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- Marchant The Wonder Bike

I have a bicycle called Marchant, after the bicycle of the same name in Robert Rankin's Brentford Trilogy. He's actually Marchant III. Marchants I and II are in the UK, where bicycles are tragically second class citizens.

Marchant I (aka Noble Saint Marchant, Martyr to the Vile German Rail-Baggage-Handling Hordes of Frankfurt) was my first bicycle. We met when I moved from Australia to the UK to work for a couple of years and found myself faced with a 40 minute walk to work. Marchant I was stolen - he lived unlocked down the side of the house until one fateful Haloween when someone liberated him. He was a hybrid, and we cycled together across the Netherlands. Here is an outside photo showing Marchant I tethered to a stairway outside my former workplace in Reading, appropriately situated next to a sewerage plant.

Marchant II was a cheap, puncture-prone, flimsy-chained putty-pedalled rust-bucket purchased in a fit of grief. You know what it's like when you're on the rebound after the loss of a former bicycle; your friends tell you "that new bike's no good for you, you know" but you don't listen - all you can think of is gliding along the highway from Theale to Reading in the moonlight, narrowly being missed by cars and humming the more upbeat sections of Pergolesi's Miserere II in C minor or whatever the hell key it's in. You keep thinking things with the new bike will just be the same ... they never are. I just chalked it up to experience. Still, while it lasted we managed to get from A to B every day (just).

When my 2 years of working in the UK were up, I came back home to Australia and found Marchant III, a mountain bike who only gets to run odd errands and commute around Sydney - he secretly longs for the wide open spaces. Marchant III introduced me the joys of gel grips, a thoughtful action for which I will always be profoundly grateful. Mind you, our relationship took a serious jolt (figuratively and literally) when Marchant III helped me rearrange my face. Nowadays, Marchant III has lost the gel grips and is sporting handlebars covered in electrician's tape. We went on a house hunt.

Not long after moving in, Marchant III got stolen too. Unlike Marchant I he was securely tied up. The thieves removed the top of a "no standing" sign and slid Marchant over the top of the pole :-(.

Since I've moved to Brisbane, there have been a plethora of nameless velocipedes in my life.

Other Bicycle Links

Other Exciting Marchants

An excellent book, Black Holes and Time Warps : Einstein's Outrageous Legacy, mentions that George Volkoff, a student of Robert Oppenheimer, used a Marchant Calculator to in Nov/Dec 1938 to solve an early version of the equation of neutron stars (Ch 5, box 5.4).

Richard Feynman also used a Marchant Calculator.

Cartoon - They say once you learn how to ride a bicycle you never forget. That doesn't surprise me. It works on the same principle as electroshock therapy.

http://www.ucomics.com/calvinandhobbes/ - 1986-09-02

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