The Moral Burden of my Bicycle

I had a White Bike – look at me in that photo.
The way I gripped the seat, holding tough to the top tube,
The thugness in my face, an assortment of neon spoke beads,
Tink, tink, tink, tink,
They’d tink along as I rode, so the world would know,
That kid with the White Bike and the ripped-toe velcro shoes,
He’s coming.

I made sure they knew.

I achieved skid marks and half-moon gravel turns,
‘cause that’s how you stop when you’re rad.
I popped wheelies and rode with reversed handle-bars,
‘cause I was totally krossed-out.

I wasn’t winning any contests,
but could figure-8 those bright orange pylons with flying colours
on bicycle safety day at the LeBrun Rec Centre.
Even got my prized red-rear-reflector to prove it.

It wasn’t long before I got my next bike,
and my next bike, and my next.
A CCM, a Supercycle, later my dad let me use his Schwinn.
He won it at a work auction.
Honestly, what would we have done without Canadian Tire.

I rode a rusty old Schwinn until this year.

I’m 37 now, I finally got my first “respectable” bike:
A 2018 Norco Search A Tiagra.
It’s got respectable components, like:
a Shimano-based Drivetrain, TRP Spyre disc brakes,
Norco seat and handlebar,
double butted aluminum frame,
I even have brass nipples on my spokes & Clement Strada tires.

I have no idea what any of that means,
but I got it all for a “decent” price.
Second hand: $1100.

A very low-end, high-end bike.

I may have arrived late to the party,
but I feel like a Pro already.
Been averaging 135km a week, 20 to 25 km/hr.
Folks on CCM’s with awkwardly high-positioned handlebars need to move out of my way,
as I blaze through like a superhero in a red-lighting suit.

I’m earning my Strava trophies and even acquired a $91 discount from Le Col, for riding Flat Out For 5.

It took me 27 years to get here,
from White Bike to Norco Search.
Still, they tell me I have a long way to go:
You “need” the helmet with integrated lights and
Multi-directional Impact Protection System,
you know…to “diffuse oblique forces.”

Bike shoes with cleat attachments,
so you can snap snugly into those clip-in pedals.
Don’t forget the overshoes,
‘cause you don’t want to get those sweet kicks wet.
Gloves, jersey, padded underwear (essential for those long-rides).
Quality socks, warmers, glasses, a waterproof jacket and trousers,
and if you’re really looking to fit in —

…that goofy-looking cycle cap.

All in all, a few thousand dollars should set me up
with a single-wardrobe.
Since I ride almost every day and sweat like a work-horse,
I suspect this wardrobe to last me a season, at which point the
salts and acids seeping from this meat sack should have
mostly broken down those Polyester, Lycra, and Nylon materials.


And so I have to examine how much to invest.
The guilt-laden questions whispering into my immigrant soul, “Should I? Ought I?”

How much of my income is disposable?
With all the urgent needs out there:
Ecological disaster, poverty, arbitrary detention,
climate refugees, COVID-19, Lebanon, homelessness,
gender-based violence, child-trafficking, the Amazon,
Black Lives Matter, on-and-on-and-on it goes.

They all beg for resources,
street corners with clip-boards and bright vests,
door-to-doors, solicitations by mail,
email pleas from CEOs.

All these hearts reaching for help, yet
how much do I spend on me?
is my burden.

But then I see these kids in my well-to-do neighbourhood.
No CCMs or Supercycles, these tots start with
Trek’s, Giant’s, and Cannondales.
Mom and dad surely forked out $1K on that frame,
which Matthew will surely grow out of in six quick months.

Still, the kid is showing potential.
Clocking 30 on the speed radar erected to slow cars down to 30,
he might even win races, which will win him award money,
and new bikes, and more gear, which will launch him into better tournaments, and more money, and new bikes, and more gear, which will launch him into adulthood, and more money, and new bikes, and more gear –
success breeding success.

And he’ll fly by me no matter how good I get.
He’ll fly by everyone without a second thought.

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