Once, an early spring day’s boredom found me roaming the neighbor’s yard in search of body parts. I had known him for a few years, through various residences, and he always maintained a well stocked bone yard in back of his house. I had taken advantage of it just once before that morning, back when we briefly lived together. But then I was looking for something that was more or less intact. This time I had a more complex set of procedures in mind.
As I wandered through the piles of unsorted fragments, and components it didn’t quite occur to me what an asshat my former roommate was for having all this strewn around his yard. Strictly speaking there wasn’t anything wrong with what he did, I suppose. You could concede that his collection was more of an aftermath industry. This would be the same rationalization some vegetarians and vegans use when they buy leather shoes from a thrift store. Mostly he rode around town with a set cutters and just took loose parts, and what abandoned bodies he could find; those were mostly stripped down to begin with. Sometimes, after the college kids would leave for the summer, he’d stake out the apartment complexes and see what strays could be had. He considered it a public service, he was keeping the city clean in a way. I wasn’t really concerned with any of that. I didn’t care about where they came from, whose they once were, or the legality of the whole matter. I only wanted the parts, this wasn’t a moral issue.
I needed a bike. At least that morning I decided I needed one. Given the time of my life it would be safe to assume that I, was in some way, wasted when I came to this decision. I had a set of wrenches, a fair amount of mechanicalaptitude, and the better part of the day on my side.
Digging through the carcasses it seemed the largest variety of frames were for children, or at least people much shorter than myself, second on the list were those crappy stunt bikes that had been so popular for last few years. Nothing seemed quite the right size, so impatiently I settled on a slightly undersized Diamondback as the base for my creation. Luck was with me in locating handle bars and a set of fairly straight set of forks. Neither came from the same bike, but the colors were close enough that it didn’t bother me too much. The hellish part of this process was the wheels.
Trying to locate to rims that weren’t bent to shit in a yard full of discarded and scavenged parts was hard enough. When you need them both to fit a mountain bike increases the challenge. The requirement for one of them to be a rear wheel with gears that also aren’t bent means you’ll be spending a couple of maddening hours searching for, fitting, and then rejecting several specimens. You can only imagine my joy when the ones I finally selecting had viable tubes and tires.
Brakes were in abundance, and though this was a new field for me a few minutes with a wrench and a pair of needle nose pliers sorted this out. The area that I woefully could not get the hang of at all was the rear derailleur. So I removed it, shortened the chain I had found, and fixed the whole mechanism into a mid range gear that would be just fine for riding about town. Hills however were going to be a problem, it would probably be best if I didn’t go for any ambitious rides.
A few bolts were tightened, a set of cargo baskets were slapped on, and the frankenbike was ready to go grocery shopping. It was heavy, sluggish, and nearly impossible to steer or stop, but I liked it because I had built it with my own two hands. I am glad I did it. Spending the day sweating in the blazing sun, tinkering with parts had gotten me back into riding a bike after many years, and got me started doing all my own repairs as well.
I’ve owned, and had stolen from me my share of bikes since then. I am sure many of them have wound up as skeletons in some other scrap heap. I never bothered to ask why this person I once knew obsessively collected bike parts only to pile them up in his yard. There was a lot I never bothered to ask about him, he was kind of crazy to start with.