I lost another bike today. Actually, it isn't lost yet; it's sitting upstairs in the hallway, a wounded, once fleet herd animal, like a gazelle or something, leaning amongst its many healthier brethren for protection. I tilted it against my roommate Ira's beat-to-shit Bianchi, which I felt was appropriate, as they spent so many nights together wreaking havoc through the asphalt grid of Chicago, and spent so many hours cursing us out in whatever language bicycles speak while lashed to parking meters and bikeracks in foul and unimaginably cruel weather. Some of its vitals (chain, derailleur) are hanging in a little greasy black baggie tied to the handlebars. The brake and gear cables are a wiry mess, pathetically jumbled and tied up around the top tube. The hub is shattered on the back tire; it buckled gracelessly like a broken ankle after a bad spill off a curb, but the full extent of the damage wasn't made clear to me until I'd gotten it to the shop and saw it up on the rack. I figured it was just the gear system out of alignment, or maybe a bent rim, and it was going to simply be a $20 quick fix or whatever, like all the other times I had to take it in. Not so lucky.

I'd procrastinated taking it in for about a week, having repaired what I could of the shifting system in a mini mall parking lot about a block from where I'd had the accident. It was good enough, I felt, to ride on for awhile. Having finally gotten a paycheck over this weekend, I shrugged and decided to have a professional look at it.

Initial examination: "I'd like to replace the derailleur, because its really not shifting correctly, and if you look at the way it climbs, etc. etc." Basically: $30 labor, $32 parts. Not thrilling, but not highway robbery for the kind of work they do there. Full cleaning, lubrication, and a guarantee of solid, no-bullshit workmanship.

Rear wheel removed, shifting system disassembled: "It looks like the hub back here is having some difficulties. I'd like to take it apart it, relubricate it, tighten it, and make sure it isn't bent or fissured or anything..." And I'm all nodding, okay, whatever, flipping through magazines, trying on gloves, etc...

Then a big fat fucking CLANG on the floor and a low "oh shit" out from where my bike is up on the rack and I know something's gone horribly, horribly wrong. It's like when you go in for a checkup for what was an almost insignificant stomach problem, and find out that some terrible cancer has eaten through most of your gut and that they need to operate immediately and you're going to have to go home in a wheelchair, if you get to go home at all.

Sparing you the technical details, its like a kneecap on my bike was shattered, the bolt having been so badly fissured it simply snapped apart in the technician's hands. I wonder, as I type this, if he fucking dropped the thing, but I don't think so, because I didn't see him bend down to pick anything up, and there were already stress fractures on the inside of the hub, so either way, the rear tire was absolutely crippled, without an in-shop replacement. Better it broke apart there than on the street, I feel.

After a length of head-scratching and being outright numb at the development, he made the bike roll-able, charged me nothing, and I told him I'd be back tomorrow to see if we could hash out a discount on a brand new bike or something.

So I left. I walked out, next to my bike instead of astride it, and we went home together, slowly, through the ghetto on the other side of Western Avenue, where the police swept all the trash to when they made Wicker Park a habitat for yuppies. All the way there, I had my U-lock ready and bared, in case someone tried to rip my wounded bicycle off from me in the street.

This was my first real, brand-spanking-new city bike; a dark blue Fuji road hybrid. I'd rocked it all up and down the south side, west side, lake shore, old town, gold coast, pilsen, Ukrainian village, etc. etc... We'd spent long afternoons being chased by dogs when I hauled it up to Wisconsin where I worked as an hand on an organic farm over the summer, we'd spent a lot of time just sitting on the grass, or by the lake. We outmaneuvered road raging drivers, we shook a squad car going the wrong way up a one-way, we fought, we sweated, we kicked ass. It's not like I was dating the fucking thing, but when your mode of transportation is tied directly to your physical functioning, it's hard not to be attached to it, you know?

So that's that. They estimated about $120 to repair it, which is money, honestly, I think would be better spent simply towards another new bike. Is this treachery? Or is this like putting a wounded horse down? Do I want to wait around for the obscure parts to come in, and fuck around with the componentry, and take the bus like a sucker?

Fuck no. It died just before winter, and it probably wouldn't have survived this year's road-salt assault very well, I think. So right now I'm wondering: Do I do something really dramatic with it, like throw the fucker into Lake Michigan, and wave goodbye as it sinks, and freak everyone else on the lake shore out? Or am I going to strip it down and use the frame and some other junk to make some kind of crazy tall bike or chopper that I can take to Critical Mass? It's worthless to trade to anyone. I never even gave it a cool name. Fuck.