Friday, December 6, 2013

I Hear the Broken

Bip posing in front of Arizona Falls. Sound of falling water.

Riding along in traffic sometimes, the sounds of broken things stand out and catch my attention. The most common are brake pad wear indicators, and power steering pump squeals. Also very often are engines that just don't sound right idling at stoplights. Less common, but still notable, are people yelling or crying into cellphones while also driving their cars. I don't try to eavesdrop. However, particularly at stoplights where we're both waiting, if they are loud and the windows are down, I do hear. I also hear broken or breaking bicycles: dry crunchy chains, ultra untrue wheels rubbing on everything on every revolution, grinding and squeaking sounds that just can't be good.

One night on the commute home this week, early dusk, I was waiting for traffic to clear on my side so I could make a brief street crossing righthand turn to get across and into the left turn lane to get to the street I needed to reach. To my left, the light was red, and a bunch of vehicles were already there waiting at the light. My side cleared complete, so I went across and then merged into the left turn lane. At that point, the oncoming lane in front of me was clear, leading to the stopped/waiting vehicles at the light. There was an old Suburban SUV headed my way, a fair ways off, so I signaled and went ahead with my left turn. As I crossed, I heard the SUV driver mash the gas pedal, clearly having seen me, clearly seeing the red light, clearly seeing the bunch of other vehicles waiting in front of him. Gas pedal mashage, or its opposite, sudden gas pedal de-mashage, are two important occurrences to me on my bicycle, so I listen all around me for them nearly constantly. 

After a quick flurry of non-constructive thoughts in response, calming down at least to "Dude where the heck are you planning to go to so fast?" I landed on "I hear the broken," along with some calmer recollections of the sounds of other broken things I hear on my daily commute, like the above short list.

It was almost, but not quite, a sad little monkey award scenario. Instead, for the rest of the ride home, I just contemplated possible responses to breakage. While wondering still, a bit, about aggressive red light gas pedal mashing.


  1. Your Trek 950 reminds me of my Trek 830. By your blogpost title, I was afraid you were going to say you heard broken "something" on your bike. Phew! was I relieved...

    1. My guess is that mine spent most of its first 15 years hanging on a garage wall. It had all original stuff including tires, and they weren't even that worn, just decayed from heat and time. So I think it's still got some life in it's steel bones, particularly if I use it for less demanding purposes like riding for coffee and seeking out public art. With only a little trail riding thrown in once in a while. Not broken yet, in other words.

    2. Although the left shifter is haunted. I'll give you that. It has a mind of its own

  2. I wish I could cinzano cars.


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