As I gained confidence, I took to snooping through lockups to see if there were any interesting bikes, and there usually were. My thanks to Amy Clanfield for her authenticity, her direct approach, and for sharing a really entertaining collection of stories.
As I rode through the University of Toronto grounds, one bike stood out: there was plastic ivy woven around the frame, interspersed with bright flowers. This was a Garden Bike.
Amy Clanfield—a fourth year Religion Specialist, focussing on early Christianity—suggested we meet out front of the Robarts Library. She comes across as a very unconventional personality, and as colourful as her bike. Her hair makes a spectacular statement, with its appealing mass of pink and off-white and black dreadlocks. Next year, she is considering studying religion and violence, the link between political personalities and religious movements. She is also interested in sexual ethics.
“Christianity has shaped the world in ways nothing else has,” she explains. It seems there are many layers to this woman.
While I noticed the ivy strung around the bike, I did not notice how dysfunctional it is. Amy begins by telling me that her bike is essentially a single gear because the gearing system is no longer operational. It has a lefthand lean, and one brake doesn’t work. Yesterday, the top suddenly popped off her bell. After years of service carting books and beer, the folding basket developed a gradual flop, so it’s since been removed. And Amy has recently acquired a green milk crate, and is about to “McGyver it on.”
“My bike is so ghetto,” she laughs, “but it gets me from place to place.” She describes herself as “bike spoiled”, yet this is a bike that anyone else would have thrown out. Amy adores it and it continues to give her excellent service, within its means. Two friends on a journey through life.
The bike decorations improve her mood on mausy days. She once pulled up beside a tough character riding a big hog and he unexpectedly commented, “Sweet ride!” And because floral items frequently go missing or are vandalized, the inside joke is that her bike gets continuously de-flowered.
Someone once stopped her and called it the Weed Bike, grinning idiotically. Amy looks me in the eye and drolly comments that her reply was, “Clearly you’ve never smoked pot.”
Amy takes her bike everywhere, exploring random, out of the way places she’d never discover otherwise. For instance, the Italian consulate offers summer outdoor opera starting at 9 p.m. On a bike, you can make a statement, like riding behind the cortege for Jack Layton. Amy and her girlfriend are the bike contigent of The Amazons, her parents’ lesbian motorcycle group at Pride. Amy is a clear-headed observer, and is particularly opinionated in moments of social responsibility.
“I have no patience for Canadians who don’t do anything,” she declares, referring particularly to people who don’t even vote. It’s refreshing to hear a twenty-three-year-old express such intelligent views.
“Do you have a favourite time to ride?” I ask, wondering what I might uncover.
“Having that cigarette when you’re hammered is awesome,” she grins, describing her favourite moments as the Drunk Bike Rides.
Last summer, she was out with friends. She hadn’t brought her bike, so she asked a friend if she could borrow his to get home. In his inebriated state, he neglected to mention that the left brake doesn’t work and the seat is unrideable (my choice of words; Amy’s was more direct). Riding home along Bathurst Street, she collided with another cyclist. Collecting herself, she carried on through Little Italy feeling an adrenoline rush from the accident, which state resulted in a near-dooring.
Later in the day, hung over and bruised, she returned the bike to its owner, insisting that she didn’t know how he rode the thing. The seat was so awful that she nicknamed the bike the Sex Offender.
“Your bike violated me!” she accused, teasing.
If there were ever a moment I’d want to indulge in a Drunk Bike Ride, it would be here and now with this remarkable woman and her Garden Bike. They are raw, honest and true to themselves. There is functionality and form. They are both sexy. And if we should meet on the street, I would consider them both stalwart friends.