The Bike Chronicles

Myriam Sitterson - Brazil


March 27, 2015

To say that my bicycle is problematic is an understatement. Its shortcomings made themselves evident early on, when the chain started falling off every half kilometer like clockwork. That was before I started working on a farm an hour’s bike ride away. Last week, the chain exploded. That’s probably not the most accurate verb choice, but no, it really exploded. The week before that, my drawstring bag fell through the basket and got caught in the spokes of the front wheel while I was on my way to work. Unable to move my bike forward at all, I decided it would be best to leave the bike where it was, take my valuables from inside the bag, and return for the bike, with help and/or scissors, later on. It seemed like a good plan, until I realized that the bag’s strings were so tightly intertwined in the spokes that I couldn’t actually open my bag to take anything out. If I wanted my camera, phone, money, and bug repellent to come with me, the bag, and the bike, would have to come too. I was about half a kilometer from work.

Well, after a quick, but very focused, 3.5 second brainstorming session, I came up with two options. I could stay put and cry (which seemed, and still seems, pretty rational considering the circumstances), or I could try to carry my bike on my back the rest of the way. Obviously, I chose the latter. And not because I thought it would make a good story, or because of some stoic resolve ingrained in my character. No, no; the real reason I decided to get a move on was that all the dogs in the neighborhood were catching onto my presence. The noise was growing exponentially as each dog’s bark triggered another seven’s. It was only 7:30 am, and the impending vision of families being torn from sleep by their little, unofficial guards and peering out their windows to see a girl sobbing in the middle of the road made me reconsider my options. So instead of breaking into tears, I turned my head to the sky, murmured a couple expletives, lifted my bike onto my right shoulder, and walked the rest of the way to work.

There’s no moral to the story. I’m not going to turn my bike into a metaphor for my life or my experience in Brazil. It really is an awful bike ‰ÛÓ an old, rusty, awful bike. Since I inherited it back in September, I’ve had to replace the seat, both tires, and the chain, at intermittent points. The basket is being held together by twist-ties. I’ve frequented the bike shop to get holes in the tires repaired, and to oil and adjust and replace various other parts, more often than I can say. Several articles of my clothing are marked with grease stains. Most recently, I lost a pair of flip-flops to the gaping hole in the basket. Basically, it’s been rough. And yet, in spite of everything, I’ve never considered, at least not seriously, buying a new bike. Because I could, very easily, just replace it altogether. But I haven’t. And with three weeks left in this town, I’m pretty sure I never will. I hate my bike, but I am grateful for it, because I know how much I rely on it. I am especially aware of how much I rely on it when its chain decides to explode on a dirt road ten kilometers from home.

Myriam Sitterson