All Images, reflections, memories and fabrications ©2011 Tony Hernandez Photography

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tinker toys and the joys of worry free riding

We tinker because we must. I don't know about you, but I have to mess with stuff. There has to be "someway" to improve or understand better, everything I get my hands on. While sometimes visual, there also seems to be a "small amount" of operational tinkering that goes on with the things I choose to propel myself on. It started with my not so genuine "Schwinn Stingray styled" bicycle in the 70s. Ape hanger handlebars were all the rage back then. Everybody was doing it. But what was even cooler was ... boxed in handlebars! They were the same as ape hangers, only with less bend in them so the hand grips were much closer together. I'm pretty sure it was an "Easy Rider" thing. All of my friends wanted them but, we had no idea where they came from. I finally got up the nerve to ask the guy in the neighborhood where he got his. He laughed and said, "I did it myself". I was amazed! How did you do it? "Easy! You want me to do them on your bike?" The thought of having real "boxed in handlebars" was too good to pass up. I said "Sure"! He then proceeded to throw my mock Stingray on the ground, and began pushing on the bars until one of them bent. I was still in shock as he lifted my bike up, looked at it, threw it down again on the other side, and proceed to repeat the process I had just seen. Before I could totally freak out, he lifted the bike once again. Looked at it and rolled it over to me. There they were. The most perfect set of boxed in bars I had ever seen. Thinking back on it, they probably weren't all that perfect. But to me, I was way cool. I thanked him and rode off to show my friends. They were also astounded. "Where did you get those?" They asked. I told them the story and next thing you know, everyone's bike was on the ground getting "custom bars". From then on, whether it was bikes, skateboards, motorcycles, cars, everything had to be "tweaked". Just for the record, I am not a mechanical wizard. I know people who are and I am certainly not one of them. But I'm not a complete idiot when it comes to things like that. So off I go into the world of tinkering. My current tinker toy is a motorcycle. It's the most basic, simple, clean machine I could find. Nothing fancy. No flashing lights, windshields, heated grips, fuel injection, stereos ..... nothing. Just the basics, and that's the way I like it. It's amazing what you can do to this thing with the simplest tools. But the best part is, at least for me, is being able to do minor stuff yourself. The ability to make adjustments and understand why they were made is awesome. It reminds me of when we were skateboarders. We would build up our own boards. No Vans pro-shop for us ..... probably because there weren't any. We knew every nut, bolt and bearing. "Know thy equipment" we would always say. And now, it's the motorcycle. There's always something to do to it. I'm sure it was perfect to the guy who owned it before me, but there's always something I feel the need to change or improve. A new tail light. A carb adjustment. Changing the handlebars. Always something. If I was smart, I would have bought one of those new fangled, fuel injected, heated grip jobs and would have never had to worry about the stuff I do with my basic ride.

But seriously, where's the fun in that?