Monday, April 25, 2011

You Meet the Nicest People on a Fixed Gear

I wash my clothes at a laundromat, since my house is a. too small for a washer/dryer, b. has no washer/dryer hookup and c. is not wired for 220 volt (for a dryer).  Plus, I really prefer going to a place with multiple washers and dryers, twice a month, rather than washing one load at a time 6 times a month.

Anyway, I usually take something along with me to keep me occupied, while the clothes are in the dryer.  Sometimes, I take a sketchbook.  Other times, I take a guitar and sit out in the back of the truck and play.

One particular day, I took a fixed gear bike.  I was working on riding backwards circles, so I figured I'd just do a little practice in the parking lot.

As I did so, an older gentleman walked up and watched me, for a couple of minutes.  Finally, as I once again failed to make the full 360 degrees, he spoke to me.

"Is that a solid gear?" he asked.

"Solid gear?"  I said.  "I guess so.  It's what we call a 'fixed gear', nowadays.  It doesn't freewheel."

"We called 'em 'solid gears', back when I was a messenger," he said.

Now, I was interested.  So I quizzed him a bit, about his messengering days.

He told me that he had been a bike messenger, in the 1930s, when he was 10 to 12 years old.  Though he mostly delivered packages in the downtown Denver area, he sometimes made deliveries as far away as Lakewood and Morrison, a round trip of over 50 miles...on a fixed gear...on mostly unpaved 10 years old!

I sat and listened to his stories for as long as he would tell them.  All the while, I was kicking myself for not having a portable recorder.  I figured I would see him, again, at the laundromat, though and then maybe get to take notes or record some of his tales.

But, of course, I never saw him again.  That laundromat closed, not too longer afterward, so I have no idea if I'll ever meet the old gent, again.

I sure was lucky to meet him that one time, though.  Living history!



  1. I don't enjoy spending time at laundromats at all, so I'm glad we have a washer and dryer. It's a great way to hear people's stories, though, apparently!

  2. What a great story. I really need to slow down and chat with folks more.


As always, sorry about the word verification. It's a necessary evil, unfortunately.