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Spare Parts: Inside job

By Ernie Copper

When the going gets tough, the tough go indoors. It has been a winter for the records—record low temperatures, record snowfalls and a record-setting volume of weather news. Riding has been nearly impossible this winter in the Northeast, where if it wasn’t the weather keeping us off the roads, it was the roads themselves. Many roads looked more like a crater-filled moonscape than a thoroughfare to support travel.

As a result, this winter has probably seen more of the quintessential, Norman Rockwell biker moments—the bike in the house—than most. Having your bike in your house is not necessarily something to aspire to. Your wife is right; they don’t belong there. But the effort and engineering put into getting it there and back out again can be a source of pride. I’m not talking about pushing your bike from your garage around the bike yard and into the walk-out basement double doors here. You guys get extra credit for having the forethought to buy or build a house with that convenience and it is ultimately the most practical way to keep a bike in the house, but it lacks the desperation for togetherness and sacrifice that others have shown. Basically, you took the easy way out and in.

We’re talking hardcore bike-in-the-living-area-of-your-house behavior here, or back-door-off-the-hinges-straight-down-the-basement-steps activity. “Normal” basement steps are built with an angle somewhere around 36 degrees, not ideal for the descent or ascent of 800 pounds of rolling metal. I have personally used a come-a-long to ratchet my bike out of the basement, but that pales in comparison to an old friend who built a custom V-Twin in his basement one winter, only to find that it could not make the trip back out due to the angle of the steps and the access door. He did what any red-blooded American would do. No, not put a hinge in the bike so it could make the bend at the top of the stairs. In the spring, he busted out the basement block, added a set of double doors, and walked through it to ground-level freedom. He has since moved from the house and sold the bike, making the entire exercise rather pointless, but who am I to judge?

The buy low/sell high business model was developed by my father in the 60’s. He would seize opportunity each fall or winter to pick up bikes offered by motivated sellers, enjoyed them for several months and then shine them up for sale at a profit when the weather turned nice again. The strategy allowed him to move up through the motorcycle food chain, keeping an occasional favorite or using the profit to buy what he wanted—mostly practical things like sidecars so more of us could enjoy a trip. It also meant that I grew accustomed to seeing bikes in the front hallway during the winter since not many had heated garages then. Our entry hall featured stylish 12″ x 12″ vinyl floor tiles that were all the rage and nearly impervious to oil drips. I spent many mornings before school aboard the parade of bikes in our front hall, imagining—no, knowing—what it would be like when I could really ride one myself. Then reality would creep back in as I put Wonder Bread bags on my feet so my five-buckle Arctic boots would slide on easier for the walk to school through the snow.

Honestly, the pinnacle of the bike-in-the-house scene has to be the living room rebuild. We’re talking Knucklehead on the coffee table here. And while I wasn’t there to see it, I do know of at least one such individual: Terry, a.k.a. Dick. He rebuilt his hardtail Knuckle, a classic black bike with apes, in his living room. He has since parted with that bike (back when Walneck’s paper issue was the trick) in favor of more modern, dependable, two-wheeled transportation, but he has inhaled the rarified air of the living-room rebuild and nobody can take that away from him. If there is a better way to cope with a harsh winter, I’m not sure what it would be.

It finally got warm for long enough this weekend that I could turn the outside water back on, wash off the bike, and take her for a little spin. It felt awfully nice and reminded me that this new polar vortex phenomenon won’t last forever. So please, don’t drag your bike inside now. It’s almost over. Just hang on.

 

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