Friday, 23 November 2012

Naughty and Nice on Rod's Rides

I am naughty sometimes and I'm not sorry.  Can't help myself, I don't know what's up with me, really, but I own it.  Nice girls don't kiss and tell, but guess what.  A great man kissed me, smack dab on the lips the other day. Now guess what else. I liked it. 

Lots of people just call him Rod, but he answers to all sorts of things.  Some people call him Pappy, or Slap Happy Pappy, Rockin Rod, HotRod, PappaRodzzi, Rodrick, and it goes on.  Plenty of folks just know him to see him, too, but one thing is guaranteed.  If you've been riding a bike around Vancouver for any length of time, chances are good you've encountered him somewhere along the way, and even if you haven't, you still benefit by him.

He has even made an appearance on Cycle Chic, seen here on the right.
How do you define greatness? Can you measure it? Is it the one who's biggest, strongest, fastest, richest?  Is it the man who innovates, who conquers, who inspires? Is it some combination of these things, or is it something nebulous, harder to define?  To nine year old boys it may be the ability to fart loudly on command, so who gets to decide? There are many kinds of greatness, surely, but Shakespeare said you can take the measure of a man by the friends he keeps, and if that's the case, then Rod Kirkham, is a great man because he is known and loved by whole generations of Vancouver cyclists.

I've met him before, many times, but until a few days ago, I had no real idea who he was. I see him often, you see, or at least I used to until just recently, because Rod was often at the shop just around the corner, located conveniently next door to our local liquor store. He and the man like to have a chin wag at about beer o'clock of a summer's eve.

 If you saw this guy as you were riding down the street, would you think to yourself "Holy Shit!! Where's a pen?  I need an autograph!"

Me neither, but I'm a kissy sort of person, and now I do know who he is...

He's an unassuming guy, Rod, and he's super easy to talk to. They only call him the RodFather cause he'll hook you up with whatever it is you need to put the rubber side down. He always gives you a fair shake, too.

AAAAAAND he gets a few dozen friends together for cruiser rides all over this town, regular as rain. Around here, that's really something.  Everyone is welcome to join the ride, too, just so long as you don't mind stopping for refreshment here and there...

and everywhere!

On Rod's rides you can take time to stop and smell the roses.

Or sip the whiskey or whatever.

I knew all that before this weekend, but even so, I was oblivious to Who He Is, and what he has done. What has he done?  He wove bicycles into the into the tapestry of our civic identity.  He was one of those early pioneers throwing themselves off of the North Shore Mountains in the early eighties, and he has tirelessly promoted a bicycle-centric lifestyle from that day till this. It's because of him and other pioneering spirits like him that we live in a city where the mayor gets about by bike, even when it rains.

Globe and Mail, Nov 19, 2012

How Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson weathered the storm

That last little bit there, the part I cut off, says "stays in fighting trim." Um, Hello, Toronto?!?? Our mayor is hot. Yours is not. This is not a coincidence. I'm not even going to play that funny clip of your mayor bouncing off a football field earlier this week because it's pathetic, if mesmerising. THIS is your fearless leader? 

 People. Please.  Make better decisions.

Remember the Hermetic Creed: As above, so below.  As within, so without.You are weaving the fabric of your city as surely as we are weaving ours, and I dare say, if I were you, I would be re-examining my options carefully. You can keep adding to your congestion and your obesity issues and your parking problems by adding more and more cars into the mix.  OOOOOOOOOR you can wake the fuck up.

Here in Vancouver, where we have woven sense into the tapestry, it has become a viable business operation to use the top of a parkade to grow food instead of parking cars there. Interestingly enough, you can multiply your standard yield by a factor of ten when you farm in this manner.  These guys are also delivering to high end restaurants in the neighbourhood on bicycles!  Ha. Vancouver is now smugger than Portland.  So there.

Ok, so what happens in this sweet smug town when a home grown hero needs a new knee?  Well, a few hundred people get together somewhere big like say the Croatian Cultural Centre and they throw a giiiiinormous great big party to celebrate his contribution, in a bid to sustain him in comfort, that's what happens. To say a great big thank you.  Pat's pub donated draft beer, keg after keg after keg of the stuff, so all of the draft sales went straight into the kitty, and there was a queue at the tap all night long, too, blessed be.  There were a dozen or so bikes up for grabs in the 50/50 draw, new and old, like this 1940 Elgin Rat Rod, Donated by the Vancouver Wheelmen:

(donated by the Vancouver Wheelmen Vintage Bicycle Club)
 as well as a whole load of other prizes, and a full cash bar, tickets at the door, and of course someone made t-shirts:

And someone else made different t-shirts:

(What do you think, is it a his and hers thing?)

The music was the best bit, though.  Rod spun his magic for a spell, and there were five bands, too, with Los Furios headlining.  We danced, and danced  and danced... it was tons of fun!  It was touching to see so many talented musicians come out to support Rockin Rod. It was a love-fest at its best

At the end of the night, just as we were leaving, Rod pulled us aside for a couple of minutes, and when we parted ways he kissed me good-bye smack dab on the lips, and it made me smile and feel good inside.

Know what else makes me feel good?  Sunshine on my thighs and a great ride between my legs. sweet dreams during these rain drenched November days. 


  1. The bicycle world is filled with such interesting characters.

    Some great vintage crusier pics, Thanks babs!

  2. ...that's you sitting on the bench in the dark blue top, white shorts & sporting those lovely red shoes, n'est ce pas ???...

    ...that, or you have a sorority doppelganger with the same delightful tastes...

    ...btw...those early cruisers stripped down to their bare essentials were what we first rode up on mt tam...

    1. Yep, that's me, though I've heard I have a few doppelgangers out there.

      Really? An old cruiser? Aren't they awfully heavy for climbing mountains? And I dunno about you, but I sure like having gears when I'm making my way up a steep incline. Huh. Wow. I would love to take a tour through your old photo albums!

    2. ...key word = "first"...we rode, pushed, pulled & at times carried those one speed, heavy cruisers out into the wilderness...

      ...we were road riders & pushing wasn't really fun so gears started to be added (& oft needed to be adapted)...early drum brakes were searched out or w/ some welding, french mafac cyclocross canti's would work...magura moto brake levers were popular but the bottom line is - evrything was initially adapted to fit the concept...

      ...the result were a buncha heavyweight klunkers @ 45 to 55lb that stuff broke on regularly but were fun to ride out on the dirt...

      ...then it was "hmmm, what about 'purpose built" frames in chrome moly tubing like our road bikes ???" & basically with that, the mountain bike as we've come to know it, was off & running (ummm, riding, sorry)... component manufacturers, who were reluctant at first, saw the validity & market appeal of these new mtb's, they became willing to commit themselves to the development of better, stronger parts & the game was on...

      ...therein lies the shortest, most concise history of the mountain bike that i can offer from my "point of view" (which is kinda bird's eye)...

      ...the adage - "necessity is the mother of invention" certainly played it's part...

    3. ...addendum uno for nitpickers...the majority of the "earliest" nucleus who got together in the fairfax area to get stoned & ride our one speed klunks were road riders...

      ...i'm talking when it was a small handful, not the truckload stage...

      ...addendum deux...whilst being a part of the crowd, you definitely stand out on your own, luv, dopplegangers or no...

    4. I choose to take that as a compliment, so thank you. Yes, I hear it a lot, thoigh I can't quite figure out why. Sometimes I wonder if it is a good thing or a bad thing, but it is what it is. I used to think it was cause of my musculature and cause I'm quite tall in heels, but the new generations are all much bigger than I am. (It's the Silver Lining from all of the growth hormones which we pump into the food supply via industrial farming:)

      Ha! I love it. Necessity almost always does play a role, at least in all of the interesting inventions. So the mountain bike was invented because a bunch of mad cyclists had a need to throw themselves off mountains at high rates of speed, was it? Too funny.

      The good thing about very heavy bikes and downhill is that gravity works so momentum is your friend. That must have been a fookload of fun.

    5. ...most decidedly a compliment, my friend...nothing but...

    6. Babble, if you're interested in more mtn. bike history, poke around here:

    7. That is a very cool site. Cheers!

  3. I love the O.D. green cruiser with the ammo cans on the back. I could see myself on a bike like that.

    1. Me, too! I can't remember if that's the one I was riding for that ride or not... it's one of the many bikes the man has built.

      I have the URL for spokenscene, and I wonder some days if we should open up shop there. On the way home from work, we always cut through the lane behind the building I work in to get to the bike lane. One day a few weeks ago, there was an old Italian road bike stripped of the front tyre, thrashed, and left on top of one of those industrial sized bins you find behind high-rises. He stopped and took a look and reluctantly rode away. "It's like heroin to me," he said as we left.

      At home later on, he made some excuse why he had to go out, and voila: he had a new project on his hands. Within the week he had stripped the paint off it - all of it- and used a few parts from his parts bins, includng ndifferent handlebars and of course a front tire, and ba da bing! He is the proud owner of a shiny new single speed road bike.

      That's my kinda heroin. :D