What Your Bike Isn’t Thinking


Your bike is always ready. Even in states of disrepair and wanton filthiness, last night’s off-road tryst still clinging dirtily to down tube and chain stay, your bike is prepared to do its level best for you. Hung neatly in the garage or stowed carefully by the door, slung carelessly against a pile of similar machines or in pride of place in the front entry-way or even the living room, your bike is not thinking of not being ready.

While you are assessing the suitability of the weather, checking the hourly forecast, considering the wind, your bike stands stoically by, ever-willing. You pick a base-layer, discard it for another, assemble a pile to be donned at dawn, arm warmers, shoe covers, your phone in a baggy and your heart in your throat, all in anticipation of an effort your bike will make unstintingly, autonomically, like a knee jerking under a hammer blow. Your bike will never use the word ‘epic,’ doesn’t feel cold, doesn’t feel hot, doesn’t dehydrate or bonk or worry about either.

Later, as you work it over with cloth and degreaser, with wrench and lube, it does not care. It bears spraying at the garden hose with its dignity intact. You are not taking care of your bike. You are taking care of yourself. Don’t be deluded. Your bike isn’t thinking about being cleaned and tuned. It is not considering itself as an instrument of joy or torture.

Pull up and preen. Stand gaudily at the meet-up, ass on top tube, making small talk. Your bike is immune to the temptations of vanity. Its shininess or ornateness or elegant simplicity are not a thing that it considers. It feels neither humble nor proud. The worst seeming bike, rusty at bottom bracket and drop out, is fully prepared to go toe-to-toe with whatever carbon monstrosity it encounters. It never feels not-aero enough.

Your bike isn’t thinking about losing or winning. It doesn’t care that you shot off the front or out the back. It cares not one whit for its place in any order. It travels good roads and bad without comment or complaint.

Your bike is not thinking. It is only doing, mainly because it is unconscious. In this way it is even freer than we are when we pedal it away into our daily adventures. It is built with the truth that doing is almost always better than thinking. We would all do well to be so ready, so unburdened by doubt, so insusceptible to shame or pride or the urge to do more or less than is asked of us. Your bike isn’t thinking any of the thoughts that keep it from going. Why would you?

Image: Matt O’Keefe

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  1. Ransom

    As the brothers Magliozzi would say, “unencumbered by the thought process.”

    A state the benefits of which I spend entirely too much time contemplating…

  2. Eric

    As much as I know that my bike is an inanimate object, special as it is, I can’t keep from engaging in anthropomorphism and assigning it thoughts. My bike has a name. It is a faithful companion, a good friend, worthy of my attention and care.

    One thing that I think everyone can agree on: when we’re not riding, our bikes stand at the ready.

  3. MattC

    Long time lurker, 1st time commenter. GREAT post today! Though I have one area where MY bike’s differ: “It travels good roads and bad without comment or complaint”. Well, I’ve heard a comment or two from my steeds…such as the time I horrifically cross-chained my mtb on a brutal climb and snapped the chain.

    Their comments come typically when I do something REALLY stupid. I can even understand what they’re saying, which is usually along the lines of “Hey, DUMB ASS! That wasn’t very bright”. But they forgive quickly, and hopefully I’m not too injured nor the bike so damaged that we can’t get home. The other comment I hear all to frequently is “uhm, hey Sherlock, you might consider using some chain lube in the VERY near future”.

  4. Maremma Mark

    Yes, they are always ready, even when we are not. Though sometimes I could swear that they also really want to be ridden. The titanium bike that hangs on a hook all winter as I attempt to prolong its life by keeping it out of the winter muck seems to whisper to me..”everything those steel bikes do, I can do better.” But it’s just me. Isn’t it?

  5. LesB

    I like booking downwind in a stiff breeze. Aside from the obvious advantage, with less wind in my ears I can better hear the beautiful whispers from my bike: The tires against the road, the power train, whirr of the spokes; into a tight curve, tires pressing on the road expressing, “yyyeaaaaahhhhh”.

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