In Praise of… Running What You Brung

By Joe Parkin
Photo by David Smith

When you work in bars and bike shops, you meet a lot of interesting people.
I once knew this dude named Lucky, who'd show up at the bike shop from time
to time when he needed some work done on his 'trike', which was Lucky-speak for what the rest of us call a bike. At one point in time I'd known his real name, because I, like other guys who worked at the shop, had accepted a collect call from Lucky after he'd been taken to the Hennepin County adult d-e-t-e-n-t-i-o-n facility, where use of his real name had been a requirement for placing the call.

Lucky loved bikes. Though I suppose he would've preferred driving to pedaling had his circumstances been a little different, but those trikes of his always seemed to complement his personality. And he was always smiling when he rolled up on one of them. His small collection ebbed and flowed, with almost
every acquisition coming as a direct result of someone else's neglect.

"Its owner was neglecting it, man," Lucky would explain, as if he was talking about some small furry animal with big eyes and a cute face. "They just left it out there leaning up against a fence."

"How long did they leave it there?" we'd ask.

"About 10 or 15 minutes."

We accused him, a couple of times, of stealing, but the act was one of liberation as far as his conscience was concerned. I always wondered if his own bikes had been similarly liberated due to his own neglect. I knew another guy who washed dishes at a restaurant and seemed to spend all of his money on his bike. He rode a pretty decent mountain bike for the time--and he rode the
thing everywhere. His expenditures, accordingly, had more to do with maintenance than weight worries or any desire to add bling to his ride. He was one of only a select few people I've ever known to completely wear out a chainring--or two--every year.

Dressed in blue jeans, hiking boots, trucker hat and a down jacket or t-shirt, depending on the season, this rider was known to ride a hundred or more miles of pavement in order to enjoy even just a mile or two of singletrack. And then he'd ride home.

It's fairly easy to get hung up on defining that which is real riding--mountain-bike media and industry marketing types are constantly creating new language and rules. I think it's in fact realest when we no longer worry about defining anything--when you run what you brung and just enjoy your own ride.