diamond back

Don’t let the Chain of Love end with you

Corn doggy dog title credit to Clay Walker

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The above slide show features the bikes completed by Chain Reaction graduates since the last time I wrote about this. Each of these bikes represents a person who joined us for four hours every Tuesday to lovingly restore these previously unwanted freedom machines until they were ready to roll. Each person has a unique story and personality and I’d like to share a few thoughts about them.

B’s Giant Suede

Truth be told, the clientele at Chain Reaction is not very diverse on gender lines, and B is our first female graduate since 2015. I wish that weren’t the case, but I’m proud of B for joining us through personal and mechanical setbacks and now she has a beautiful, crank-forward cruiser ~ WITH A BASKET ~ and she’s set for leisurely rides around the Portland waterfront with her kids.

D’s Schwinn Le Tour

D is among the 6 graduates who just finished this past Tuesday. He was basically done a week prior but, when he asked for my help with getting performance out of his vintage, inappropriately named “safety levers,” I informed him that they are never going to work very well and set him up with a pair of cross tops and some Shimano brifters that don’t shift so well anymore but still pull a brake cable as well as the day they came out of their bright blue box. It was a pretty big project for a first-time mechanic shortly before a deadline, but he brought it together beautifully and he has a safer, more practical bike for it.

J’s Diamond Back Sorrento

J was one of the more difficult clients for me to serve so far this year. He didn’t like me, did not mask his displeasure, and said several rude things to me. I can put on a resilient front, but I’m a person too and I’m hurt by hurtful things. He also had little patience for the actual work of the program, ignored my instruction, and quit after a frustrating cantilever brake adjustment and traumatic tube explosion. I stared at his bike hanging on the wall for damn near the 60-day forfeiture deadline and called him twice, making it clear that he’s very close to finished with the bike and we’d love to have him back. HE CAME BACK, finished the bike within the first hour, and helped others for the remainder of the class before taking his bike home. You never saw a rude dude smile so wide. I wish him well and hope it’s holding up.

J’s Univega Super Ten

J was the last of last Tuesday’s graduates to finish his bike. His stress was palpable throughout 3.5 heavy hours in our allotted 4. I believe his bike to be a Miyata Univega – based on it’s era and serial number – a truly solid thing that could easily outlive me if cared for, but it has steel wheels and center-pull caliper brakes and the adjustment just isn’t that easy. But he had help – Myself, Andrew, and another recent graduate who has been back to volunteer every single week – and we got him through. We all felt lighter. Teamwork. Dreamwork. It’s what I believe in now.

M’s Schwinn Le Tour III

This was a sentimental one for me. I bought a used blue Schwinn Le Tour III from Cycle Circle in Lancaster, PA, in 2007 and it changed my life. I rode the ever-loving heck out of it until 2015, when I bought a red Schwinn Le Tour II that was 5 cm smaller, my actual size, for $11 from my neighbor’s scrap trailer and transferred all the parts over. It’s still my main whip and it has the same shop badge as M’s Le Tour III! This was the second bike M started, but the first he finished. The other was a sweet Fuji with a stuck seat post, which I’ve used as a cautionary tale for other students since; “follow the order of the checklist,” I warn, “or waste a lot of time and realize you can’t adjust the bike to fit you.” I’ve never actually said that exact sentence, but that’s the idea. M was really nice guy and he volunteered with us outside of class. I haven’t seen him since, but I hope he’s doing great and racing around on that perfect dream bike.

M’s Silver Schwinn

I don’t remember the model name of this one and I can’t tell from the photo, but it’s a late 70’s or early 80’s Schwinn road bike, pretty much the same as the Le Tour II/III. M had a series of early frustrations, including an entire class lost to truing a wheel that we ultimately decided was too far gone. I worried he would quit, but he stuck to it, and has been really excellent at helping others finished their projects as well. I hope we see him again!

M’s Sherpa Trail

I spent the “reception” portion of the Chain Reaction Pedalpalooza ride helping M finish this bike so he could ride with us. He was the only graduate to hang in for the whole thing, and has since been a valuable volunteer; I think he’s been back every week since he graduated and has particularly taken to helping teach wheel truing. He’s great! He’s riding the hell out of his bike and has modified it considerably since this photo was taken. I like it in this configuration. I like how it is now. A bike is never done. It goes with you and grows with you until you give it to somebody else, and then it goes and grows with them. 🌽

M’s Versato Riviera

Chain Reaction clients are entitled to build a bike once a year. So far, M is only the second graduate to return and build a second bike. His first was stolen 😤. M is a really nice guy. He finished this one a while back and when I saw him more recently he was riding a different, less safe bicycle. He wanted to buy parts from us but we didn’t have them. Not sure how to deal with the fact that some of our clients want newer bikes (i.e. those with disc brakes) and the simultaneous fact that we don’t have the parts to support them, as our inventory comes from donations and we get what we get and it’s mostly old (i.e. rim brakes). Something to think on.

O’s Single Speed Triple Brake Nishiki

O is a character and, appropriately, he has a fairly unique bike, one with only one speed but 3 brakes, two rim-brake calipers and a coaster brake in the rear hub. He was the first to finish his bike among his cohort and was excellent about attending every week afterwards to help others. He showed a particular penchant for cleaning, and every bike he touched sparkles in a way my own neglected beasts of burden never quite do. He graduated last Tuesday and immediately went on a ride. I saw him coming back into the building as I was leaving about an hour later. I asked him how it it was. Joyously, he was practically shouting, “Dude, I LOVE IT!”

P’s Schwinn S-25

P is a calm, quiet, respectable man who graduated with our last cohort. I’m straining for a lot to say about this one, but it’s all good. He was a total pleasure to have in class, he was dutiful in servicing this bicycle as well as helping others, and it all went along smoothly. Full Suspension; No Drama.

S’s GT Outpost

Similar to the above, this was a pretty smooth project completed by an excellent student. In fact, S has written us a blog post that I’m going to put up shortly, so I’ll leave it at that and let him tell you all about it.

The numbers: These 11, plus the 3 I posted before, brings us to 14 completed student bikes so far this year. We’re well on our way towards the goal of at least 24 (last year’s number, plus 1). We’ve also sold at least this many bikes, some fully refurbished, some not. Those might not carry the same weight, but they’re abandoned bikes we put back into the world, and that’s worth something if you care about reducing the waste stream and facilitating bike life, as I do. I saw one of our customers, on his bike, at WinCo yesterday. He said he’s been taking it all over the place, riding it every day. We’re living the dream. Keep striving✌️