I was fortunate enough to begin riding with a guy named Snake who had an almost magical ability to draw together diverse people for bike rides. One of those guys was named Jimmy, nicknamed Bicycle Jimmy. Jimmy was in his early 40s but looked much older. The top of his head was totally bald but wild scraggly hair covered the sides and back. He would look all around you with his beady eyes that never seem to be able to stay in one place. In essence he looked kind of crazy.
Jimmy was one of those guys who you see around town on their bikes all the time in dirty flannel shirts and work pants. I don’t think he worked anywhere, I didn’t know much about him, but he liked to ride and he was quite good at it. His bike was a slightly rusted and very heavy old huffy so he always borrowed one of Snake’s Specialized Allez road bikes. Snake was known to the local down and out bike people as someone who would help them out with the loan of an inner tube, or a trip to a bike shop to get a busted wheel repaired. Jimmy had apparently gotten some help from Snake a few times and had agreed to ride with us one Saturday morning.
We met up at Snake’s Garage very early, usually around 6AM for a casually paced 30-50 mile ride that Snake had planned. There were no rules, other then being on time and sticking to the planned route. Snake didn’t care what you wore, how fast you could ride, how rich or poor you were, most of us didn’t wear helmets or any bike specific clothing. If you were suffering on the ride he would do everything he could to help out, though he so commonly brought new riders who were in over their head on rides that he got the reputation of someone who loved to feed on other’s suffering.
Jimmy would show up at 5:30 AM with this huge travel mug filled with coffee and guzzle it down then babble incoherently, his brain running faster then his mouth could.
“Hey, hey, th, th, th, th, this is really early to time, time to, go out and start a bike ride,” he may say. No matter what the temperature Jimmy wore the same kit. Blue Dickies work pants, a striped button up, long sleave shirt, and dirty red flannel, no helmet, no hat, no gloves. Though he did use a velcro band to keep his pant leg out of the chain. 100 degree days with direct sun and Jimmy might take the flannel off and tie it around his waste, maybe. Though he didn’t really look it, Jimmy was a strong cyclist. He was very skinny and his nervous system seemed to be clocked several speeds higher then normal. He would spin the pedals incredibly fast. In fact that was his trademark.
Snake always advocated a balanced “easy does it” approach to riding. He’d recommend keeping a steady brisk pace as often as possible. On climbs he would stay seated and spin a light gear. Jimmy on the other hand would hack at the pedals with viscous high speed strokes. His blue pants becoming a choppy blur. We referred to this as Bicycle Jimmy’s “Turbo.” On a big hill Jimmy would engage his turbo and blast up the hill beating everyone. Once he explained to me that he really gave it his all climbing the hill because he could coast down the other side and catch his breath. He explained this like he had discovered some as of yet unknown power for wheeled things to roll downhill as if magic.
Bicycle Jimmy became a fixture on the Saturday morning ride for a couple years and then was gone. According to Snake his ex-wife had taken him back, he’d got a job and bought a car. Many years later he arrived at my door, telling me that Snake had told him where I lived. He was driving a boat of a car, a 70s Lincoln and he produced from it’s cavernous trunk a 70s era Schwinn road bike. He asked me to mount a bike computer on it he had purchased at Wal-Mart and I did so, though I complained a bit telling him I wasn’t his personal mechanic. He laughed hysterically at this.
Jimmy was no longer rail thin, he’d developed a round stomach, about quarter as large as mine, but it really stood out on an otherwise tiny man. He said he hadn’t rode in years and I wasn’t really riding like I used to. This was 2002 after many years of not riding much more then a few times a month. He went to tell me how much fun he’d had riding with Snake and us and that’s why he’d bought this bike. He was very proud having only paid 5 dollars for it. The bike looked to be beyond worn out and I wished him luck.
A couple weeks later Bicycle Jimmy showed back up at my door with the wheels from his 5 dollar Schwinn. They were both warped and so out of round that they were rubbing the frame. He asked me to fix them and I told him again I wasn’t his personal mechanic, which again he thought was a hilarious joke. I tried to explain that the wheels were beyond repair and they needed to be trashed. He asked me again to see what I could do and I politely asked him to go away. I have never seen him since.