A friend of mine was telling a story about a guy he’s known for years, a guy who, whenever he calls, reminds this friend of all the stupid shit he’s done over the years. The guy is basically a nice guy, but he’s tactless, and my friend dreads his phone calls. It reminded me that adulthood is sometimes dotted with persistent characters you don’t really like, people you hesitate to call friends but for the fact they’re always around.
Bikes are like that, too.
I seem always to have at least one bike that I don’t love. There is nothing wrong with the bike, per se, but for some reason we don’t get along, for reasons of fit or configuration or style. And yet, the bike hangs around because at root it is a useful object, and it retains some sort of potential to be better than it is, like a friend who is painful to be around despite being, deep down, a good person.
In my case, there is a certain steel frame, bought for its basic-ness and versatility, that hangs in my garage and occasionally gets reconfigured to a new task, another attempt at finding its inherent symbiosis with my vague ideas about what I want it to do. I think I keep setting this bike up for failure, and I know, in my heart, I should just sell it to someone for whom it can be great.
Of course, the fear is that by eliminating this perfectly good, but not-good-for-me bike from my collection, I will simply transfer its status onto another poor and unsuspecting frame. Every ship has a Jonah that must be cast overboard for the sake of the others. Every journey is shadowed by an albatross.
This week’s Group Ride asks: What is your albatross? What do you have in your cycling life that just isn’t working for you? Is it a bike? A jacket? A pair of gloves? Maybe it’s a whole style of riding, like mountain, for example. You look at the thing and don’t see quite why it doesn’t work for you, but it just doesn’t. What is it?
Image: Gustav Doré’s engraving of The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, c 1850