The sound of the small two-stroke reminded me of a fly in my kitchen. Making multiple concentric circles, each one a little closer until, POW! There it was right on my breakfast plate.
I’d been cleaning out the shed, getting ready for the first junk day our city’s had in 10 years, the first time the rider on the maxed-out two-stroke flew by. I could only guess what it was because I didn’t turn around fast enough to see it. Several more times that day I heard him go by, disappointed that I didn’t get a closer look at the oddity. It’s like I’m stuck at 12 years old. When the neighbor comes down the street in his old Road Runner, I stop what I’m doing to look. I have a natural curiosity about what sort of thing is driving past my house.
So this unknown, two-stroke powered conveyance was figuratively circling my breakfast plate and I couldn’t quite figure out why. The contents of my shed aren’t all that interesting—weed whacker, lawn mower, snow blower with a busted handle… the usual Northeast homeowner paraphernalia. I’d paid 20 bucks for the snow blower in the off season a few years ago. I’d gotten my money’s worth and then some before the exhaust burnt the handle in half. I didn’t really feel like tearing it apart to fix it, so I just let it sit outside in the driveway after I’d put everything else back in the shed or out at the curb. I wasn’t committed to a plan of action for its disposal.
Later that evening, I heard the now-familiar buzzing again and looked up from walking the dog just in time to see the source—a two-stroke engine strapped to the back tire of a bicycle, and he’d just blown a four-way stop. I’m no prude, but there is something more sinister about a bicycle with an engine ignoring the rules of the road when compared to a human-powered bicycle doing the same deed. Still, I was fascinated. The operator was having an outstanding time; I just hoped he didn’t get hit or spotted by the wrong cop.
The next evening my doorbell rang during dinner. Personal communications being what they are these days, I wasn’t expecting anyone and considered not answering, but I’m glad I did, as it was our neighborhood two-stroke rider. “I was wondering what you were going to do with your snow blower,” he said. Then, without giving me much of a chance to answer and with desperate anticipation he added, “Does it run?” I knew before the words ever came out of my mouth that this kid would be the snow blower’s new owner. He would take it, or at least parts of it, on adventures that it would never see in my care and it just seemed right.
I offered to throw it in the truck and deliver it to him and that’s when I got a chance to look over his homemade whizzer. He fabbed a rack out of rectangular tubing, bolted it together and attached it to the bike frame. Then he attached the weed whacker engine and gas tank to it, along with a knurled aluminum BMX axle peg to the engine output shaft. The knurled peg made direct contact with the rear tire and that was the source of the drive train. A screen door spring on each side held tension on the unit so it stayed in contact going over bumps. There was no clutch, just direct drive, which adequately explains his total disregard for stop signs.
When we more mature riders talk about the riders of the future and where they will come from, these are the people I am not seeing. This kid has the fire to ride that we had. Somehow, some way he’s going to be on two wheels and I’d bet that when he’s buying springs at the hardware store to hold this thing together there is nothing more important in this world to him than getting back on the road. He isn’t an “emerging market” or a demographic. He’s a kid with a passion to ride just as fast and as far as he can, before he rests just long enough to do it again. He is also an endangered species and I, for one, will yield the right-of-way to him at four-way stops in hopes that one day his kind will once again roam free in great numbers.