See this bike

See this bike?

It wasn’t always like that. The picture was taken after the love-injection exercise.

When my friend GA43i found it in a garbage bin in Brixton, its handlebars were dropped. So the gear changers were not there; they were on either side of the bar between the pedals and the handle bar.

I used public transport to go to that council estate in Brixton to see the bike. It looked feeble, but I didn’t have a bike of my own back then; I needed one and I couldn’t afford to buy one, so I simply said yes.

It looked very much like a race bike, or a racer as some call them. Nothing worked very well, especially the brakes. There must have been a reason for the bike to be in the bin.

It had no mud guards, and bad everything. Still, I used it as it was for a few months. Then I came into close contact with 56a and the bike workshop in it.

It is not very well explained on that website. This is a random collection – sorry, collective. Of people. Mostly boys, at least back then. Some men, and gradually more and more women. People whose drive in their spare time was their political ideal, which was, is, to put every one on bikes, especially put people who couldn’t afford mainstream prices on bikes.

To do this, they collect whatever discarded gear they can put their hands on. Old bikes, old parts. I once collaborated by riding with a bike and a trailer to a bike shop in south London to collect parts. The agreement was in working order; some one from 56a would regularly, or irregularly, visit the bike workshop in order to collect old, discarded bike parts. One of those mutually beneficial agreements. The (almost) mainstream bike workshop would pay less in waste tax thanks to the alternative workshop eliminating a good part of the heavy garbage by collecting it for re-using.

Back in 56a, bikes were repaired for hours over at least three days a week, at cost or donation prices.

I remember not wanting to use this bike workshop. I was working part time at the time, and I felt like I should allow people who were completely unemployed to take advantage of these people’s activism.

But then one day, at work, some machines, doing some heavy work on the pavement of the yard where the bike park was, did some serial damage to the bikes parked there, mine included. Serial, because all the back wheels of the five or so bikes parked were bent in the same way.

One of my colleagues, who also went to work by bike every day, demanded the full price of the replacement of the wheel threatening legal action. I didn’t feel I would do that, because that afternoon the boss of the workers who did the damage drove me home, with my bike in the boot of his car.

We talked a bit; he expressed envy that I could use a simple bike. Like it was not his choice to drive a car every day. I may have said it was horrible when my bike got broken, like now. He answered “imagine a car. So many things can go wrong in a car”. So for that reason I was glad I didn’t depend on a big heavy machine daily.

With my bike wheel bent, I asked around and all the answers pointed me to 56a.

And then, one of those bike fairies, on top of providing for a fitting new wheel (bent wheels can’t be repaired with bare hands or simple manual tools) put so much love into that bike.

He found another bicycle that had some “vital organs” completely gone, probably the frame or parts of it. So he decided to put that bike’s handle bar on mine, together with the gear changes and casket (if the little wheels with dents attached to the back wheel are called that) and gear changes, and brakes.

And suddenly I had a horrible-looking bicycle (hence far less attractive for stealing) yet highly functional, with the added sexiness that it had originally come from a bin.

That bicycle took me from London to Brighton on the 4th of June 2008. Fourteen miles North of Brighton, to be exact, because a collision with a death happened. A collision, not an accident. Because when two cars break the highway code, what happens next is not an accident.

The two ribbons hanging from the handle bar, one pink and one black, are about that.

And that’s the beauty I took a picture of on Parliament Hill in Hamstead Heath with part of London in the background.