Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tales of the Enviro-billy, hot rods and bicycles.

Yeah , hot rods are cool. The trad rods in Vegas were making me drool and made me think how cool it would be to drive around in one of those machines. It wasn't meant to be though. I find life complicated enough without being burdened by the bottomless money pit of owning a hot rod. The fits of rage induced by stuff that just won't work, the social isolation of constantly working on your car, the endless search for arcane parts, the Kafka-esque bureaucracy of getting an old car on the road legally, or the shear terror of riding in one these dangerous contraptions. None of those things appeal to me.

The fact that I don't know my ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to internal combustion engine doesn't help either.

I've endured a lot of good natured ribbing over the years from all my greaser buddies. Being the only greaser in town without a cool car has earned me the unfortunate, but strangely apt and amusing moniker of Enviro-billy. I always show up at local Rockabilly nights on some beat-up 1930's bike and that seems to amuse a lot of people.

It must be a comical sight to see me pull up in full Rockabilly regalia, including a black leather motorcycle jacket. It's just impossible to be a tough guy on a bicycle.
Lack of credibility, I guess.

I've always liked going on long bike rides, very Zen and all that. Vancouver, BC is certainly one the best places to ride a bike, all that magnificent scenery and mild weather.

I had no political agenda, green tendencies of even a desire to get all that pesky exercise. The catalyst to all this was, quite simply, a shitty job.

This city can be difficult at times, I just ended up with a crappy sales job that paid by commission and was left flat broke. A working bum. I couldn't afford the fairly expensive public transit in this town, and I just started riding to work.

I got into shape, saw some nice scenery and didn't have to the endure the absolute hell that is the daily commute on the proletariat chariot. A necessity became a lifestyle.

One day, I decided to build a chopper ( whiskey may have been involved in that decision). I built it and I rode it. I found some like-minded people and went on organized cruiser rides.

Who knew that you could have all that fun without a motor? I also didn't know that weird shit happens on a bicycle.

Meet the Possum Squasher.

Dumb Greaser

That bike weighs 60 lbs. One night, after leaving a friend's BBQ, I was cruising down a main drag and the kickstand retaining pin fell out thereby causing the stand to drag. In my fairly advanced state of inebriation, I was unable to find the hole. The hole for the pin that is.

Instead of getting off the bike, I stooped like an idiot, fumbling with the pin. My back pack was full of tools and a bag of jelly beans. (don't know why I had jelly beans). My stooping over caused all the contents of my pack to spill out onto the pavement.

I finally did get off the bike, laid it on it's side, and things just kept getting worse. I just couldn't deal with 3/8 hole in the dark in that state. A barrage of cursing ensued and my rising anger just made things even worst.

When the cops showed up, they were greeted by a strange site. A large bike on it's side, jelly beans and tools strewn everywhere and greasy cat crouched over and cursing.

Some do-gooder hippie saw me fumbling, swearing and shouting and decided to call the cops on me.

Trying to act sober, all I could say to the very patient police officer was " I can't find the hole!" . They thought I was a mental patient so they told me to wrap it up and go home.

I rolled by there the following day and the jelly beans were still there.

Busted Welds.

Those cruiser rides are thinly veiled excuses to what is really a booze cruise. One of those cruises ended in a pub on the west side. After hauling back a few , a wave of lucidity washed over me, and I realized that I was 10 miles from home.

Not long after leaving the pub, the left handlebar promptly broke off. More cursing. I had to ride ten miles with one hand, and let me tell you, that took a while. I took the fairly busy seawall, and was scaring all the squares taking their evening stroll. Some greasy dude, riding a one handed bike and muttering under his breath. Luckily I had a six pack in my bag, so I had a lot of pit stops on the way.

I got home a 3 am and , man, was my right arm sore the next day.

Damned Pesky Hippies.

One day a friend told me about this thing called critical mass . Never having heard of it , I decided to participate. I started getting suspicious when guys in tutus, jester hats and all manner of bizarre attire began showning up.

Then I started noticing that all the bikes were crappy. A lot of people just duct-taped shit to their bikes in a futile attempt to " decorate it". Others were wrapped in macrame. One freako burnout pointed to an old, rusty saw blade that he had bolted to his axle.
" Hey man, you like my spinner?"
" Does it spin?" I asked.
" Uh, no, man".
" Then it ain't a spinner, now is it?" I replied disdainfully.

That should have set the tone right there. Having spent several hundred hours building my chopper, I took pride in what I had done. A lot those hippie contraptions started showing up. You've seen them, those weird tall bikes, a bunch of crappy bikes "welded" together and spray painted with all kinds of fluorescent paint. Nobody could tell the difference between mine and theirs.

I decided to ride anyways, thinking that riding with a large group of people would be fun, but the guerilla tactics employed to block traffic, the insults they were shouting at passers-by and the general mayhem and hippie sense of self entitlement was too much for me.

This was about as far from cool as I had ever been, I didn't agree with their politics and I sure as hell wasn't one of them , I cleared out soon after. If I want to see clowns and buffoons . I'll go to the circus. Be-gone, foul tricksters!

Got 'Lectricity

Some bike shop gave me an electric bike that they claimed didn't work. It was a left wing, commie bike shop, so they naturally looked down their noses at this affront to cycling self-righteousness. All I could think was " Cool! A motor!"

It was an ugly thing, well built, but completely devoid of style. Looks like I had borrowed grandma's bike. I didn't care , I thought that I could make it cool, but you can't polish a turd as it turns out.

Coolness issues aside, I knew I could get this thing running. I'm pretty handy with electronics and other gizmos. I tore it apart, bought two lead acid batteries and got it running.

I didn't like the way it ran, so I by-passed all the electronics and Hall effect sensors and wired the motor directly to the batteries. The only switch I had kickin' around was a toggle switch (on-off). When I was done, that bike went like a bat out of hell.

Yet another amusing sight. Greaser on grandma's bike, going 30 miles an hour with a whine that sounded like a banshee on acid. Even though that was the most un-cool thing I've ever owned, I was digging being motorized.

I stripped it down because it had all these stupid plastic fairings. I held the battery pack in place with a wooden wedge which I called the Power Wedge. I was tooling along one day on the sidewalk of a very busy street and hit a pothole. The Power Wedge came loose and the motor stopped.

I got off the bike to jam it back in there, but had forgotten to shut off the toggle switch. When the battery pack made contact, full power was restored. The bike took off on it's own at full throttle. I took off after it , all the while cursing at the top of my lungs.

Another hilarious rush hour sight. Some goof in biker boots and greasy pomp, running as fast as he can, chasing a riderless granny bicycle doing 30. That ridiculous thing finally smacked into the side of a building. There it lay it's side, the Power Wedge still intact, rear wheel spinning at 5000 rpm. I picked it up and quickly dodged into an alley.

Something Smells Funny.

The electric bike was old and needed maintenance. riding home from work one day my derailer jammed. I've never even heard of this happening. The motor was at full throttle of course. The wheel locked up, thereby jamming the motor that was still getting full current. I fumbled with the switch. Nothing. I began smelling smoke and saw that all my wiring had caught fire. Then the toggle switch exploded with a loud bang. The ensuing stink, flames and ball of smoke were spectacular.

I was at a crowded place near the water. Hundreds of those dragon boat people were staring at me, mouths agape, wondering what had just happened. All they saw was a greasy guy standing in this cloud of smoke, coughing and trying to dislodge that battery pack. I ended up walking home.

Something Smells Even Funnier.

After having seen 49cc gas engine kits on the internet, I decided that I just had to have one. It was crappy, two-stroke made in China engine, but , hey, it had a piston.
I discarded the utterly incomprehensible instructions and figured the thing out myself.

I found one of those Mr' Drumstick signs that you see in front of conveneince stores. The top tube is Mr. Drumstick's arm.

I did some tinkering and fooled around with the carb and got this rev as high as it could. It was 3/4 HP so I had to pedal to get it going.

Man, that thing was fast. Dangerous as hell, using regular bicycle V-brakes, this death trap would barely stop when I got it going. The engine was two stroke, so it belched out noxious fumes for miles behind me.

I liked it just because it pissed off hippies. Oh, the dirty looks and snide comments that I would get on my way to work in the morning. Hi-lar-ious.

Even more amusing to me, was these spandex-clad goofs who pretend that they are in the Tour de France. These guys would kill themselves trying to pass me. Giving me the hairy eyeball, tacitly implying that they didn't need an engine.

The fun all came to an end one morning however. I was barreling down the Union St. bikeway , full throttle, engine whining like a chainsaw on steroids, when I spotted a cop on a Harley up ahead. As I whizzed by him, I saw him look at me in the corner of my eye.

Sure enough, he pulled a u-turn and stated chasing me full lights flashing and siren wailing. He cut in front of me and I stopped. " Turn that thing off!" he yelled over the racket of the two-stroke.

I won't go into details about the inane conversation that we had, but it was a ridiculous sight that was beginning to attract a crowd. His Harley and my bike parked together. He's wearing his full motorcycle cop uniform with helmet. I'm wearing a leather jacket and this dumb german helmet with a big number 13 on it.

Long story short, I was handed a $600 ticket! He claimed that I needed registration and I claimed that it was a bicycle. It has yet to go to court, and we'll see what happens. I suspect that I will lose.

He wouldn't even let me pedal it to work, I had to walk it. To add insult to injury he wanted to give a breathalyser (at 8 in the morning). Some days, you just lose.

So greasy car friends, that's what it's like riding bicycles. It's a strange world that you become part of and you meet some strange people. Maybe spending all your dough on a hot rod ain't so bad after all.

Adios for now.

Other bikes that I have built.

No comments:

Post a Comment