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Ode to Bikeman
There's no easy way to put it - Jim Berkman is dead. Sudden and senseless. As in all deaths, his spirit will live in those who knew him. To many, many others, they have inherited his love of bicycles. Jim's untimely death came at a high point in his life. He had recently worked hard to fulfill one jewel of a dream, and had seen it realized. For years he had dreamt of staging the most, pure, simple, raw form of bicycle competition - drag racing. How this most obvious of all contests has escaped the general bicycling community is a mystery. Maybe its simplicity confused us all. Jim's saw it differently, as he did many things.

Jim is infamous, hell the guy's a legend, in the bicycling rich town of Ashland, Oregon where he has lived the past fifteen plus years. His notoriety comes from building the coolest, strangest bicycles around. Maybe the Pool Table Bike can typify all of them. Picture a wood trimmed, green felt seat; chalk hanging from both grips; eight ball on the junction of the chrome leading-link forks; cue stick seatpost: all built around an older, black Schwinn Cruiser. Choppers, trikes, tandems - all were the recipients of Jim's bizarre imagination and talented mechanical skills.

Jim "Bikeman" Berkman quietly operated a bicycle repair business out of his home, which was characterized by it's bicycle rim fence around the front yard. The soul of the enterprise was in the backyard - the Shed. The Shed houses decades of bicycle parts from every bike imaginable. Curiously organized in Jim's personal system, he could instantly pull any hub, crank, or wheel while extolling its virtues and applications. Operating under the Bik'x name, Jim has repaired thousands of bikes while appreciating and hoarding the cyclo treasures he would inadvertently discover from the strange mix of customers who sought him out to do the chiropractic magic necessary to get their bikes rolling again. Rather than hoarding these treasures, Jim loved to share them, or apply them in classically appropriate ways to his creations.

Savvy bike junkies are not the only ones who appreciated Jim's handiwork's. Each Fourth of July Jim would lovingly roll out his unique bikes, shine them up, and allow select friends to ride them in the eclectic community's big parade. The bikes ooze fun and wild imagination, and the crowd would point and acknowledge the genius behind the bikes with applause and smiles. Industry analysts take note. This is how you excite the public on the joys of cycling. You could almost see each face in the crowd , when exposed to these meticulous, but whimsical bikes, cringe with the desire to jump up, swing a leg over the saddle, and join in the simple dance of slowly and effortlessly gliding on a bicycle with just a few simple strokes of the pedals.

Despite his underground success at inadvertently exposing the local populace to the joy of bicycling, Jim had a larger vision. For years he had envisioned the concept of bicycle drag racing. Maybe I'm naive, but having been involved in the sport of mountain bicycling since the early eighties, and reading all the mags, I've never heard of organized bicycle drag races, off-road or on. Why? Is it too simple, too primitive, too "duh" ? Jim didn't think so. For years he harbored the dream of seeing a sport be born. Then he did something unique - he did it.

Jim's dead. What defines life? It's so easy to have your personal ideas, inventions, dreams, plans, and concepts. If you're sitting on any of your own right now, I suggest you take that most difficult of steps and start. Luckily Jim did just that. As this summer started to unfold, the concept of Bike-It began to emerge. The core group responsible for bringing Bike-It to life were Jim; his wife Renee; East Coast transplant Frank Binelli of Frank's Bikes (another repair and re-sale operation - the world can never have enough bike mechanics!); and freestyling legend and former Haro team rider Dave Nourie.


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