No one needs a couch, a big wooden framed contraption with padding strapped to it. A couch takes up the better part of whatever room it lives in. We invariably choose a horrible color and/or pattern for our couches, so that we’re stuck with a giant eye sore for a decade and sometimes more. If you have a dog or cat, your couch is covered in dander. If you have kids, it’s likely stained and mildly smelly. At parties, people spill wine and beer on it.
The couch can also be dangerous. Whole epidemics of obesity have been aided and abetted by settees and chaises longues, daybeds and run of the mill sofas. In the dark, a couch becomes a great, lumbering ogre, ready to pull you down, clutching your big toe, waking the rest of the house with muffled profanity. A love seat is not big enough to make love on. Not well anyway.
But here’s the thing. If you want to relax after a day of trying to get paid, there is little better than a couch to facilitate the exercise. Sometimes I even daydream about it, feet up, some glowing rectangle occupying what’s left of my frazzled mind, a cold drink sweating on the table beside me. The couch, for all its shortcomings, can be an oasis in the vast desert of multitasking productivity.
The couch itself is awful. The experience the couch makes possible is something close to transcendent. Things are like this. They have volume and mass. Very few of them have nice shapes. They fill our lives, and most of us, at least the most of us who are cyclists, concede that we have too much stuff, that we need to purge, to divest, to unclutter, to free ourselves of the tyranny of stuff.
I try to remember this when I’m thinking about a new bike. I don’t need a new bike. Bikes are, if we are honest, ugly. Two triangles of odd shape and size, the front one more of an awkward trapezoid really, wed to a pair of circles. Most bikes won’t stand on their own. They have to be propped up or hung somewhere. Handlebars and brake levers cant off the front like a questionable growth. The saddle juts up into the air, not even comfortable or stable enough to provide another place to sit when the couch is fully occupied.
I don’t need a bike. I don’t even want a bike, except that the bike makes riding possible, and I need riding. I need it more than I need that soft, quiet place to chill at the end of the day. When I say a bike is beautiful (and I say it often), I have passed those triangles and circles through a complex aesthetic matrix constructed wholly of experiences, of transportative and transformative rides. An appreciation for the art of the bicycle is really just a fetishization of rolling down the road/trail/path at something approaching escape velocity. The bike is a couch with a different purpose.
When the ride stops being a ride, it reverts to its inert form, the bicycle, like a couch, very nearly a waste of space.
Image: Bike Bench (2005) by Sebastian Errazurizh