Chris and his vintage Schwinn
Williamsburg Bridge . Wed Aug 15 2012
Sharing this story is long overdue. An electric blue frame caught my eye as I was riding the Williamsburg Bridge two Augusts ago. The rider was well ahead of me, but I felt compelled to know his story, so I sped up and managed to get alongside him to introduce myself, and thus unfolded the following:
About 11 years ago, Chris and his wife (then girlfriend), were living in Barcelona. It was there that he developed a perfectly reasonable addiction to rescuing abandoned bicycles. It started as a pragmatic decision — he and his wife needed a way to get around, so they picked up a couple of old bikes from the local flea market. Chris didn’t know anything about repairing bikes at the time, but he learned to tune them up and fix brakes.
Suddenly, a lot of their friends wanted bikes. Chris spread the love and fixed up old bikes for his friends. Eventually he met a guy who, for reasons unknown, had a warehouse of unbuilt bikes. Enough said.
4 years later, Chris and his wife moved to Bushwick and his love for mending bicycles continued:
So I just find parts and make these mismatched bikes that have a lot of personality and are really great. I would always fix up a bike and then sell it just so I can have a new bike all the time.
This vibrant blue Schwinn was his latest rescue. For months, it had laid abandoned on Elizabeth between Broome and Grand, slowly being dismantled and pillaged for parts while still shackled. Chris would see it daily on his route to and fro his candy shop in Little Italy. It was tragic. Finally one day, the lock was gone and Chris saw his chance to salvage this classic vintage frame and in his spare time, he brought it back to life.
Chris’s appreciation for bicycles extends beyond rescue missions:
I just always have my eye on bikes. I've always been fascinated to eventually see the person who has the bike... it's really cool to see how the bike reflects the person.
Glimpsing the owner is a curious event. Knowing that the bike has a moniker is yet another:
I feel like the bikes end up with names after some time. I had this really great huge Dutch bike in Barcelona that I called Horse. It had pegs on it and it could carry me, someone else, and someone could ride on the front. It was just huge.
When Chris rides:
I guess it's kind of like a lot of different things. Sometimes going up the bridge or up a hill, it can be a real struggle and it kind of feels like, at times, I'm just wishing it's over. Like, oh I wish I had one of those really slick light fixed-gear bikes… but in the end, I just love the bikes I do have. I always feel like any bike that I've made work or rescued kind of responds to being taken care of because if something's been abandoned and no one's ever planning on ever riding it, when you fix it up, it's like the bike has a personality and responds, and is really happy to be ridden around.
But I also feel like there's so many moments of freedom where you're somewhere that no one else is. You're going down the bridge and it's amazing… I don't have enough time to do it, but when I do, it's fun to go on a long trip. I rode for miles on the Hudson and it was just really nice to realize how far you can go without anything but a bike, without any motor, and you know if you were walking, it would take so long to cover that distance. There's something really freeing about using just your own strength and momentum... you can really get far.
Chris is now in Santa Fe starting a new phase and with a different bike.