The bike room
Until a week and a half ago, our master bedroom in our two-bedroom apartment atop Seattle’s Fremont Hill, was the “bike room.” A cozy, yellow-lit den housing all things shiny and mechanical, hydrolic and hydro-formed, rubbered and lubed and trued upon which our bike world was built. Part garage, part shop, part classroom, part stable. It smelled of mud and beer and citrus degreaser and on rainy nights I’d curl up in the dingy loveseat and watch Billy through a haze tinker with the bits on a half built steed.
Rarely was the bike room tidy. But always it was organized in a way with its piles and clear tubs overflowing with bars, seats, grips, stems, posts and pedals—the delight of friends and bros who hung out to have their own prized possessions serviced, re-bridled or re-shod. The work bench and drawers were kept strictly neat, as they held the tiny constituent parts and small tools.
Three large industrial mats protected the floor from the constant drizzle of grit and grime and chain lube. Ride and topo maps were tacked to the walls. And the bikes that were running also hung from the walls, preferably not too muddy. Those waiting patiently for parts stood or balanced on the floor or hung from the stands.
No bike ever kept its full spec for long. Parts were constantly shuffled as new frames came in and old ones went out in the hands of stoked customers. Components arrived glinting, and were sold “gently used.” Two items were not to be sold: the hardtail frame that Billy helped design for Diamondback, and which was proudly displayed over the door, and the Mission frame with his name emblazoned on it.
And so, the bikes, built-up and in pieces, were shuffled, before rides, after rides, in the evenings when they were next up for a swap of parts.
I didn’t always sit in the loveseat while Billy worked. Sometimes I sat on the floor learning how to fix a flat tire. I was always forced to struggle first. But that pop when the beads set—that meant victory. I learned how to build a cassette in that room; how to tighten down rotors; how to properly lube a bottom bracket. I learned how to install cranks; what ISCG stands for; and that servicing forks is a little like surgery. I learned that the ability to twist and turn and flip allen wrenches with your fingers like a real mechanic takes years to finesse and that, as I’ve told you, it’s all about getting leverage to break the crank bolt loose.
And, that it’s my responsibility to keep my own bike clean.
In a way, the bike room was the nucleus of our ride world, the warm heart of activity and parts that made it all possible. It was the nexus point where all ride experiences collided. Rides started and ended in that room: Muddy Bellingham shuttle days. Dry Hill P.A. downhill days. Tokul trail rides. Whizgnar. Vancouver Island. The Shore. The bike room was their convergence zone, and it caused a little magic explosion of NW memories… and dirt.
And when we couldn’t escape into the mountains, we could escape into the bike room. We could shut the door, shut out the world, turn on the tunes, tinker with bikes and let the conversation roll. Outside was cold and rainy.
After Billy got a job as an in-house product manager, test parts began flowing in. The closet was already bulging with bike gear and snowboard gear; then backpacking gear with my new job. The back seats from the new Honda Element had to go somewhere. The fourth snowboard had to go somewhere. The road bikes were already de-ranked and living outside.
Sometimes bikes were shuffled into the living room. I began to sit on the arm of the cluttered loveseat.
Yes, all this was the case until a week and a half ago. That’s when we pulled the bikes down off the walls, along with the maps. We put the lids on the tubs and stacked them, put the pile of tires in a box. We stuffed helmets and pads and packs in more boxes, broke down the workbench and rolled up the mats.
Or rather, Billy did. I was packing up the rest of the apartment.
Then we stuck it all in the back of the Element—and the Subaru, and truck and moving van—and set our sights on West Seattle at the other end of town, across the bridge, and a golden three-bedroom rambler with a yard.