Cutting to the chase: the Fredward is kinda like Jackie Chan's Drunken Master. You know, the funky hero, overlooked, underestimated, indestructible, never too serious...and busting out the moves when nobody expects it. Yeah, the Fredward's a great coffeeshop cruiser, or a barhopping beat 'em up bruiser bike, but it cuts corners, pops outta stops, and kills hills with the best.
So, Backstory Part the First: I loaned out my fun-as-phosphorus 'cross bike to Ana for MonsterCross. Cool, that bike lives for the races, ya know? Of course, he had to pick it up somehow—so his Fredward got to stay with me while Ellie the Private Jake went home with him. Eh, no big deal, might take it for a spin around the block or something if I get the chance...
That's when the snowstorm hit.
Cruuuuuuuud. Gotta get to Adams Morgan in a couple inches of slushy, snowy schmutz, and I don't have my go-to Snowmonster with me anymore. Guess I'll have to sit this one...wait, this bike Ana ditched with me has 'cross tires. This might just work.
Okay, so I didn't go straight in to work—you know, when it's completely crazy outside, the completely crazy College Park cyclists meet for coffee—but, as I was heading in, plowing through snow-covered trails, I had a bit of a realization.
Which brings us to Backstory Part the Second: Phaedrus.
Phaed was my first DC bike. Like, I grew up riding bikes, but spent college mostly walking everywhere. Wore out a lot of Keen hiking boots that way. A year and a half into living in DC, I'd had enough—I wanted a bike. So I played craigslist roulette, found a Bridgestone XO-4 hybrid (wait, like the tire company?) for pretty cheap, and bought it. No, it didn't really fit me, but whatever; that bike cut corners like nothin' else. I felt like I was flying. Well, okay, for the two days before Snowmageddon hit. I wasn't crazy enough to ride in that.
Now, a few things: Bridgestone (yes, the tire company) XO bikes are kinda cult bikes. Their designer was this crazed genius named Grant Peterson, who'd go on to found Rivendell, his own bike company where he could built his own bikes and write his own rants, in '94, about the same time Phaed was built.* If you talk to bike geeks about Bridgestones, you see eyes light up. The folks at All-City—about the biggest bunch of bike geeks out there—make no secret of their love of Bridgestone. Handsome even made a bike called the XOXO, a direct homage to/clone of the XO-1. So yeah. Nice bike.
Of course, there was that whole "too small" thing. I looked like I was riding a clown bike, and sometimes felt like I was about to pitch forward over the bars. Once I got my Schwinn (which is completely too big for me, but that's another story), I stopped riding Phaed, but couldn't quite bring myself to sell such a beloved bike. I mean, he was the first bike I ever paid for, the one that got me into riding in DC, the one that...so many memories with that bike.
So when a shorter friend of mine needed a bike, I gave him to her. The ol' Bridgestone's currently sporting red tires, brand new fenders, and leading a happy life running around College Park and beyond.
All this is a long way of saying that, when I hopped on Ana's Fredward and headed off into the snow, I felt just like I was back on my old bike. My first bike. The one I loved so dearly, but still gave away.
This time, though, the snow that came two days later didn't stop me (and the bike fit!). I'd done this. I got this. Do crazy, or go crazy. It's my new normal.
The folks I was meeting for coffee? One of them was Phaed's current owner. We dropped by her house on my way to work—and there was my old Bridgestone, in from the snow.
It was a long trek in after I left, through fresh snow, fellow crazies, grey slush, and General Gross; the change to freezing rain (yes, I took the Metro back between Petworth and CP—I draw the line at ice!) didn't make things better. Of course, I don't live at the Metro station; I rode through the night, face covered in layers of wool, glasses fogging, the ice-covered snow not crunching under tires but unzipping, ripping, tearing, following ruts and holding tight in turns, finding the odd, smooth margin at the edge of the pavement...
Yes, but what about the bike? Isn't this supposed to be a review? Where are the component specs? What's with the geometry? Why does it climb so well? What about the gearing? Was the only point of that Jackie Chan reference at the beginning an excuse to watch kung fu fight scenes and call it "work related research?" Give us details! Tell us! Tell us!
Okay, here are your component specs: it's a bike. It has two wheels, two pedals, a saddle and a handlebar. There's a chain that connects the crank to the back. It's a great invention. It goes when you pedal, stops when you work the brakes. There's a version with three speeds, another with just one; keep things simple, you can't break what you don't have. Oh, and you get your choice of three colors.
There you go. That about covers it.
Look, things can be complicated. If you want complicated, I can do complicated. Heck, I'm a recovering philosopher—I can make things complicated!
This here, it ain't complicated. Ain't fancy. It's an antidote to buzzworditus and techgeekery. I mean, it's well thought out, but you're not supposed to notice that, but rather, ride it, live it. There's lots of cool stuff you can do, lots of ways you could trick it out, things you could swap, approaches you could take—but, you know what, it's just fine the way it comes. You do you. Ride your ride.
What you are supposed to notice is how crisply you can snap through a tight turn, take the secret shortcut, hop a curb, climb a hill, feel the flow, stop overthinking, start riding, start flying, start grooving. That's cool. That's what matters. That's what's awesome.
It's a connection to old memories and new stories, to places and people, to making the everyday into just a little bit of an adventure.
*Some of the things on Riv's website are the bikeworld's answer to Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap labels. I mean, there are a few good nuggets in there, don't get me wrong, but there's a reason the part of me that loves a good left-field whacko idea is still cackling with glee over my hard copy Riv catalog.
(Okay, photos. The one by the bridge also features Rod Smith on his Kona ["make sure you get me in the picture" I hear him yell as he rolls up]; the one of me with my face covered was taken by Millie T., who's on the right—and, cool thing about it, the gal in the middle is the person I gave Phaedrus. That's a borrowed Felt she's riding in the photo, though. The bike among the snowpiles, though? That's Phaed)