When does a bike become “your bike”?

Posted: August 1, 2011 in 2011, General

A bike is an assemblage of diverse components, it facilitates self propulsion and is about as cuddly as rock. It is hard, unyielding and has bits which can cut you, take your fingers off, leave unsightly messes all over you/your clothes and it lives in a shed. Whether it is brand spanking new or decades old a bike is just a bike.

Or is it? If you spend enough time in the saddle, a bike may begin to become part of you. Sit on it and you will instinctively know if something is wrong… the bars being a few millimetres out of true, tyre pressure being a few lbs out or even if the chain needs some lubrication. A bike will have its’ own characteristics, it will have moods and sometimes your emotional response to it can range from adoration to unadulterated hatred. In the end, you will generally kiss and make up but not always. Some bikes just don’t work for you, you can’t gel with them; they are like people and nothing you do can make it right.

When does the bike stop being an aggregation of components and transform itself into an extension of the rider? Many hours in the saddle will tell you about a bike, but they may simply confirm that you are not suited. I have had a succession of bikes that should have worked, they met all my basic criteria, they were the right size, weight, shape you name it and they all failed. Rather like a dating agency advert which invites you to describe your perfect partner, specifying a bike by shape, size, colour, discipline etc is not enough to guarantee compatibility. I have tried other people’s bikes and test driven others before parting with cash but to no avail.

Given you accept my basic premise that at some stage, a bike and you will begin to ‘know’ each other, when does this happen? Once the new bike gloss or the frisson of excitement at riding something different has evaporated, at what stage do you cement your relationship? When does a bike stop being a tool and become part of the family? What makes your bike a ‘keeper’ as opposed to the cycling equivalent of a one night stand? I have had bikes which instinctively worked for me no matter what I did to change or improve them, whereas others were doomed from the start. Sadly, the bikes I formed a real bond with have all passed on, frames snapped, bikes stolen or just obsolete.

If you don’t ride much, this will all sound like pretentious bollocks, if you do spend hour after hour in the saddle though, it may strike a familiar note. As the person in the Malcolm Bradbury novel (I forget which) said “I don’t have an answer, only a question”.

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