Friday, March 13, 2009

Coke Bike

Written in the Fall of 2007

At the beginning of the summer I was visiting Montreal and staying a couple nights at my friend Noush’s place. In her hallway was a large flat, rectangular box, slightly rounded on one side. I inquired as to its contents, and as I had presumed, it was a bike. It had been given to her by her parents when they were visiting from Dubai. Noush said she had no use for it since she had a strong affinity towards her own bike and was soon leaving the city anyway. To my great delight, I was told I could have this ten speed mode of transportation for no more than the expense of having it assembled, probably $40 or so.

Two months later I move to Montreal with the beautiful Parc La Fontaine literally a stoner’s throw away from my new residence, where all the cyclists enjoy daily scenic exercise while they ride their pride. I would soon join them. I wasted no time in claiming my prize which luckily was still residing with Noush about a ten minute walk from my place. First I took the box to a bike shop right across the street from her, where after some strange looks the man told me it would be a few days before he’d have a chance to look at it. I couldn’t wait that long, so I carried the box, the weight of which seemed to double with every block, to the big bike shop by the park, the Cycle Pop. There the box and I were met with more strange looks. Apparently a bike in a box is not something even the greatest of bike enthusiasts see often. They would take a look at it and get back to me with an assembly price.

Although most of you probably already know where this is going, I’ll give a bit more background on where the bike came from. When Noush was much younger and living in Dubai, the Coca Cola Company had a promotional contest where each bottle had an image of a bike part under the cap. When someone collected all the necessary bike parts, they could mail them off to Coke and receive a free bike. While she never won, those hard to find pieces were just a little too hard to find. Coke had some excess bikes left over from the promotion, still kicking around several years later with no use other than buttering up the occasional business partner. Noush’s father was in the business of opening movie theaters and thus found himself in possession of the once sought after coke bike… in a box.

Okay, cut back to Canada, September 2007, the day after dropping my package off at the Cycle Pop. I haven’t received a phone call with the estimate but I’m in the neighborhood and decide to drop in to check on its status. The very French man says:

“Yeah, we put your bike together.”

“Already? How does it look?”

“It’s ah… (laughs a bit) it’s a cool bike.”

“Oh yeah? It’s a good bike, eh?”

“Well, is not a good bike, but is real neat. We tried calling you.”

Apparently the guy could not read his co-worker’s handwriting and was calling the wrong number. The assembly involved a lot more parts and repairs than anticipated, and the itemized bill in handwriting I couldn’t read, probably in a language I don’t know (French), likely using unfamiliar terminology (bike), totaled about $100. A little more than I was hoping to spend, but it didn’t matter, it was done and I had my bike. The guy told me how amused everyone that worked at the shop was with it, I would soon find out why.

While I did have some idea of what to expect, I was quite taken aback when he wheeled in the rolling billboard. And though I did resent the corporate whore aspect of it, I also thought it was kind of cool. When I asked if he thought it would be a target for theft, he laughed at me. (Better get a picture of me with the bike for insurance purposes anyway, just in case.) Besides, I would get used to the snickers. Perhaps the most embarrassing set came from a small group in the park the next day. I was struggling up a hill when the front tire’s rear plastic fender falls off. I picked it up, happy to further amuse the kids before heading straight home. This repair I could do myself, but it would be the last.

Some more facts about the bike:

  1. Though most the decals read ‘Coca Cola’, the top one reads ‘MJB.’ I have no idea what this stands for.

  2. I still don’t know how to properly change gears, some of which are written in what I believe to be Hindi.

  3. I consulted the owner’s manual in an attempt to remedy this, the most useful information I found read: “Do not spook animals. If you come to an equestrian, let them know you are there, dismount and then walk around them slowly.”

  4. Though I set it as tight and high as I can, the seat will always sink to its lowest setting as I ride and go over small bumps.

  5. This one’s not really about the bike, but why do helmets always have to look so damn big on me? And why does it seem like I’m the only one in this city who wears one? I guess everyone trusts their bikes a lot more than I do.

  6. Any steady incline or hard work put on the bike, and the entire crank attaching the left pedal will fall off. This may or may not be caused by my inability change gears.

The first time this happened, I took it back to the shop. I had it back the same day. As soon as I put my weight on the recently reattached pedal, the cheap plastic snapped a bit. This was no surprise, since it had already happened to the other one, and besides, they were still functional.

The second time this happened was on my birthday when I was halfway to my destination, dropping off a job application. The good news was that after an unexpected, very sweaty interview, I got the job. The bad news was that after 3 pm, you’re not allowed to bring a bike on to the metro. After trying several stations and fighting with unsympathetic STM employees, I resigned myself to the long, hot walk home. By this point, the plastic of the right pedal had been reduced to not much more than a nub. Oh well, I had to replace the other one anyway, and they only come in pairs. I still made several attempts to sit on the bike, either pedaling with the one nub or pushing it along with my legs, Fred Flintstone style. It was useless, and I knew what I had to do.

So back to the Cycle Pop with the Coke Bike one last time. I told them there was no rush. I didn’t come back the next day. It was about two weeks this time before I could be bothered to come get it again. I went for a leisurely ride in the park to test the new pedals, and despite the usual stares and giggles, knowing it would likely be one of the last times I would ride this gaudy advertisement made me a little melancholy. Since I would need to take some pictures to sell it online anyway, why not make a day of it? So Anita and I spent a couple beautiful Sunday hours last weekend enjoying some Parc La Fotoshootaine in the dying warmth of summer. The imported, retro-cool, extremely photogenic bicycle is currently on Craig’s list for $4000, and no Anita, I don’t come with it.

* Your best friend apologizes to both of you regular readers out there for the lack of content and recycling of old material in recent weeks. The causes of this are manifold: laziness, beginning to regain a life away from the computer, blowing much of my proverbial blogger load in January while posting at a rate I knew I would not be able to maintain, and also becoming a contributor to Action and Action where a lot of my viral video finds and movie geek-outs will be posted. Cheers and thanks for reading.

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