I was recently sitting and (g)oogling some bikes on TomsBikeTrip. Slowly but surely the conviction set in that one of those bikes was NEEDED; perfectly suited to the eight mile commute for my new job.
Perhaps it’s because I don’t have a car anymore, but I find my screen-shopping of bikes approaching the level I used reserve for guitars. I once bought a guitar online without playing it – don’t ever do that, it’s stupid.
The situation is I already have three bikes, one of which is a folding bike. In my mind, too many really. Two of them would have to go to make room for a new tourer.
I realised my conviction was only a masquerade. An upgrade of what I already had was all that was needed.
About two hours were wasted looking at those bikes too.
You know when you are a kid and everything’s shiny and fascinating? I recently gave my goddaughter a little hummingbird made from beads I bought in the Otavalo craft market in Ecuador. She was of in awe it, and carried it around all the next two days with her.
There is something of that kid in most adults when it comes to their favourite things – beardy men with motorbikes and cars, hipsters with their fixies, and not-morning people with smartphone-controlled coffee makers.
So much of that sense of fascination often relates to the next-in-line, state of the art. That childish wonder lingers faintly in older things too, it takes redirecting the search in ourselves to find it again. Away from what the marketeers would have you buy. To the inherent fun in things of themselves.
I mean taken at face value a bike is a beautiful feat of engineering. It’s so graceful in operation. Walking around a town in Holland and seeing all those bikes whizzing about everywhere is a joy.
All the trials and tribulations and generations of knowledge gone before us to produce that bike, or any of the thousands of examples of technology surrounding us each day. Relative to almost anyone alive two hundred years ago, the choice on many fronts is kingly. Be grateful for all the useful shit about us.
Choice & Repair
Over the thirteen months or so that I lived in Ecuador, I noticed it’s not very easy to find decent quality bikes – unless at really silly prices new.
Second hand stuff there tends to be non-brand, with cheaper components – a fixer like mine would even prove difficult to source. 26″ wheels are the norm there, 700c hybrid or road wheels/bikes/components are even harder to find.
With the vast choice at home, the temptation to pluck a brand new thing off the shelf is strong because no-one seems to have the time to do much apart from buy new solutions.
Given too many choices can apparently be a bad thing, not looking at all may be a good first choice.
With a new chain ring in place, and a few changes like a pannier rack and new grips, my mountain bike (which I built from a rescued frame) is now actually fit for purpose and the solution saved about 500 euro. The trade-off is that the bike is fairly heavy. It’s easier to spend that money on a bike with a lighter frame than keep your existing bike, cycle more, and strengthen the legs.
Time and Energy
In trying to live a more downsized life, one of the relatively quick realisations is that
stuff = time + energy + money
Minimising stuff reduces the amount of time and energy and money put into it (I’m not a minimalist of any sort either, for the record ).
Time and energy and money are really the same thing, although often only one of these is accounted for (you may know which). Assuming you want to keep everything working well, this is especially true.
With bikes, this is all even more readily apparent with the level of upkeep and maintenance they require especially when used frequently, and when you want to do most of the repairs yourself.
In an apparent inversion of this, it’s not uncommon to find people who don’t cycle with lots of unused and unusable bikes. When you depend on them for transport, bikes really matter.
Seeding an attitude that values longevity and function over form bears fruit over the longer term. Repairing old things by default can be good for your mind, wallet, the environment and even allow you to pick up some useful skills.
Making older stuff work and stay working is just fun too.