Monday, June 18, 2007

Rick, I hardly knew yeh

I'm the kind of guy who is a klutz with machines. I don't know how to maintain them, I don't keep them cleaned and oiled. My bicycles are a case in point. I hardly ever clean the chains. But I used to neglect them even worse. I used to leave my bike outside all the time. That was one thing that Rick Nicolier taught me not to do. He told me in explicit detail how keeping a bike outside in the rain is the worst thing you can do to it. I know that's pretty obvious, but that hadn't stopped me from doing it before. Rick was that kind of guy. He could explain what happens to a machine so that you not only understood, but you learned something from it. He knew exactly what he was talking about and he didn't waste words.

About six years ago a friend gave me a bike and I got Rick to rebuild it for me. The piece de resistance was the “ape hanger” handlebars that Rick supplied from his own personal stock. We used to call them “J bars” when I was a kid. They were popular on bikes with banana seats. Another time Rick put together a banana bike. Seeing him ride it was like being in a time warp.

I try and make my bicycles look as ugly as possible, so that no-one wants to steal them. But after Rick built that bike for me I started getting complements from kids on the street. Believe me, that has never happened before.

The bikes that Rick created for himself were works of art. Not that they belonged in a museum – they ought to be be ridden – but they were so beautiful. Super-extended front forks - “choppers” with elaborate chrome finish. Seats with low centers of gravity and extra long chains and frame. He built some for his nephews that are still around town. He used to ride around downtown in his choppers.
Apparently Rick had lived in a lot of different places, including Switzerland. He lived here about twenty years ago, then he moved here again more recently when he worked at Far West as a bicycle mechanic. He fixed up and rebuilt a lot of bikes for kids in town, some of them for free. A friend of mine told me that when Rick was younger he had built a souped up volkswagon. It looked unprepossesing but it could clean the clock of a lot of the muscle cars in town.

He also fixed and rebuilt electric guitars. One of my regrets was never hearing Rick play guitar or ever jamming with him. I imagine he liked Clapton.

Why he kept moving around I don't know. He told me that one time he had lived in Langly in a tent. It happened to be a very rainy year and he got real sick.

He never warned me that he was moving away from Prince Rupert. One day I came to have my bicycle fixed and he wasn't working there any more. He'd left town. The signs were there before. He was getting more resentful, things seemed to be building up. He was getting more and more negative about living here.

I wish he hadn't moved. I wish that he had worked out some of his frustrations by talking to his friends. Share the anxiety. Don't keep it all to yourself. That's my philosophy. Moving isn't always a good solution. We build up relationships, get support from people and then it gets lost when we move away. It's like a marriage – you need to find a way of dealing with your frustrations within the relationship or the buildup will lead to an acrimonious split.

What a talent. What a beautiful mind. And he ended his life two weeks ago in Nanaimo. Why?

Rick, it's too late for me to tell you how much I admire and look up to you. And it's too late to tell you that you meant something in this town, not just to me. It isn't fair is it?


  1. wish you had pictures of those bikes, or pictures of anything. pictures make a blog much more appealing. how did he die?

  2. He hung himself. Sorry I don't have pictures of the bikes. He was sensitive about people taking pictures of his bikes out of concern that they might be used to construct facsimilies. he did have a website. I'll have to find out what it is.