You and the Night and the Knobbies
by Jacquie Phelan

The moon has its plans; I vary accordingly. Each summer month I wait impatiently as the moon fattens up, then, at just the right time, I zip out to watch it ooze, misshapen over the local hills. Then run home to eat dinner and later head out for a moonlight cruise with my partner in grime.

The moon pulled my Old Man and me together. At first, I thought is was strictly because of our bike affinity, but in retrospect I can see how the moon exerted her awesome, if subtle, influence. I think the moon makes you marry.

Now and then, I'll play cupid and urge friends whom I think 'belong' together to try a moonlight ride. They'll discover that old, familiar roads take on an Ansel Adams epic beauty, that the light is uniquely spooky and magic, and that the person next to them starts looking like the statue of David. Or Jimmy Stewart. Or just awfully sweet, hugging himself watching the lights down in town twinkling away.

Years ago, when I was making the transition from street-bike urchin to dirt-bike urchin, I was heavily into moonlight picnics with my citified non-biker friends and decided that the soft-spoken bikie guy with the curly hair I'd met a few times up north might want to meet me up on his mountain.

Persnickety selection standards were keeping my boyfriend options scarce ("must be able to drop me on the climbs and not get dropped in a dinner conversation and should not care about a clean house") and I kept burning out the likely prospects.

My saddle was getting way more action from me than any person was. I needed a fellow saddle-sore sufferer. A special someone to watch me fix flats in the rain, to rescue from the bonk, someone to have and to mold -- er, hold.

I wanted a cycling boyfriend.

Mr. Shy agreed to meet me at the top with my friends, and for one special, full moon evening he ignored his chronic partyphobia to show me "the dirt route" down the mountain. My city moongazing buddies drove off after the picnic, leaving us alone on the East Peak. My redoubtable Raleigh Sprite looked prim next to his gnarly aluminum-boned homebuilt bike. My heart was doing doughnuts inside my ribs. Too dazzled to talk, we pointed our bikes down the mountain.

The race was on.

"At last," I thought, "a guy who WANTS to compete with me."

It was pure adventure, dodging hidden branches and smelling hot summer chaparral one minute, cool fingers of fog the next, rippling along in the zebra-lit trails. It felt like there was no one else on the whole planet as alive as we were. The wine and the wind and the dolmades really went to my head. I fell a couple of times, but nothing hurt, and each time I caught back up without his noticing I'd been off his wheel. By the time we reached bottom, breathless, we knew we were a match.

After a minute, he spoke.

"I had to take it slow because my light was fading."

"Well, I was crawling because it was tough to read the trail off your light," I countered. "No light is better anyway, you learn to read the trail."

So far, so good -- matching B.S. quotients.

We secretly tied the knot our first month together, by attending his pal's fat-tire wedding where we accidentally mouthed the vows along with the rabbi. It was a done deal and so easy. The Mush Factor at those things, it's in the air like globs of perfume thick enough to cut with a cake knife. I'm convinced that weddings beget other weddings. And bike weddings are the triple word score of summer events because you can count on casual clothes, killer grub, and a safe place to park your machine.

It took six more years for us to take a shine to the notion of officially tying the knot with people staring on. I was one of those people who believed that getting married automatically set you up for an inescapable sequence of events like Buying a Washing Machine, Caring About Sofa Stains, TV Addiction, the general domestication program. My innovative mate still reminds me it's possible to rewrite the book and not simply follow it. So we did get wed and naturally everyone came by bike. We ate cake on top of beer. God knows what happened in 70 stomachs on the downhill that evening.

Depending on the years of exposure and depth of immersion on the cycle scene, you make a few bicycle buddies, so you may get invited to a bicycle wedding. It's a genre. If the invitation features a bicycle somewhere on it, you're a bona-fide member of the Cult of the Bicycle and about to participate in one of its most treasured rides, er, rites.

This year at the first big race of the season, the subject of bike weddings came up. I was talking with a freshly engaged gal on the sidelines and as we spoke the racers navigated a tricky right-angle turn at the bottom of a dusty 17% descent. Something that one person could look at as a totally engrossing, fun adventure and which another would see as a Ticket to Certain Doom. Something you might slide into unwittingly, but survive. A chacun son guts. I knew this woman was in for big fun because she and her sweetie were stoked.

Long ago I was a doomsayer (but then, I'm always finding 'doom' floating among the Alpha Bits, spelled backward on billboards, lurking in the lyrics). But 'Marital Doom' turned out to be nothing more than a deep drop-off that, once I'd learned the move, became an al dente delight. Maybe that's why weddings are such thrilling spectator events. Everyone wonders if there's going to be a crash or two down the road. It's a risk, but all the big important stuff carries a risk.

And there's always the moon to pull you back into love's orbit.

© Jacquie Phelan
Bike, September 1995

other stories by J Phelan