This is my third season as a mechanic at a local bike shop and at this point I don’t ask as many questions as I used to. Do I pound out the headset cups out of the frame with a hammer and a screwdriver? No, there’s a tool for that. Do I feed the derailleur cable through the little hole on the Grip Shift and it will just guide itself through? I wish, you have to take the whole damn thing apart. However, I do think some questions will remain forever unanswered. Whose hair is this? When I take in a hub adjustment or a wheel true I often notice hair wrapped around the cone and axel. I hear about people riding through glass all the time, but I’ve never heard… “I was just riding, not really paying attention and right before I could turn out of the way I rode through a giant pile of hair”. It’s rarely one long strand wrapped around several times although I do see that from time to time. It’s usually many. Let’s say clumps. Sometimes, depending on the severity of the pile, it’s on both sides of the axle and it’s this little scenario that gets me to thinking. Okay, the guy who brought the bike in is a brunette with a crew cut, but the hair on the hub is red. Since the hair in questions doesn’t match the hair on his head I can rule out the possibility of it being the bike’s owners. Is this evidence of foul play? I can see it now….
Duane (that’s what we’ll call the brunette) is a misunderstood fellow who gets the short end of the stick on the daily. His neighbors would describe him as “quiet and keeps to himself”. He was always picked last for teams. He went to the prom with his cousin Tina. One rainy day, while doing some CAT 2 commuting to his job at the post office, a Land Rover turns in front of him almost bringing our protagonist to his untimely demise. Duane’s life flashed before his eyes. Memories of his home-made clothes and haircuts, the countless hours of hammering nails into a big block of wood, and spending time with his only friend, Socky the sock puppet, were suddenly so vivid and tangible. He pulls over to the shoulder to gather himself and years of repressed rage slowly creep to the surface like an air bubble in a tar pit. He remounts his bike, but this time the demons from his past are in charge. I believe it’s common knowledge that demons have an unquenchable thirst for speed, but I think it’s worth mentioning. Unsatisfied with the pace, Duane shifts into the big ring and yet he’s spinning like he’s in the granny gear. He enters the bridge and begins to cross the river at a blinding speed.
Up ahead Alice (that’s what we’re calling the red head) is on her way to the Children’s hospital to deliver a very large, poorly packed box of toys. Even though she’s struggling with the box’s girth she has a smile on her face. She loves the rain. She loves charity. She loves patchouli. What I’m trying to say is she’s a happy lady – very happy. She’s the kind of person who walks around with a smile on her face all day and when you see her you ask yourself “what the hell is she smiling about?” Charity and smelling earthy, that’s what. Alice pauses a moment and kneels down to pick up some litter off of the path. Her long, red hair cascades on to the pavement. It’s at this very moment where Duane, driven by his rage and sense of entitlement, runs over Alice’s hair. She was in the process of coming to her feet, but her hair was quickly becoming wrapped around Duane’s axel. She is pushed off balance, the hair rips from her head causing her to stumble over the railing and she plummets to her death into the Willamette, floating down river where I’m sure a group of young boys named Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern will find the body, but not before they out run a train and take a short cut through a swamp resulting in leeches in their underpants (Stand By Me). Poor Alice. She just wanted to make a difference.
Reality sets in and Duane begins to panic. He wouldn’t survive one day in the clink. He’s got to get rid of any trace of evidence that would link him to this tragic and preventable crime. That’s when he brings the bike to me I put the bike in the stand to give it a good once over. First, I check the drive train wear and like many CAT 2 commuters he has ran his into the ground. I tell him that he can get a few chains out of a cassette if he doesn’t ride on a stretched chain past a certain point. I make my way to the front of the bike and turn the wheel. He tells me he slipped on the wet tracks and as a result his wheel doesn’t spin and is out of true. I see the clumps of red hair, but believe his slippery light rail track story because why would he lie? Again with the question? Murder, that’s why. As I repair the wheel and essentially do my job, I am at the same time destroying forensic evidence. Are CSIs Grissom and Sarah going to start hounding me at the shop? Will Alice haunt me at night? Am I going to prison? Probably, and honestly I don’t care. I don’t turn wrenches for the glamour and fame or the heart pumping thrill ride of an unsolved crime. Nor do I do it for the piles and piles of cash. No, I do it for the bike. It didn’t run over Alice’s hair, Duane did. I take a risk every time I put on my apron and go to work, but I do it for the bike.