I am always thinking about bicycles. If I am not composing, in the back of my head, some post for these digital pages, I am busy reading about bikes, talking about bicycles. researching and dissecting and coveting new bicycles.
I don’t own that many, mind you. I have two road bikes and a mountain bike right now, having purged the stable of track bikes and cruisers when I moved to the top of this steep hill. Down to what I would term “the bare bones” I am spending even more time thinking about how to fill the garage with new bikes. There will certainly be a BMX coming in the spring, the better to while away the hours with my kids, riding in the street in front of our house. Beyond that, who knows?
It strikes me that the bikes you own are a sort of composition, an expression of your best ideas about what being on a bike should be. So every time you leave the house on two wheels, you’re saying something. Maybe you’re saying, “I can afford a very fancy carbon bicycle.” Or maybe, “I am a purist. I ride steel.” Or, “I ride cyclocross, because I’m tough.” Or, “My pretty track bike will take me to the Animal Collective show.” Of course, there’s what you say with your bike, and what other people hear.
Like each and every post I make here, I read and reread my bicycle compositions constantly, evaluating my story, testing it for truth. And while I spend some significant number of hours poring over the pictures and specifications of high end carbon race bikes, I have yet to find a place for one in my story. When I test the truth of riding one across town, my bird-like appendages flailing away at its monocoque frame, a false note rings in my head.
I am not Andy Schleck.
I am a middle-aged father of two with little time for cycling, and some pretty basic transportational needs. That I ride an Italian road bike back and forth (22 miles round trip) to work everyday is a bit much. It’s like using a Ferrari for a golf cart, but it’s an indulgence I afford myself to maintain motivation. I’m not sure all that comes across when you ride past me, wheezing and straining at the pedals, but that’s ok. I’ll tell that story anyway.
The other road bike in the garage right now is a Surly Cross Check. I’ll switch over to that when the weather gets dicier. It will say that I am, in the end, a practical soul, that I am willing to ride a workhorse when work is what needs to get done. It will also underline the point that speed isn’t in my DNA. So, no lies there.
This narrative, of course, extends itself to my clothing and accessories, the tools in my box, the parts in my bin, and the way I carry myself. I somehow aspire to tell a story that allows for the cramming of my soft suburban details into a PRO mold without in any way appearing to do so, the way some people spend a lot of time making their hair look like they never do anything to their hair.
The real tension in my cycling story is between covetousness and practicality, between id and ego, between fantasy and reality, between champagne and grape juice. I have drooled over any number of bikes of various frame materials and geometries, but I don’t race, so I can’t justify most of them except as objet d’art. My wife would never go for a Pinarello Prince hung over the hearth in the living room. She just wasn’t blessed with that sort of taste.
What are you saying with your bikes? How are you living your cycling life? And how does that Pinarello look over your fireplace?