Heavy Metal Bike Shop

Fate keeps bringing the Heavy Metal Bike Shop and I together. Fate and the inevitable unexpected perils of riding a bike, however sturdy, in San Francisco. Monday night, for example, I got the call: “Hey, you should blog about the Heavy Metal Bike Shop. Don’t you love that place?” Yes, I do. I ride past Heavy Metal every day on my way to work, right after I pass the Post Office, wishing I had something fun to send out, and right before I pass Mitchell’s, wishing they had vegan ice cream. That same night, my housemate was kind enough to help me adjust the not-very-adjustable pieces of my tiny green Schwinn, which is the sort of bike where the bumper stickers stuck to it are almost all rubbed off. Tuesday morning, I hopped on my bike to find it transformed into a see-saw, tipping backwards and forwards as I tried to hold on with parts not meant for holding on until I finally reached Heavy Metal, that sanctuary of basic tools, about 5 miles into my daily ride. They let me use a wrench, chatted with me amiably about the size and weight of my bike (both absurd: it’s like some sadistic exercise regimen for children), gave a little bike-seat-angle advice, and sent me on my way.

It was nice to step into this little bicycle trove again, which I first experienced on a beautiful sunny day, just before Hanukkah. There was no school that day, and I was gleefully anticipating an afternoon overflowing with a bike ride which I intended to loop along the Bay, to glide past the Golden Gate Bridge, to wind south from the northern tip of San Francisco to Market Street, to coast victoriously back into the Mission by nightfall or, who knows, to see the sunset out at Ocean Beach. So the moment came to leave the office where I work mornings and out I went for about a mile of cycling as planned, until a screw laying innocuously in the bike path punched into my back tire. You know the sound.

The first moment of fate.

I yanked the screw out of my tire and adjusted my plans for the day, walking to a spot nearby with a view of the Bay and its Bridge, and read for a few hours. I didn’t want to get stuck downtown during rush hour, when bikes are forbidden on BART, so I walked to the Embarcadero Station around 4 and stepped onto the first train headed towards the 24th Street/Mission Station. The first thing that greeted my eyes on that first train (2nd moment of fate) were bike handles I recognized. One of my good friends had fissioned under the pressure of art school finals, gone to get a haircut, and hopped on the train home 5 or so hours earlier than usual. So there were were, and she thought I should bring my bike to her boyfriend’s favorite bike shop, the one on her walk home from the BART Station, Heavy Metal. She was kind enough to walk with me even though her bike tires were intact.

Inside the bike shop I found friendly folks who trudged good-naturedly through the layers of intrigue surrounding my bike. It’s so small, so green, so heavy, so nostalgic and so impossible to find a new tube for. They found me an old tube instead, not the right size but one that fits, all dusted with whatever fills an unopened box after a few years. Now I need a Presta pump for one tire and a Schraeder for the other. My old tube had three distinct holes in it from that assiduous screw.

I spent a while there. I chatted with a man wearing an Elvis Presley necklace, I found some chocolate gelt on the counter and learned where to find vegan chocolate gelt. That day, I heeded fate and headed home on my pumped-up bike only $15 later. $15 plus BART fare.