This was the very first story I officially collected. A couple of my friends are people I consider hard-core cyclists so I started with them, doing test interviews. Given I was so new to the process and didn’t even have a set of questions to ask, I wanted to begin somewhere safe. As it turned out, all I really needed to say was, “Tell me about your bike,” and we were off to the races.
I’m indebted to Amanda Gomm (and her boyfriend Mark) for this endearing tale of romance and adventure.
The history on the bike is mysterious, but definitely of Canadian origin. There are two plates on the bike’s proud frame: “Standard Cycling Products of Canada” and “Toronto, Canada.” Preliminary research suggests it is the earliest version of the company CCM. The bike was probably built in the ’50s.
“This bike was made in the same city I was!” Amanda Gomm tells me proudly.
In May 2010, she and her boyfriend Mark Calzavara travelled to Tobermory for a holiday, where they stumbled on an online advert for a rusty, bent piece of metal that had been stored in a barn for thirty years. In person, the tires were flat and mildewed, the seat was ruined, and any paint not covered in rust was cracked. Despite being extremely rusty, it was functional and therefore an environmentalist’s dream. For the princely sum of $25, the bike was theirs.
“It made my heart sing,” Amanda tells me, sighing. Her resolve to learn everything she could about bike mechanics is as tangible as the two feet of snow blanketing the street on this February night.
Amanda and Mark are environmental activists in the truest sense of the word. Professionally, Mark works for the Council of Canadians, as the Regional Organizer of Ontario, Quebec and Nunavut; Amanda works for my favourite not-for-profit organization, LEAF. LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests) is dedicated to the protection and improvement of the urban forest. And in the case of Mark and Amanda, the words protection and improvement best describe both their mission and their legacy. In the mysterious bike, they unearthed something durable and lovingly transformed it back to its original quality.
“I wanted this particular relic because I was intoxicated with the idea of taking a bike apart and rebuilding it,” Amanda explains. “This bike was in such poor shape, I couldn’t possibly do any damage.”
Once home with her new project, she was conflicted. The bike was completely functional and didn’t require any mechanical work: it just needed a staggering amount of cosmetic repair. Amanda replaced the old tires and wheeled it outside for its first ride in a quarter century.
The bike moaned and groaned, but it delivered a solid and companionable ride.
Amanda began removing the rust and repainting the frame whenever she had any free time. Because her schedule involves a lot of human interaction, time with the bike became therapeutic.
It was important to her that she keep true to the bike’s original design. Knowing she’d never find paint to match the shade of blue on the frame, she blended her own paints, and applied it entirely by hand.
“How did you manage that?” I ask, being intimidated by such projects myself.
“I happen to have a very handy Art degree,” her eyes gleam mischievously. She assures me she got the shade very near to what Standard Cycling Products of Canada released originally, and knowing her determined spirit as I do, I’m confident this bike would convince experts in the field.
Mark bought her a dark brown leather seat to replace the ruined one. Amanda found a bike grips kit, and since this style of grips doesn’t cover the end of the handles, Amanda is making wooden plugs from—you guessed it—salvaged wood.
Typical of avid cyclists, Amanda owns a second bike, a 1983 Miyata road bike. The road bike is used for more vigorous activities like her daily commute and doing errands, and in her mind it is associated with power. The rebuilt bike is used for more romantic moments, like when Amanda is wearing a skirt.
“It’s my date bike!” she says.
As Amanda and I head into the cold night, I think how fitting it is that a bike that has been given a second chance at life, and to which she has affectionately given so much of her time, is now devoted to building an enduring love with her sweetheart, Mark.