In August, I heard that a Philly street ride was being organized. This was a good excuse for me to put together a “new” bike.
A few months ago my wife Michele spotted “one of those little bikes that you do your tricks on” behind a dumpster. So I checked it out and saw that it had been crappily repainted, and had everything except a rear wheel and chain – including SE Landing Gear. Nice. I called the local police and asked if a bike matching the description had been reported as stolen. They did not have any reports.
About a week later I was driving home and saw another BMX bike laying by trash cans. It was complete and also had a custom paint job. EVERYTHING had a thick coat of white spray paint. Very Euro. I emailed the bike shop that was just down the street from where I found the bike but never got a response.
Between my old freestyle bike, the SE that Michele found, and the Haro that I found, I was able to build up a decent bike. (I found out later from a friend of mine who works for SE that there was a reason the bike was in the trash – it’s not that great of a bike. But I liked the way it handled, and the price was right.)
The only things I needed were a new brake lever and headset. I went to a shop after work, so I was still dressed in my smart but sensible business casual attire. I told the shop tech that I needed a 1 1/8 threadless headset for a BMX bike and he got me a nice Cane Creek setup. The gentleman, observing my clothes and oldness rings me up and says something to the effect of “You’re good to go – that should work great for your son’s bike.” I guess the bike tech does not get many 43 year old men; riding 20″ bikes; installing headsets themselves. He obviously didn’t know any riders from the 2008 Philadelphia Old School BMX Ride put together by the guys at Old School BMX and Vintage BMX.
Riding street on some of these bikes was pretty crazy 20 years ago. You would think riding street on a 20 year old bike is even crazier. But I only saw a few minor mechanical mishaps like flats, loose bottom brackets, a broken front brake pivot bolt, etc.. The guys take good care of these classics so they’re still going strong.
There were also plenty of new school bikes, and a couple of 24s.
There were over 40 riders cruising through the city in, as Mark Eaton called it, “casual mass.” We started at Penn’s Landing and played on the steps and benches for a little bit, then made our way to the wall rides at Market and 5th. There were 4 or 5 riders already busting out crazy stuff off the walls when we got there. Security guards usually kick riders out pretty fast but I guess all of our pink and neon green bikes made them think twice about messing with us. Or they were on lunch.
There were a few girls on BMX bikes there, taking pictures, and taking on kitten herding duties when necessary. When it was time to move to the next spot they would shout out “We’re rollin’!” or “Let’s go!” Having people on the ride to keep everyone together and somewhat organized was a big help. It also kept Gary from doing kick-outs into street people.
The next stop was City Hall for more flatland and a few repairs. The flatland session was getting crazy and drew some spectators. Even some skaters gave props to Mark Eaton by slapping their boards on the cement after his session. One of the other bikers told Mark, “Did you hear those skaters give you props?! That DOES NOT happen!” We hung there for awhile until Wally and Warren busted out a killer bike-switch. After that everyone immediately headed for the next spot, knowing it couldn’t be topped – or everyone was just too embarrassed to stick around.
Love Park was next on the itinerary. There were a bunch of skaters, street people, and wedding parties to avoid while riding, but there was plenty of room for everyone. A couple riders were bunny hopping the steps/gap onto, and off of, the stage that was there.
I talked some skater kids out of throwing a rotten apple at a sleeping vagrant. Because if he was awake, he might see us before we bunny hopped him. Just kidding. This time.
We eventually made our way to the Art Museum for photos, flatland and other festivities. Brett, Truckstop, and some other riders were doing a curved wall ride. Truckstop took some video with his phone and it looked like fun… until Brett bailed on one and dislocated his middle finger. He said it went 90 degrees to one side and then he snapped it back. I don’t think he was in much pain until he smacked it again. Ouch.
A lot of the riders have never been to Philly so they were getting pictures of the Rocky statue, and doing the traditional “run your bike up the Art Museum steps and then ride down”.
We headed toward South Street but stopped at City Hall again to gather people.
Deeply disturbed, and incredibly funny comedian/rider, George Gallo, was spotting celebrities the entire ride. “Hey! There’s that guy from ‘N Sync!” “Look everybody – it’s Morrissey!” He also tried to challenge a group of about 20 bike messengers to a Michael Jackson style dance-off. They were too cool for that. Luckily George’s son was there to keep him in check.
Some riders went to Rittenhouse Square and the rest started to head back to South Street. I now know why the old school wide bars went out of style. If you’re not careful they tend to smack into cars’ side-view mirrors. A 2008 Mercedes is no match for an 1998 StreetBeat in jam packed traffic on a one-way, pothole infested street. Besides, the girl didn’t hit the mirror very hard anyway.
After a little more flatland on a side street, people started to head to a bar. I left early to kick my friend’s a** in ping-pong (sorry Scott), then went home to OD on Aspercreme and Advil.