How do you define a friendship? Mutual support and sustaining conversation is my starting point. My friendships are so varied, it is difficult to define the terms of the relationship with greater specificity. The classic definition of friendship is what I share with many of my riding friends. We joke, play, push ourselves, converse, commiserate, support. It’s an arsenal of interaction, the range such that we are likely to see all sides of each other.
In some, I’m offered guidance and the terms asymmetric in a way for which nature has no analog. I ever feel indebted. In others, I’m the person offering perspective and guidance, and feel less that I’m paying down my psychic bill than learning how to be the sort of friend others have been to me.
The thing about a friendship, one deep enough to dispense with the secrets, the self-lies, is how it is there, strong as a sprinter’s acceleration, in both the easy days and the ones that make us want to quit.
I’ve begun to realize that the bike has been as much my friend as any human being. That may seem simplistic and unreal, but when I think of what I depend on to have a good friendship, all the elements are there.
When I’ve had a good day, I want to get out for a ride and use that passion to feel engaged with the world. When I’ve had a bad day, I want to get out for a ride so that I can burn that energy away like so many fat cells. And speaking of lopsided, while it may seem that the bike won’t ask anything of me, and it’s true that it can’t make a request, but my best friendships have seen me offer and tend even without a request. Why wait? Why not just do what needs doing?
The closest my bike will ever come to asking me for something is the way the chain will squeak when it runs short on lube. If I want to be a good friend, I’ll tend to the worn brake shoes, the balding tires before there is trouble enough to prevent me from riding. And if my bike is in good working order, that’s proof enough that I’m being a good friend.
As with all relationships, reciprocity is a necessity. I don’t give to get, but the giving enables me to believe that I don’t take more than I deserve.
My relationship with my bike taught me that washing it, making sure that the chain runs with the silent pull of a creek, tending to everything from the action of the levers to the movement of the cables—that investment is the real goal of a friendship. We don’t grow when others give to us, but when we give. Not the what, nor the how, but that we give at all.
Image: Andrea Wells