Oct. 17, 2004
The Bike Rodeo’s fearless bleeder, Jarico Reesce, first discovered the tallbike-jousting, beer-guzzling, fake-menacing charter chapter of the Hard Times Bike Club as a teenager in Minneapolis.
Recently transported against his will from Los Angeles to the wintery Twin Cities, an ever-angsty Jarico, already a rabid fan of the bicycle, spotted a couple punks riding tallbikes down the street. Needless to say, he befriended them instantly.
Skip to Jarico’s move to San Francisco seven or eight years ago, when he and Johnny Joyce decided to make that mutant-bike, joust-and-bleed thing a bit more idiotic by adding a traveling circus sideshow, a live band, klowns, skits, and carnival-ready midway rides. Behold: Cyclecide.
So the Hard Times was the first mutant bike club in America, and Cyclecide, the first mutant bike traveling show. The Johnny Bike-seeds, if you will.
Also, and perhaps more importantly to some “Burners,” active members of the Cacophony Society, Chicken and Jarico and the rest of Cyclecide and the Cirkus Redickuless, together with living superhero John Law, formed the first cleanup crew of a young Burning Man festival.
This crew is now called the DPW and, while continuing to provide necessary entropy to the festival itself, this howling mob of increasingly mewling dusty freaks hear few stories of the unrelenting badassery of their forebears, but that’s a different article for a different day.
During interviews with the press, Jarico always gives the Hard Times Bike Club (now called the Black Label Bike Club) the credit for planting the Cyclecide seed. When they coast through San Francisco, he gives them a couch to sleep on. Through our intricate web of friends that spans the states, many in Cyclecide and the HTBC also count each other as dear friends and ex-more-than-friendses.
So of course we — in particular, Jarico — wanted our Minneapolis show to be good, to pay our respects to our family.
The show was to take place downtown at the One on One Bike Studio, a shop nestled in an alley among high-rises, in an area of the city that’s probably ghostly quiet every weekend, even when the temperature isn’t close to freezing.
The One on One Bike Shop itself was no bigger than a trailer — a couple benches, some bike tools, one or two customs on display — but downstairs below it lurked a junkperson’s bike Valhalla: a dark basement that ran the length of two buildings, filled to the brim with bicycles and bike parts diverted from the waste stream. It was hard not to drool.
When we arrived in the morning in our new box truck and Geno and Christina’s passenger van, other folks in the Twin Cities bike community had already busied themselves setting up tables for a swap meet, at which they traded their unwanted and overstocked bike parts and gear.
We at Cyclecide promptly improvised a “We Got Rear-Ended Garage Sale,” where we sold expensive beers (we drank the cheap ones), bike tires, and a couple trinkets from the bus that some wanted to see gone, but others couldn’t stand parting with.
Fox, it turns out, really meant it when she said she loved that red-and-black stuffed snake that’d been wrapped around one of the hammock poles on the Shoo Shoo, serving little more purpose in its existence than to knock people in the head when they sat down. We tried to sell that snake for $1 and she nearly throttled us.
Of course, the Black Label Bike Club came out in full support, and ended up setting up most of the show for us. Not only were the Bike Club boys and girls not suffering from rear-ended disease, they’re also far heartier, and used to the dreadful cold.
We all caught a serious case of Flag Envy when they rolled up: on the back of Jake Houle’s beautiful black super-tallbike flew a large, expertly sewn, canvas-and-leather Black Label Bike Club banner. Linda looked to me, owner of a sewing machine, and gave me a wordless order: Make us a flag. And make it good.
The Scallywags came too — a Christian bike club who frequently rides with the HTBC but looks to be as gutterpunkish as their heathen counterparts. One would assume the Scallywags have different attitudes about the ingestion of substances and the stealing of girlfriends and boyfriends than the HTBC does, though.
It was refreshing to meet Christians who weren’t all up in everyone’s grill about being Christian, and they became instant family too. We wondered if the Philistines and their ilk thought Jesus was a gutterpunk back in the day when he was hanging out with hookers, turning water into wine, and kicking over tables in the temple.
The clouds grew darker overhead and the weather got colder throughout the day. Let me explain something here: Born in Mississippi, this writer lived our whole life in the South until moving to San Francisco. We’re not underweight, but we are small, and there is usually a good amount of beer in our already-thin blood. Therefore, we have absolutely no defenses against any temperatures below 50 degrees.
Cold weather, in short, makes us angry — angrier than a 10-percent tip; angrier than people who say “Noo-kyoo-lur” instead of “nuclear;” angrier than the superfluous use of dwarves in film. We HATE the cold, the way neo-conservatives hate everything but themselves. Then it began to drizzle — and even before our show was to begin, the weather poetically ranged from rain … to sleet … to snow.
It turns out the poor attitude wasn’t exclusive — Linda hails from Texas and Los Angeles, so we had a partner in our grumpiness. Everyone else was still plenty sore from the wreck, and soreness and cold don’t go very well together. Even as we were setting up the props to do the show, we were trying to reason with Jarico that since there were only 30 or so people there, they wouldn’t mind if we just ran the rides. Would they?
Couldn’t we just skip the show? It was too cold to wear our klown outfits, and we couldn’t run around anyway. What if the band just played and people rode our bikes around? … There was no way, though. Jarico’s mind was made up, and in retrospect, he was right: Minneapolis is home. The show must go on.
The hardy MPLS souls who braved the frigid afternoon to wait until our showtime thoroughly enjoyed themselves once we got up off our asses and did the thing. Thank goodness. Minneapolis is the one city where our audience would agree with Jarico’s philosophy about Cyclecide: the bikes are the stars, not the people.
The klowns gave a half-assed performance, that’s for sure, but nobody noticed, because everyone from the HTBC and One on One Bike Studio busied themselves riding and riding around the parking lot. They traded Swing Bikes; they fought over the Wrong-Way Bike; they tried repeatedly to run each other over.
If a junky bike crashed, as far as this crowd was concerned, it was fair game to mow it down with one’s own bike, wrestle the unskilled (and/or drunk) owner to the ground, and dogpile on top of the whole shebang. In the snow. God bless those thick-skinned Minneapolis freaks.
Of course, in this the homeland of tallbike jousting, the show’s tallbike joust was epic. Luke, the current president, pitted himself against this HTBC member named Mikey who’d broken his thumb during a tequila blackout the night before by punching someone in the face, and as a result wasn’t in peak physical condition. At least that was Mikey’s excuse.
Luke Houle climbed atop his tallbike like a ninja ascending stairs, and rode that shit with the most grace we’ve ever seen one of the burly Bike Club boys possess. (We’re told that Jake Houle, Per, Airaq, and Skitch of the HTBC are four of the other jaw-droppingly fleet-footed tallbike riders ever to pedal on the planet.)
Anyhoo, Luke pummeled Mikey in two or three matches, snapping the pole of his beautiful HTBC flag in the process. Needless to say, with the Bike Club there, our accident-prone asses stayed far away from the Moshpit of Recklessness at show’s end.
We don’t think it overstating to say that load-out was a miserable death march. Rain and snow had combined to make a slushy mess that plopped on our windburned skin in big heavy drops. It was Jarico’s first time organizing the bikes and rides in a new setup, so everything had to be scrutinized, discussed, and methodically planned. This amounted to a lot of clowns standing around in the freezing rain doing nothing.
The One on One folks, now totally hammered and on some gleeful otherworldly childlike plane, continued to ride and ride. They rode their bikes over other bikes, they rode into each other, they played war-ball with leftover tires, they tried to hoop each other with tubes, they threw tires on the roof and back down again. We could only glower at them, jealous of their energy, their thick blood, and their weather-appropriate clothing.
Johnny Feral, lead singer of local rock powerhouse The Ferals, had shown up to help load, and we stood shoulder to shoulder, waiting for Jarico’s next order, rain dripping down our noses and our breath making fog. By this point, the cold had settled into our bones like a fried hamburger in a fat kid’s stomach. We were in a near-catatonic rage.
“Well, Summer,” he said, “Now that you’ve finally experienced a taste of Minneapolis in winter, perhaps it’ll give you a better insight into our general temperament and attitude on life.”
So THAT’s why all those Minneapolis kids stomp around, snarl, commit crimes, overindulge in substances, hate stuff, break things, and get into fights all the time.
Brr, it’s cold. We can’t hang that tough.
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