From The Publisher

June 26, 2017
BY: CARRIE DUNCAN

Bicycles!

We had an article on Cabo bicycling opportunities in the last issue and one in this issue also. We broke them into two separate issues so you don’t get drunk on too much goodness heaped on you all at once.

Maybe I should have started this out by explaining how much I love bikes. All kinds. All bikes are nice bikes. Anything with two wheels, that you lean to turn, instead of cranking a steering wheel. That’s what makes them fun, is the leaning in. That, and the windy feeling you can create just by cranking up the speed. An alert biker will note how windy it all feels, while you are zooming by everything around you that’s standing as still as dead stone statues.

Some bikes have motors, some do not, but all are worthy of love.

My first bike was built by my big brother from parts he salvaged from I don’t know where, and I was smart enough not to ask. Best to be able to tell Mom I didn’t know. This beauty was calico; like Joseph’s coat, it was of many colors. It looked like a three speed but was actually a one speed. Looking back, I doubt if my brother even knew how to make a bike shift, but he knew how to bolt a shifter onto the handlebar, making me and my new bike look oh so grand, like I was gliding around on a very expensive, very significant bicycle. Which would have looked odd in our neighborhood.

Many years later I was working in the Hoover Vacuum Cleaner factory, putting the rear wheels on rear axles, when my boss announced he was selling a motorcycle and did I know anyone who needed one. He had me at motorcycle. And of course, I needed one.

Although I had never thought about owning a motorcycle, and I didn’t know anyone who had ever owned one, and I sure didn’t know how to ride one, I bought that sucker sight unseen. I was finally making a little money. Well, a little is right, as I was taking home $175 a week, but I thought I was rich. I paid $500 for a two year old 305 Honda Dream Touring. (Back in those days you met the nicest people on a Honda, as the jingle went.)

He delivered it to the small apartment I shared with three other girls, (does that suggest how much discretionary income I had while I was out buying motorcycles?) He thoughtfully wrote directions on how to manage the machine on a sheet of paper because I was not home. He had to draw pictures of where the key should go and, oh yes, where the brakes were. I taped the instructions onto the gas tank, swung a leg over, and I was off.

I can’t say that on that first day I had a leaning-into/wind-in-the-hair kind of experience. let’s just say I learned to wear jeans while astride the beast. I still have the scar from the hot pipes searing my skin as I lay under the bike that weighed more than me. I did finally manage to wiggle out from under it, retrieving my leg, but I was never able to lift it by myself.

Over the years I’ve had more motorcycles than I can count, maybe a couple dozen. Then, two years ago, I decided I was done. Simply done. Even I don’t know why. I just knew I was done. I drove the last four motorcycles that were lingering in my garage to a consignment shop and with each sale, another chunk my motorcycle obsession left my life. As each check from the consignment shop landed in my mailbox, I didn’t even look back, which surprised me the most.

But in the archives of Carrie’s greatest motorcycle hits, (there are many), here’s a good one: I found a small motor screwed down to a bread board, currently being used to drive a knife sharpening operation. I recognized it as an old motor originally sold to power a kid’s pedal bike. There were several makes, the most famous being the Whizzer brand. Back in the 40s and 50s it would arrive by mail order, in a box, and would be fairly easy to mount on a bike. They were gasoline, and most of them were friction wheel driven, that is, a small wheel would be in contact with either the front or back wheel of the bike, driving it forward.

When the two wheels were put in contact with each other, the bike would become a real motorcycle! How cool is that? Well, I bought the motor complete with bread board, and brought it home. It was easy to install on one of my many bicycles, but far less easy to drive. And much less easy to stop the thing.

To start the motor, I only had to reach behind with my right hand and give a pull on the rope, as it had an armstrong starter, just like a lawnmower. Then I would have to quickly switch hands on the handle bars and, with my right hand steering now, reach behind with my left hand and flip the small wheel onto the bike wheel.

The problem was it only had one speed, which was not so terribly fast, but it was way too fast for the frame of a light bicycle. That entire contraption would shake rattle and roll down the street at a terrifying speed and clatter. The motor was so strong that it easily overpowered the brakes, and the damn thing would just keep going, hands squeezing away on the brakes be damned.

 At this point it would be prudent to either cut the engine or take the little wheel away from the big wheel, but who had an extra hand for that? Nobody who’s sitting on top of El Diablo, as I came to call this marriage of bike and motor that was made in hell.

Now that I’m over my obsession with motorcycles, bicycles have captured my attention again, and I’ve made peace with having no motor resting between two tires. It’s not 60 mph fun, but it has its own charm. Can it be said that I’ve lost my nerve? I wouldn’t admit that if it were true, and anyway I broke my arm falling off a bicycle and I never broke a bone falling off a motorcycle. Therefore, I leave you with this advice: go ahead and buy that child a motorcycle, he’ll be safer on it than on a bicycle. Trust me. I just showed you my empirical proof. Do throw some jeans on him, though, and some sturdy shoes. Would you like to see my toes that go in opposite directions?