election

Patriotic Bike

Billah Muhammad, bike owner (right), and Justin Ruth, bike artist
Billah Muhammad, bike owner (right), and Justin Ruth, bike artist
Steven Nery

I was hopeful today would be full of blowouts, but this isn't the kind of blowout I had in mind. On my way to a wi-fi coffee shop in Nob Hill, the front tire on my bicycle exploded. Luckily, I was near Bike World and had some money to get things patched up.

While I was paying for my new thorn-proof tire, a guy with a ponytail of dreadlocks walked in, paused at a rack of hanging bike rims, then grabbed a pair of slick red ones. He took the bike tires to the counter and asked for a pair of whitewall tires. When the cashier told him he'd have a hard time finding the proper size, the register dinged and he said, hesitantly, "The rims will be $179." The biker pays with a card.

Steven Nery

After I paid for the patch job, I headed outside to find the red rim buyer, Billah Muhammad, and a couple of his friends talking about how awesome Billah's bike was coming along. The frame was a eggshell blue with kitschy white stars; the rims Billah was replacing were spray-painted red. Dropping nearly $200 on the new red rims, he said he plans to buy whitewall tires when he can find some. Justin Ruth, one of his friends, claimed he was the artist.

When I ask Billah if he decorated the bike in spirit of the election, all three nodded and smiled. They asked me if I voted. I said yes and they started into a story about McCain's and Obama's recent campaign stops. I'm not sure which one said it because I immediately burst out laughing, but one of them compared McCain's last Albuquerque stop to a "defeatist, losing football team speech" mentality. Like in the movies.

Wishing each other luck and gathering our bikes, Billah adjusted his new rims around his shoulder and the three took off.