking the bearing. At that moment I did not realise the magnitude of the situation, but then I learned that if that ever happens then you need to replace the bearing box and in order to do that you need to disassembly the whole wheel and that includes the spokes. Replacing the spokes and tuning the wheel in the right tension required some extra days of work and a lot of youtube videos of research.
There is a say in spanish (often said in México) that goes more or less like this: “There is no bad thing that lasts a hundred years nor human body that can cope with it (resist it)” I think it was my case. At some point I was feed up with the project, the further I had gotten, the worse I felt because things were not going as I expected them to go.
I got this sort of “suffer” because I had an old broken bike and I wanted to turn it into a new one, and that was just never going to happen even when I would try really hard. Thus, I needed to accept that I had an old broken bike that was reapaired and that within its limits it would become better but never perfect.
That is why I recall the karma: Good or bad? …. for me… and/or for the bike? ….who knows!
Eventually I finished it. And I was happy with the result.
That is why I share it here with all of you.
I have the feeling that there will be other chapters-lifes of this bike… who knows!
So far we have had nice sunny rides together to the beach and also we are able to carry around a surf gear! Ha!
Life is good! Isn´t it?
We will keep having fun