Nothing good happens between 1 and 5 am, my father used to say, especially as I got to an age where staying up that late began to mean more than just watching reruns on TV Land or doing homework in my bedroom. He’s right, in many ways. It’s the witching hour for drunk driving and other risky business, so perhaps if there’s a place to be inside and reclined during the wee hours…be there. Still, some find the early morning the ideal time for living, and not in spite of but because of the barren streets and drowsy skies. 

As manager of a local coffeehouse during her time in Cleveland, Marta Lapczynski often began her days during those switch-hitter hours, sometimes with just enough energy to unlock the café and start the auto-drip. Other times, however, she’d leave home with minutes saved for an ambling ride to work.

Given the nature of her job, her shifts were long, unpredictable, noisy, and crowded. In light of the inevitable company, the constraints of a counter, and the brittle and patchy interaction with streams of customers, private miles, unbroken, were unspeakably important- and the most distilled and personal distances were found, of course, before anyone was up.

“There wouldn't be a soul around. I could ride as fast as I wanted, uninterrupted; the streets were mine.”

Marta’s first important bicycle in Cleveland was a gem she found at the Ohio City Bike Co-Op, a warehouse in the flats full of old- but sound- machines at reasonable prices, and walls and ceilings full of wheels and handlebars. The trusty Nishiki she found there accompanied her on a cross-country road trip, touring streets every time the car parked in a new city: Portland, Boulder, Seattle, Denver.

When the journey home slowed as money became scarce, the bike gave Marta the means to get back: “I sold it to a college student who was interested in becoming a triathlete! She'd never ridden before, so I got to send her and the Nishiki off together with my best advice for forming a great relationship.”

While websites such as Bikesdirect.com make it easy to bring home a brand new set of wheels, Marta found her second bike--an 80’s-era Miyata road bike--for sale at Shaker Cycles, a shop in the city’s Tremont neighborhood.

She’s seen her ride through iterations plenty, and the bike, in grateful turn, has carried her along streets in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.  “In years of putting love into it, I've since chosen every component, color, and accessory. Financial limitation has been the only factor I've had to accommodate in the process…my Miyata has ridden thousands of miles around the Greater Cleveland Area, been disassembled and transported by car to Philly then by bus to NYC, and it's ridden a good bit of NYC since I've lived here.”

Now a New Yorker, Marta has access to famously ample and efficient public transportation, but often still elects to bike to work and play.

Marta has a good sense of the cycling world in cities from coast to coast, and the importance of biking has been built into the culture of places like Portland, Oregon. Even in New York, where bikes are not, perhaps, the first consideration of drivers and pedestrians alike, Marta offers, “a lot of people get a great rush out of navigating traffic.” Still, despite the easy commuting in some towns and the thrill of a reckless joyride in others, Marta happily admits that her favorite riding happens in Ohio.

“My most leisurely rides were in Cleveland; I'd usually spend my entire day off on the road there every time I got one.” She and her Miyata, now unrecognizable after years of personalization, have covered busy streets and considerate bike lanes, but the streets upon which Marta felt most centered were those often-quiet roads spindling east and west from downtown Cleveland.


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Volume 1, Issue 1, Posted 12:55 PM, 03.05.2012