kindness of strangers



I realized yesterday just how thin a thread I’m hanging from*.   I was standing in the Graham Hill parking lot, 20 feet from the beginning of the trails, with a pile of disorganized prototype bike at my feet.  The bike was upside down, the back wheel was off, and the entire contents of my back pack were strewn around the scene.  It was when I realized the spare tube I had with me had a big gash in it, that something snapped.  I had a minor meltdown.  A semi controlled melt down.  I looked around for something to break, and ended up just throwing my hand pump at the ground.  Twice.  For emphasis.

I’m trying to figure out the right way to tell this story without boring the non bikers to tears with technical talk.  I woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat, feeling crappy and in pain.  The following day (today) promised to be gross and wet and sleeting (and it is).  The trails have been wet and muddy and I hadn’t yet gotten a chance to actually RIDE the prototype Tight Ass that I finished over the weekend up in Vermont with the parts that Zach and Todd put together (not a shabby build in the end!).  I realized that I had a one day window before the trails got WORSE and I’d have to wait a few MORE days for things to dry out.   “I don’t have time for this,” I thought, and decided that I should pull on some tights and get on the train.  I headed up to Pleasantville station (you remember pleasantville..  shudder), and rode the mile and a half to the Graham Hill parking lot.  On the way, I noted that my seat wasn’t quite high enough, and that my rear tire felt a little low.  Rather than ride straight into the woods, I decided to pause in the parking lot and tune up the prototype.   The seat was no problem, of course.

I am running my tires tubeless on this bike.  For you non bikers, that’s the same way car tires work.  The tire just makes a seal against the rim and the air stays in.  If the pressure goes low enough, though, the seal can break (particularly if your rims are all dented up), and to get the tire to seal again you need a pretty impressive blast of air.

As I attached my little hand pump to the valve to top up the tire, it made a sisssing sound and before I even realized what had happened I had a flat that I was going to need an air compressor to remedy.  “well..  Shit.  Guess I’ll have to throw a tube in there…”  I’ve already described how that went.  No patch kit.  No compressor.  No EXTRA extra tube.  No other people, or even their cars in the parking lot with me.  No immediate solution.   “I don’t have time for this..”

I did the only thing I could.  I started walking the mile and a half back to the train station in my cycling shoes, pushing a yet untested bike with a flat tire.  Never even got it into the woods.  Unbelievable.  I held out SOME hope that maybe a local gas station would have a shraeder to presta adapter and that their compressor would be able to bail me out.  This day HAD to be saved.  I just wasn’t really getting my head around the notion that I had lost.  That I had tried and lost..  that I was headed home, STILL without having actually ridden this bike..  that the next day was going to be crappy..  that I needed to start working on the REAL one, but needed to test this one out first..  That I had spent $20 on a round trip to nowhere..  Etc.   Plod. plod. plod. “fuck. fuck. fuck. I don’t have time for this..”

“Can I help you somehow?”

I looked up and there he was!  Arnold!  (except I didn’t know that was his name yet..)

He was on a road bike, with a back pack that had a pair of suede dress shoes strapped to it, wearing a helmet with a head lamp on it (?)

“Not unless you have a 29er tube.”

“nope,”  He started digging around in his saddle bag as though maybe one could be hiding in there.

“Cool bike!  What is it?”  I noticed that he DID have some co2 cartridges.  We tried one, and it didn’t quite have the oomph to re-seat the tire.

“Well, I’m a frame builder..  It’s one of mine.  This one is actually a prototype..”

I started telling him the story.  When I got to the part about being pretty sick, something changed in his face.




“I was just riding to my girl friend’s place.  We were going to hang out.  Nothing planned.  I can come back with a car!”

“Oh come on.  Don’t be silly.  Sometimes it’s just not meant to be.  If I had an adapter, I could probably take care of it at a gas station..”

“Oh.  Here.  I have one.  Take mine!”   Of course you have one, I thought.  What are you some sort of angel?

He left me with his adapter, and got back on his bike “yeah, I’m on the way..  I just stopped to help out another cyclist. I’ll be…”   He trailed out of hearing.

My brother called.

“How is it!!!??”

“I don’t know.”

I explained what was going on.

“you don’t have TIME for this!!!!”

“Right.  I know.”

“But seriously, this can’t happen!  You have to have an adventure today!!”

“Yeah!  right!  I have a feeling that it’s going to be dark by the time I get home.”

I got to the gas station, got some quarters from the attendant,  put the adapter on the valve, and dropped my money into the machine.  It whimpered into action, and I knew I was nowhere.  It didn’t stop me from putting another fifty cents in when the time ran out, though.

I tried right?  Nothing to do for it but head back to the pleasantville station (two strikes now, pleasantville).

“Did it work?!”

I turned around and there was Arnold!  With a car.  Nooo shit..

“I told my lady the story in about two minutes..   We’re going to do whatever it takes.  She agreed..  you HAVE to ride today!”

Arnold drove me three miles out of town to a bike shop, where Manuel put a little extra sealant in my rear tire and popped it back onto the rim.  No problem.




“Y tu?  De donde eres?”

“De aquí!  Pero hace vente años, yo vivia en El Salvador por cinco o seis meses.”

“Pues, aprendiste hablar para sobrevivir”

“Si!  Claro.  Estaba viviendo con los guerilleros!  Habia que aprender!”

“El Salvador is a tough place, man.. ”  He turned to Arnold, “this guy is a tough guy, I can tell!”

I bought a 29er tube with no hole in it just to be safe.

Arnold packed me back into his car and delivered me back to the parking lot at Graham Hill, the whole time trying to figure out how quickly he could get his hands on a mountain bike so that he could ride with me (!  He had called ahead to the bike shop to see if they rented.  Unfortunately he had just sold his own, to put together the money for something with dual suspension).

“Is there nothing to be done?  I mean I can’t get on a bike and ride it across the country or something?”

“To save me?”


“I’m afraid not.”




This guy was obviously an angel.  We have plans to ride on friday if it seems that the trails have dried up enough.

Arnold.  Thank you.  Yesterday could have been a total loss, and not even a good story.   It could have been the day that pushed me over the edge into a pretty depressed and listless state, instead I got in a great ride, met a new friend and riding partner, and have a good story to tell!

As soon as I got the bike into the woods, I knew there was something very right about it.  It is so nimble compared to the longer wheel base of the double boinger that I’ve been riding.  It feels light and responsive.  The front end is easy to get off the ground and yet doesn’t seem to skip around when you’re climbing.  Unlike a dual suspension bike, getting out of the saddle on a climb DOES something for you.  The slacker than XC head tube makes it feel fun and stable on decents, with no fear of going over the bars.  It’s an all around fun all mountain hard tail.  Not sure that I’d change a thing.  I’m going to get a little input from some other riders that I trust before I commit, but I think I’ve landed on the right bike on the first try!  It’s a thoroughbred.  Maybe a thoroughbred goat.







Today I’ll make some phone calls to see if I can nail down the details of the build for the Ultimate Tight Ass.  I will update you as things fall into place.

To date:  Schwalbe has donated tires.  Industry Nine has donated hubs.  Sram has donated an XX1 drive train (and maybe a fork?).  Chris King has donated a head set and a bottom bracket.  (Don Ferris of Anvil sent me a 142 x 12 dummy axle with an invoice that said $0.00.  Thank you Don.  You’ve been a big support over the years!) Still waiting to hear on rims, cockpit, and brakes.   It’s all getting pretty exciting.  True Temper OX platinum tubes arrived yesterday.  I guess I’ll be headed back into the shop before too long!

I’m still trying to figure out just which cancer research fund the final sale of this bike will go to.   (there, I’ve done it again! *)  Those of you who have ideas about this, please feel free to chime in.


Fast boy OUT.


* From is a preposition.  I know that.  I used to be able to recite all the propositions in the english language alphabetically.   Not kidding.  “aboard about above across after against.. ” etc.   Anyway.  “from” is on there.  I think it’s around number 34.   You’re not supposed to end sentences with prepositions, as we know from the punchline, “Ok..  Where’s the library at, asshole!?” At any rate that’s what most of us remember learning.  But I’ve done it.  It just sounds better sometimes.  I learned, or was maybe reminded, just now by the internet that in fact you CAN.  It is when the sentence is incomplete without the preposition that you are allowed.  For instance, “I realized yesterday just how thin a thread I’m hanging, ” isn’t a complete sentence..  or actually, never mind, it IS.  But it means something else entirely.   For those of you who feel uptight about this, I offer you the alternate and I believe far clunkier, first sentence.  “I realized yesterday, from just how thin a thread I am hanging.”

54 Replies to “kindness of strangers”

  1. Ah! It looks great! And fun!
    You are like a beacon for beautiful and amazing people. They just seem to gravitate to you (perhaps because you are a beautiful and amazing person yourself).
    Ride on, Ezra!

  2. what a great story, the world needs more Arnolds! happy you got in that ride and found a winner in the proto tight ass, can’t wait to see version 2.0!

  3. As a non-biker, I wasn’t bored a bit! Loved both of the angels you met yesterday. You help remind me to appreciate the little things. Bless you sweetie.

  4. We get back what we put out into the world. Arnold was there for a reason, in the same way that I’m sure you’ve been there for other people when they needed you. Happy biking, Ezra.

  5. When you get to the end of your day, and you can tell a story like that, it was a good day. Thanks for sharing. And high five to Arnold, wherever he is.

  6. normally I think of goats as being somewhat demonic; but your prototype looks pretty sweet and I love the description of the ride so I may need to rethink my position on goats . . .

    and thanks Arnold 🙂

  7. There are always Arnolds.

    I should make a t-shirt that says that.

    Soooooo glad you got your day and that the ride was awesome.

  8. I’m so thankful for the Arnolds in the world. Being salvaged out of a shit-storm by the love of a stranger makes for a far better day (and story) than one that went as originally planned.

  9. Time? I don’t even know where to start so I won’t. Make of it what you can. It sounds like you had a grand adventure the other day. I do believe in serendipity. It may be a childish notion but sometimes you are just in the right place at the right time.

    Take a look at this group here in Miami. They host a bicycle race every year to raise money for cancer research.

    It is because of people like Arnold the world is worth waking up to every day.

  10. Love love love this story! Arnold is awesome- so helpful and I love his suede shoes lol

    Im glad you got to ride because todays weather was a mess….

    I used to know the whole preposition song based on the song “Pop goes the weasel” haha No need to stress about grammar:)

  11. Karma kicked in and saved the day! You put so much out there for the world, I am not at all surprised that the spirit moved Arnold to reach out and save your day! And if he rides across country on your behalf, he’s got a place to stay once he reaches Silicon Valley!

    Huge Big Love and Appreciation for making my heart so happy today!

    j, r, s & z

  12. that is just the cutest story. the sweetest cutest story and i’m surprised a rainbow didn’t appear over arnold’s head as he drove up in the parking lot…….hurrah!

  13. Thank you for the bike photos and the GREAT story of the Graham Hills Ride!

    The bike looks REALLY nice…simple and clean…well done.

  14. In response to your footnote (come on…somebody has to say it…):

    The rule about not ending sentences in prepositions is the type of nonsense up with which I will not put!

  15. In Lynne Truss’s book, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves,” one of the contributors said that there is no logical, gramatical reason not to end a sentence in a preposition. She said it is a rule leftover from Latin. In Latin a sentence no longer makes sense when ended with a preposition. In English it often sounds silly as in, “Where’s the library at.” Redundan – “Where is the library” says it all. But sometimes it sounds better as in, “I’m still trying to figure out just which cancer research fund the final sale of this bike will go to.”
    I also had a similar story in Albuquerque. The savior’s tiny Staffordshire terrier sat on my lap for the drive home, licking my face periodically.

  16. Ezra – i just found your site today but have already got caught up with your life over the last few years. I wanted to share a story with you about a close friend of mine (Eric aka Fuzzy) that is in a similar situation. Mountain biking is one of the most important things in his life, and is his #1 tool/treatment in his medical adventure (his term). Fuzzy is having a hard time climbing all the hills these days, and his bike is old and heavy, so i put up a website and facebook page to help raise money to buy him a new bike, as his medical adventure hasnt helped in the extra money department.

    Whatever you do, Ezra, please keep riding your mtb bike as much as you can and continuing to meet people in the mountain bike community. As you already know, they are among the best people on this earth.

  17. Arnold come here I wanna kiss you:) that was the best story, down to Manuel at the bike shop being from El Salvador where you learned how to survive. Is anyone else freaking out about the constant resonance and poetry of your daily serendipity / interactions?! ‘Cause it’s freakin me out. That was just the best. Big hugs all around. Faith in humanity, restored. You keep trying, Ezra. All the trying attracts all these wonderful people to you. You have not lost.

  18. yer narrative skillz’re intact, fast ez.
    nice story! and photos.
    as always.
    as for grammar? there’s some shit up with which i will not put.

  19. That Arnold had an adapter is where it’s at. Gotta love where he comes from. And he wants to ride with! You’re so in.

    But really – great story. Great pix. Start the auction.

  20. Speaking as an English professor — and a real British one, at that! — I hereby certify the obsolescence of the not-ending-sentences-with-prepositions rule. And since I’m throwing my weight around, I also grant permanent absolution to Ezra and all his friends for any future acts of preposition misplacement. (Arnold gets even more special grammar exemptions.)

  21. Ezra, so glad to hear that you got the ride in. Kudos to Arnold and pleased to hear that your diversion led to a visit to our fantastic LBS here in Chappaqua, too.

  22. The angels who saved Pleasantville! 🙂

    If you’re into giving to research, by all means do – your oncologist could probably tell you where the clinical trials and cutting edge research on colorectal cancer are happening. It’s probably a hospital research center like Sloane or Mayo.

    I would like to suggest something different, however. There are organizations here and there (my employer is one of them, but there are others) that are small non-profits helping patients navigate the world of cancer treatment and the stress that it can cause emotionally, financially, etc… Gilda’s Club organizations are one example, Cancer Support Community affiliates are located across the country, and if you have a connection to NW Arkansas, I’ll be happy to send you the address where I work. 😉 These programs provide social workers to help alleviate stress and prepare patients for what’s coming, and some, like ours, provide $$ to pay utilities and rent, cover prescriptions, offer transportation for those who can’t get to their appointments… If you’d like a few specific suggestions feel free to send me a note.

    Big hugs to you and the girls.

  23. Another suggestion: have you thought about donating to a non-profit that provides bikes to folks who can’t afford them? I know there’s one in my town that fixes up old donated bikes and offers them for free, surely there is something similar in NYC? Or maybe a program that helps kids get off the streets by teaching them skills, including bike repair?

  24. Dearest Extra, estoy aqui en El Salvador, just reading your blog and there you go, talking about those 6 months here, i remember the lovely kitchen bedroom stucture and all the good meals you made here. Your spirit soars, you teach us so much. Thank you and know i hold you in my heart so close. muchos besos, ww.

  25. I know you are battling cancer. I know that must suck. But my comment has nothing to do with that.

    I have been mountain biking since 12, and I have only owned a specialized hardrock. I’ve ridden downhill bikes in vermont.

    Your frame design is quite possibly the greatest I have seen for hardtail mtn bikes. I envy whoever buys this, and can only hope I can afford a bike of this caliber someday soon.

    Good Work.

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