When I was in my early 20s, I was sure I knew everyone in Peoria who carried a bike on the roof of their car.
It’s possible: Peoria was a pretty small place back then. There was the bike shop, the laundromat, the grocery store, and the place with the all-you-can-eat spaghetti special, which one night turned into the all-we’re-going-to-let-you-eat special because someone decided eight plates of spaghetti was three plates too much.
I am fairly confident that particular someone did not carry a bike on the roof of his car.
Anyway, I thought bicycle roof racks and the people who owned them were cool. To me, the racks symbolized everything that was great about the European cycling scene.
If you had a bike on a roof rack, you were flying the flag. If the bike was Italian, you were flying the Italian flag. If it was French, you were flying the French flag. If you had one of each nation’s bikes, you were fighting World War I, trying to remember who was on whose side, why that was, who won, who lost, and who pushed the rest of us downhill and straight into World War II.
I also sold racks. Stamped steel. White paint. Rugged. Sharp.
I don’t mean sharp-looking; I mean they had sharp edges. You had to be careful putting them together.
Support vehicles in the big races sported racks similar to the ones I sold, full of shiny, lean steel-framed bikes.
I imagined myself a mechanic in one of those cars, hanging out the back window with a wrench, adjusting Luigi’s rear brake on the fly, maybe hanging onto the bike a little longer than necessary to make the repair to help Luigi bridge the gap to the main peloton.
(I am not saying I would have done this, and Luigi’s certainly not talking, not with his spaghetti endorsement contracts at risk.)
I wanted a roof rack. I just didn’t want a car.
And I knew it didn’t make sense to buy a car to justify the purchase of a rack. So I went through the rest of my twenties without either.
A few decades later, I’m less enthralled by roof racks. They serve their purpose, but the romance is gone.
(With today’s improved racks, so are the bandages.)
However, I’m still flying the flag when I have a bike on top of the truck, even if today I find myself wondering two things:
- What does the Taiwanese flag look like, and
- How many plates of spaghetti is too many in that country?