It’s 2019, and sentiment is in recession. All the forces of progress are chipping away at the value of physical things as we convert long, personal letters to terse emails and frivolous tweets, family photos to cloud-stored media streams, and the durability of goods to cheap, cheerful, disposable stand-ins.
My mother took her china set to Goodwill.
In the summer of 1973, it was something my parents bought themselves, an extravagance meant to launch them into their adult lives. China might even have seemed like necessary equipment in an age when dinner parties and nicer things were the province and aspiration of every middle class couple. Letting it go clearly pains my mother to think about, but we are practical people. We were poor before we were not. Still, we have a hard time dispensing with the trappings of our risen social status.
She has held onto the English tea set given to them as a wedding gift in 1969, but it sits in a high cabinet. You need a ladder to reach it.
Similarly, I have had some nice bikes, and I talk to people all the time who own these things, bikes they rode in the ’80s and ’90s with 1″ headtubes and 19mm tires. The hot-shit rides of those moments in time. They weigh 15-20% more than the average road bike today, but it’s hard to say the riding experience was less ecstatic then.
It’s too easy, I think, to deride the march of progress as planned obsolescence. I’m not sure we’re that cynical. What we are, I believe, is restless. We tinker. We obsess. Like ants in a mound.
I have a hard time not sounding (even to myself) like a Luddite, someone who believes we were better people when we rode heavier frames and wrote each other letters. Except that I suspect it’s true. I don’t want to wring my hands over it all the time, but if we’re not wringing our hands, we’re probably wasting time and money over new things we don’t need, right? Like a set of antique china.
This week’s Group Ride asks, do you own any bikes whose time is past, but you’re just not willing to part with? Do your bikes have more value to you than they do to anyone else, i.e. are you sentimental about them? Do you have a hard time letting things go if you feel they have value, even if there’s no good way to realize that value? Has your attitude toward your bikes and their value evolved over time?