I got one interview this week and forgive me for saying so, but it was a dilly. I interviewed my bike mechanic.
I’ve been with the same bike shop since it’s inception, nearly four years ago. Much of that time, I’ve dealt with the owner and his mechanic, both of whom service my bike admirably. The spring was typically busy, given that my mechanic works at what he described as “the busiest bike shop in the Annex”. I believe him. The shop is always a hive of activity. Since the shop opened they have expanded, not once but two times. The tune-up/repair area has grown to twice its size, and they’ve had to hire a second mechanic. And the shop now carries a wide variety of bike styles, far exceeding everyone’s expectations from their humble beginnings. I was really pleased to get this interview so early in their season.
As with all my interviewees, all I wanted was some bike stories. You will have to read the book to hear his stories, but I will tell you that over the course of the interview he made some intuitive comments about cyclists in general. I haven’t posted anything analytical in awhile, but I thought you might enjoy reading these thoughts.
To start, he commented that getting a bike stolen is so awful because it’s part of your identity, your personality. The way the handlebars are curved, what sort of seat you prefer and how high, even the PSI setting you keep your tires at, all these things say something about you. This ideology made me feel slightly exposed, but I realized I was being silly so I pressed for details. He told me a bike is often a direct reflection of the person who rides it. Some people even look like their bike. When my face went wry, he laughed. “You ride a white bike. I’ve noticed that you wear predominantly white clothing.” He then pointed gently at my white tee shirt. I actually blushed.
Then, he commented that a bike reflects the rider’s style. He claims there are two kinds of cyclists: the functional riders and those who really love riding. This second kind of cyclist tends to make changes to their bike that reflect their personality. For example, consider the different handlebar and seat styles. The demure rider will want a flat bar and a comfortable seat; the aggressive rider will want drop bars and a narrow seat; the nervous rider will have an upright bar and a big seat. Casual dressers tend to ride plain bikes, while men who ride to work in suits tend to want a more fancy saddle. Women who wear skirts on their bikes are more likely to add streamers or flowers, or even beads on their spokes. In essence, they’re dressing up their bike.
I thought all this through after I wrote up the chapter, and began to watch cyclists and their bikes this weekend. It’s true! Just like our choice of dogs reflects something of our personality, so do the customizations (or lack thereof) on our bikes reflect something of our character.
My mechanic enables me to ride my bike safely and joyfully, here in Toronto. If there’s one person you should thank for their contribution to this book, it’s this man.
There will be those of you who have had bad experiences with a mechanic—perhaps even with my mechanic—because of the nature of the relationship. This town is full of great bike mechanics. We must all find the mechanic that feels right to us. I feel privileged to have met a mechanic I value more highly than my car mechanic or even my family doctor. I guess it comes down to what my bike has come to mean to me. I don’t say you have use his services or that you even have to like him, just that I do.
I have not included my mechanic’s name here nor the name of my bike shop because this blog post is not meant as an endorsement of either. It’s only meant as an indication of how passionately I think people in Toronto should and often do feel about their bikes, and therefore about who services them. I’ve interviewed a few mechanics and ex-mechanics over the course of this year, sometimes intentionally and sometimes by accident. They were all cool people with cool stories. Some mechanics are awful, but I haven’t met any of those in my interviews. And lots of people I’ve interviewed do their own tune-ups and repairs, because they don’t trust anyone else around their bike. I get that. It’s just that I’m a little smitten with my mechanic. But then, every chapter in this book is a love story, whether I mean it to be or not.
One other thing. I always insist my interviewees choose the location for the interview, because it says so much about them. My mechanic chose to meet me at Grapefruit Moon, on Bathurst Street. Now, I like this restaurant because the name is a nod to my favourite singer/songwriter, Tom Waits. The menu, the patio, and the staff are all excellent, in my experience. Better yet, there are bikes in the decor.
The best part though was the floorboards in the bathroom. It’s an older building, with the traditionally thick wooden floorboards. These floorboards have been cut and shaped to reflect the Toronto skyline. I love this town. I don’t say you have to, but I do.