It Doesn’t Take Much

It Doesn’t Take Much

It doesn’t take much. Really. Two mostly round, mostly true wheels. A hop is ok. Oscillations can work, the brakes all the way out, whatever screws they have unscrewed to their limits.

To their limits!

There are those who can get by with just one wheel, but I have never trusted them. Jugglers. Clowns. Carnies.

The two wheels, such as they are, allow gyroscopy, a way to play with the gravity Newton invented in 1728, before which we could all fly. We didn’t need the wheels.

Two triangles help. Acute. Isosceles. A hypotenuse. Tubes and posts. A stem. Bars. Shifting is not necessary. Braking is a bad idea. Especially with the screws all the way out.

A saddle, likely invented BC, by Assyrians, is optimal, though also not necessary. The BMX kids will tell you they’re vestigial, the saddles not the kids.

Once I lost my saddle to a snapped bolt, ended up on my ass on the ground, the seat still clutched pathetically between my thighs. You realize then that the saddle isn’t required, but like the small toe we are evolving off the edge of each foot, it does help balance considerably.

Think of the rusted, ill-kept, rolling trash you’ve seen and ridden in your lifetime. I know and sometimes ride a bike with a large platform rack on the front, affixed to the head tube rather than the bars. This is, I think, the worst bike I have ever ridden, and yet it has brought me lunch and wielded unwieldy boxes to the post office.

Lean it there against the wall. No one will steal it.

I have devoted so many hours, so much gray matter processing time, to the pursuit of a better bicycle, and those better bicycles, well, they are better. So better. At what point does a machine become intuitive enough to qualify as sentient? Sean Young in Blade Runner springs to mind, as does my road bike.

And yet. And yet. And yet.

It doesn’t take much.

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8 comments

  1. Grego

    I once improvised a saddle for a friend out of a stick. (He rested his cheeks along the length of it, wiseass.) A crash had taken the saddle and the head of his seatpost off, similarly to your story, Robot. Faced with a long climb-out, a stick, loosely secured by the nub of a branch down the seatpost, was better than walking the bike. It didn’t take much… but it wasn’t vestigial except in the sense of formerly having been a tree!

  2. Dave

    I’ve ridden much the same sorts of bikes you mention, but you know what? It never once diminished the joy that I got from riding, or the sense of freedom that I enjoyed as a kid (or as an adult) on 2 wheels.

    Nice counter-point to the post with 5 figure kids bikes.

  3. Lyford

    Some of my most memorable and most enjoyable rides of the last couple of years were on rental bikes in China and Spain. The hardware was simple, cheap and forgettable. The experiences will make me smile for years to come.

  4. TomInAlbany

    I can remember one summer using the toes of my sneakers to stop the bike I was riding. It was my mother’s (mine and my dad’s had been stolen in previous years) and I destroyed that pair of sneakers and the next one. My parents finally bought me a new road bike Columbia – 10 speed, white, w/those funny brake levers along the top of the bars along with those on the drops. (Stem shifters!).

    It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever gotten since my Schwinn Stingray got stolen out of my back yard!

    I also remember riding this P.O.S. mtn bike while at a conference outside of Paris (Fillerville) and riding it on the local trail system. Fully rigid and in desperate need of air, lube, and brake pads. But, what a way to see the French countryside in springtime and shed the stuffiness of the conference room!

  5. Barry Adam Johnson

    Sean Young in 1982 is a very nice thought to come to mind.

    But back on topic, I’m in that camp where my dream bike, a bike that melted underneath me and I don’t mean like a Vitus…was stolen from me and is unavailable to buy, to recreate .When I swung a leg over it was a perfect melding of mind/body/machine.

    I’ve tried to recreate the fit, the feel and my Ritchey Logic is close but it’s no Lemond Tete de Course Ti/Crabon mix.

    But all mushy stuff aside, I’ll still ride anything, my 40 pound cruiser for one is fun as hell.

  6. MattC

    I had that red one in the middle…a beautiful 5 speed (note: the ginormous shift lever you see sticking VERY HIGH up from the top tube was VERY dangerous for a male child). Not that I have kids, so I can’t say for sure, but had I tried to have kids I might not have been able, likely due to our forever-dirt and pavement-jumping that we did on our Sting Rays (and mostly from the subsequent HARD landings, sometimes on that dang shift lever). I grew up 60 miles from Evil Knievel (lived in Butte MT) and every time he jumped, our street ramps went a bit further apart. And we were doing BMX in the vacant dirt lots on our road slic-equipped Sting Rays way before BMX was invented…in fact, we laughed at the early BMX bikes…what good could THAT possibly be? Just LOOK at it!

    Little did we know….

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