What’s Left

I found my left crank arm, not in a box of bike parts, but in a box of old photographs and love letters.

This wasn’t a case of haphazard organizing. I thought of this crank arm as a love letter from my old flame, a ruggedly handsome red 1970’s LeJeune track bike.

I bought the LeJeune from the local velodrome’s old racing fleet in the spring of ’99. I couldn’t believe my luck. I handed over $200 and the bike was mine. I removed the wheels, and threw it over my shoulder and biked it home across town like a new bride.

Our honeymoon lasted all summer. We rode through the days that grew warmer and longer, going everywhere together. I felt giddy, light, and free. My work as a bike messenger seemed to be no more than an excuse to be together.

At some point, I discovered that the left crank arm had a small crack by the crank bolt and would need to be replaced. While I would have loved another Campy Pista crank to replace it, I ended up with a 165mm Stronglight crank in a complimentary style. I doubt that I can take credit for wearing out the old crank. Still, I was happy to leave my mark on the LeJeune. Call it the transformative nature of love.

Nothing lasts forever. Not cranks, not summer, not the object of your desires. At the end of summer, the LeJeune was stolen from me. It damn near broke my heart. I know. It is just a bike. But all the same, I don’t need to tell you that there is no such thing as “just a bike.” They get into your heart and they stay there, long after they are gone.

When I look at the old busted left crank arm, it still reflects my old love. Even in its most broken part, even in its absence.

Now go hug your bike. Give it a big kiss. Life is short and no one is watching.

From → Bike Love

7 Comments

  1. Thank you for so elegantly telling that story. I tell people I build best friends, not just bicycles! Thanks, Niki mobius

  2. Jocey

    Love! I have a crank arm from my first fixed gear commuter stored in my “special storage” box as well. Saddest bike moment ever was handing that machine off to the metal recycling plant after she was wrecked in a crash, I cried the whole way home.

    I say, kiss your bikes proudly even when people are looking! Hope one day they’ll understand why.

  3. Niki, you are so right – I think we need to eliminate the phrase “just bicycles” don’t you?

  4. Jocey, your instincts are just like mine! Let’s imagine that there are crank arms in shoe boxes across the country that commemorate lost bicycle loves.

  5. You’re right, it’s never “just a bike”. Others say the same about their cars, computers, instruments, favorite suits, why not a bicycle, too?

    By the way, I took your advise and tip-toed out to the garage to hug my bike. It was quite grateful for the affection.

  6. That’s what I’m talkin’ about, Soul Rider :)

  7. RickM

    Every bike I’ve ever had has been stolen. Sometimes I feel about bikes like that line from Kipling’s poem about dogs – ‘Why should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?’

    But what else can we do? We are lovers by nature, so we love again, knowing all the while that it will end in pain.

    But at least with a Sweetpea you get loved back!

    I’ll say it again, Natalie Ramsland, you are a talented writer.

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