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Stories of Riders : Vince Costa

Amidst pouring rain, internet outages and rising covid cases, I spent day after day cooped up in a dingy outhouse with little light staring into my computer screen. I was bit by the "Fixie" bug. Instagram can be your best friend and your worst enemy at the same time. Here I was checking image after image, imagining my Fixie someday.

I must have been close to nine years when a large cardboard box showed up at home one night. A very generous couple had gifted me a BMXish type of cycle. It stayed with me till I was fifteen, and when I was done with it, it was a very different cycle to one I had received. We had both undergone a sea of change.

What is a cycle anyway? Two wheels, some pedals to propel it, brakes to stop, and a frame made of some metal to hold it together. Oh, and a seat to make the whole thing as enjoyable as possible. Sometimes when I contemplate the very simplicity of this orchestration, I'm left dumbfounded at the profound way these few components can affect some of us so deeply.

"Kent", made in Taiwan. To a nine-year-old boy, Taiwan was a cool word to be used amongst friends. "My cycle is made in Taiwan", I would declare proudly, not knowing where it was geographically or that it was the epicentre of the cycle manufacturing industry. The creme coloured cycle with a coaster brake was unique—way ahead of its time in my locality. People would be puzzled and concerned that I was riding around with no visible brakes. In a few months, I had mastered the coaster brake, a quick flick backwards, and I could do all sorts of things, from bringing it to a sudden stop to sliding around the place. Over the years, we became inseparable and a formidable pair. Even though the cycle wasn't built for gravel terrain, I would punish it through the most rigorous tracks—Uphills, narrow trails and in and around the dry rice fields. I wanted to mimic the BMX bandits. If only I could pull a wheelie or a stoppie, oh heaven. I managed both decently but not wholly. All these activities come with a warning, and one fine day, I fractured my wrist. My parents called me incorrigible and stubborn because I was back on the bike with a cast in a few days.

As the years passed, I went from boy to teenager, from that cycle to a motorcycle and somewhere in that chaos of youthful frenzy, I forgot about my cycle. It lay in the corner, a decaying junk, a pale symbol of its former self. The bike was eventually put to rest, but its spirit unknown to me, was still alive and well; all it needed was a match to light the inner fire. And as the desert does meet the rain someday, I laid eyes on a "Fixie".

The quest had begun. I was determined to make my bike, but where should one start? Well, a frame is a good place, I'm told. So off I went researching custom frames, and that's where "SCOLARIAN" came up. Over the next few months, I got to know Somy and vice versa. Patient, generous and indulging me in my outlandish ideas and suggestions, he worked with me on my build. Thanks to Youtube, I watched online videos by night, discussed ideas by day and bought components at clandestine hours to avoid marital discord. The kind of discord that all bikers face once they have too many cycles, spares and books all over the house. The monsoons turned to a hot, humid October, December came and went and finally, one day, like many years before, a cardboard box showed up.

It felt like Christmas day all over again. I opened the box to discover the white frame and other components waiting to be put together. And just like that, two wheels, some pedals, a handlebar, a seat, held together by a frame came to life. As I set off for my test ride, a smile crossed my face, the pure simplicity of a Fixie, just me, the cycle, the wind and the road. I remembered the 9-year-old, "Kent", the fields, and so much more. Against the backdrop of lockdowns, social distancing, loneliness and isolation, here was a gift.

As I pedalled, I joined the dots and realised what it was that I loved so much about cycling. Just for a moment, if only briefly, when the road, the wind, the bike and the rider become one, we taste a bit of that elusive freedom.

If you are considering getting a Fixie or a single speed, I'd highly recommend "Scolarian" to design your custom-bike and experience the joy of simple cycling.


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