That’s a pretty shitty picture of a non-descript bike that means absolutely nothing to 99.999999999999999999% of the world’s population. Fortunately for me, I am part of the .0000000000000000001% that does know about this bike and it does mean something to me.
When I lived in Chile, it was considerably harder to find good places to ride my mountain bike than it was to ride the roads. Not only was it easier, but I got to see parts of the country side and rural areas around Santiago that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. If there is one thing that Chile is not, it is flat. The roads around Santiago always ended in a hill.
Anyway, this bike belonged to an older gentleman named Willie.
I met Willie’s son Camilo first. There was a small bike shop on a corner that was close to my house. I use the term bike shop here fairly loosely. The owner’s focus was bikes but he sold anything that he could get his hands on and for which he could find a buyer. Come to think of it, I bought a bed from him. The owner was Pedro.
I stopped in to purchase something, a tube or cable or what-have-you, and Pedro invited me along for a group ride. He had small group of guys that was going out for a training ride. They were kind of like the race team for Pedro’s shop (I don’t remember Pedro’s shop having a name). I enthusiastically accepted and met punctually for the first ride.
If my memory serves that first day it was just Pedro, Camilo and myself. I was kind of left wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into. Camilo’s bike was an Aluminum Trek with the smallest corn cob of a cluster on the back and a big damn ring on the front. Again, my memory isn’t what it should be, but I don’t remember Camilo being able to shift in the front at all and the back was a bit of a chore. He basically rode a singlespeed with really big gears.
Pedro’s bike was a steel frame with functioning components.
Camilo put the hurt on me in a way that I didn’t even know was possible. My bike weighed maybe 10 pounds less than his, I had working gears and I couldn’t hold his wheel to save my life. The kid could climb like no one else I had ever met. And when we would hit the freeway headed back into Santiago he would ride the line between the slow and passing lane and catch the draft off of tractor trailers.
He always waited once he hit Santiago, around the cerveceria…
As I mentioned, Willie was Camilo’s father. I had never met a man that held cycling with such high passion. Willie could remember how excited they were when the first plastic canteens (I never heard him use the world botella) came to Chile. They were pretty stoked to be able to easily pull them in and out of cages. He also rocked a set of pedals with toe clips that had two pieces of wood nailed to the bottom of them. He would get riding and position the outer cage of the pedal between the two pieces and then yank down on the strap to hold everything together.
The first “century” I ever did on a bicycle was with Willie and Camilo. I can’t recall what virgin we were going to see, but it was a yearly pilgrimage for Catholic’s in Santiago. People would start walking/crawling/riding days and weeks in advance to be there for the mass that happened during the weekend. Neither Willie or Camilo were interested in the virgin, but both were stoked to ride out, have some lunch and then pedal back. Total distance was something like 120 miles.
It was impressive to see how many people made the journey. There were people completely kitted out all the way down to the old lady rockin’ what might be considered a bike. All of them making the same journey for religious reasons. We caught a few pace lines on the way out and made some pretty good time.
On our return journey, Willie was drafting Camilo. Camilo gave the sign for open up but Willie didn’t see and when Camilo sat up to relax Willie’s wheel overlapped and then made contact. I was behind them both and watched as Willie’s old body was launched into the air and then came to rest on the scorching hot asphalt. A crowd quickly gathered and eventually a cell phone was procured and an ambulance was called.
Once Willie was on his way back to the hospital that resided in the town we had just come from and name I cannot remember, the only thing Camilo could think about was getting back to Santiago to inform the family and then get Willie home.
Me keeping up was like the hopes and dreams of children but somehow I kept him in sight and we made it back to Santiago in record time. Once back in town we parted ways, Camilo to take care of his dad and I to find my way home.
I arrived to my little rented house and realized I didn’t have a key. I was bonking something fierce. Luckily our next door neighbor had a Bazaar. I bought, on credit, 2 liters of Coke, a kilo of papa fritas and some Pringles. And then I sat and proceeded to eat every last bit of what I had purchased waiting for Vero (if you don’t know what that is, don’t ask) to come let me in.
I don’t recall Willie’s exact injuries but I recall visiting him at his home in Renca. He was bedded up and would be for a few weeks as bones healed. Even with his advanced age and current injuries the only thing I remember him talking about was getting back on the bike and the rides we were to have soon.
We moved back to the states shortly after this ride and I have not seen Willie or Camilo since, not to mention Pedro. Luckily, some douche invented this thing called Facebook and I and Camilo have been in touch. During my absence he got married and moved to Australia. He is currently back in Chile and I think I would give my left ball to be able to go for a ride with him and Willie…
The little bit a know about road bikes can be traced back to this time I spent pedaling around the Chilean country side. I hold those memories as some of my best. I just hope Willie holds out so I can see him at least one more time when I finally make it home…
All photos were stolen from Camilo Sepulveda’s Facebook account without his permission. I hope he doesn’t mind…