Cycling safety is always an issue when riding on public streets, you never know when a car will appear from nowhere and smack you into the tarmac.
Just after Christmas 2014 Joe Cosgrove called. Joe told me he'd been run over on Christmas day morning by a motorist who was in a hurry to get to a Christmas party. Early in the morning the driver failed to notice Joe, the driver should have given way to Joe at an intersection but instead drove straight out, luckily when the car hit, Joe was sent flying. Joe's custom Frezoni didn't escape so easily, the bike went under the car and the motorist stopped. Once Joe picked himself up, the first thing he thought about was his bike, no personal concern for injury, although his collar bone had been broken. The motorist and Joe tried pulling his flattened bike out from under the car, the driver backing up then forward a couple of times until they were able to prise the wrecked bike from underneath.
Once home and on the mend, Joe had time to reflect on his Christmas day, he'd poured part of himself into the building of his Frezoni - Faema inspired road bike, and now the bike was a wreck. Based on Eddy Merckx's 1968 Faema race bike, Joe first built a replica of Merckx's Faema race bike using true to the era original tubing, lugs and many NOS components. The modern interpretation of the famous 1968 Merckx Faema was built next. Joe's modern version was kitted out with Campagnolo Super Record EPS, constructed of new Reynolds tubes and painted in a Joe Cosgrove inspired design at Joe's Cycle Designs Moorooka, Brisbane workshop.
In late 2012 Joe took his two Faema Merckx bikes and put them on display at the custom bike show in Melbourne. By the time Joe had packed up and headed back to Brisbane his two red and white bikes were on their way to being well known in Australia and around the globe. After the bike show, Joe's eye for detail saw him strip the bike down, rebuilding the frame with fresh paint for a different seat tube setup to move the EPS battery unit inside the tube. His dedication to this bike going beyond obsessive, driven to pore over every detail.
By the time the Frezoni nuovo Faema was written off under the car, Joe's history together with the bike was indelibly imprinted into his psyche. That's when Joe had a unique proposition for me. Photograph the bike and write up a story titled "Death Of A Bicycle". The concept of the death of a bicycle must have been so fully formed in Joe's mind, that he even felt compelled to invite me to photograph him with his broken bicycle at this low moment.
I headed out to Joe's a few days after he'd bounced off the bonnet of the Christmas present laden car. Why talk about a bicycle as if a bike is a person? Joe seemed as grief stricken over the damaged Frezoni as if he'd just lost his favourite pet or relative. The broken bike had been laid out on an old blanket in Joe's shed. Joe explained that he wanted the bike to look like it was in a hospital bed. Looking at the state of Joe's moth eaten old blanket I imagined a World War 2 army hospital.
I photographed Joe with his arm in a sling, his broken collar bone and the damaged bike that had left him with a Christmas he'd rather forget. While I was taking the pictures I thought it was a bit strange, Joe talking about a bike as if it had a soul and a deeper meaning than just being a daily ride. Pivotal to Joe's concept, bikes are the centre of attention in bike rider's lives. Any bike anywhere taking on a persona of it's own, with many meanings. You could be a bike messenger or a professional road racer, a commuter or bike collector, the list is long. Attention, money and time invested in some bikes is astronomical. There are plain unadorned bikes that meet the needs of many riders who just want to get from A to B. All bikes become important for different reasons. Joe's entire life since the 1960's, has revolved around bikes. Joe builds and paints frames and he's been at that game since the late 1970's and his bike shed has become known as a wonder of the antipodean bike world.
For Joe the destruction of his bike over ruled his concern for personal injury. The shoulder would mend but the connection to his hand crafted Frezoni was a bitter pill to swallow. The bike is the conduit for the collective experience of being a bike rider. Without the bike the connection can be perceived as lost. How many bike riders wish that they'd kept a certain bike, tying themselves to their history, who they are and where they came from to get to where they are now in their lives. Every bike rider has stories to tell about races or rides that they'll never forget, and at the centre of these stories there is always the bike.
Despite Joe's invitation to write Death Of A Bicycle at the time of the accident. I felt that time needed to pass before making this public. Joe's back riding again and he's been compensated for the death of his Frezoni.
I wonder if any other bike riders feel the same way as Joe about the death of a bicycle. Is the bike more important than worrying about personal injury? Does a bike have a soul? Is the bond between rider and bike more than just the sum the bike's parts?
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