Philly Pedals

Opinion

Bonding with your Bicycle

Philadelphia Bike Ride

Does your bike have a name? Do you refer to your bike by that name when talking to others? Do you assume that they know who you’re talking about? When your friends tell you that they don’t know who you’re talking about, do you get upset? Visibly upset? Twitching-eyelid, shaking-hands upset?

If you’ve answered yes to all of the above, don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with you, it just means that you’ve just bonded with your bike. You’re a mama bear that’s willing to eat someone’s face in order to maintain the safety of her bear cub. Except that you have less hair and your cub is a bike.

If you answered no to all of the above and you thought the second paragraph was some sort of joke, you are a heartless monster that is possibly incapable of ever finding a true emotional connection in life. Shame on you, sir or madam.

Who else is always going to forgive you for the torrents of obscenities you unleash upon them when you’re at your worst? That’s right, only your bike.

On a tour, your bike isn’t just a bike. It’s also your closest, most reliable, most forgiving friend. Who else is going to stick with you through the thunderstorms¬†without telling you to run for cover? Who else will plod along with you on 100 degree days without ever raising their voice in frustration? Above all, who else is always going to forgive you for the torrents of obscenities you unleash upon them when you’re at your worst? That’s right, only your bike.

Everyone’s bonding process is different with their bike. For some, they fell in love the first time they saw their bicycle on the showroom floor. That paint job that carbon fork and frame those STI shifters Baby, if you were sandpaper, you’d be 220 grit, ’cause you’re so fine. For others, their bond was built piece by piece, just like the bike: hand selecting each component, each having their own small story. That seatpost isn’t just a seatpost. It’s a negotiation at 8 a.m. on a Saturday at a flea market over a bottle of Bud Light Lime to get a seller down from $50 to $20. Regardless of how it starts, the real bond is built over miles of riding.

The bond forged by saddle time is the most complete. Each mile builds a two-way connection between you and your bike. You’ll make changes so your bike better fits you and your personality, but the bike will also make changes in you and how you ride. A wise person once asked, Is it the ass that breaks in the saddle, or the saddle that breaks in the ass?

However you have your bike set up when you first get/build it, you’re going to make changes. After the first ride or two, you’ll get your saddle to the height and tilt that’s perfect for you. A month or two later, maybe you’ll decide that drop bars aren’t the bars for you (since you never drop), so you throw on some bullhorns or a nice mustache. Then maybe you decide to upgrade your canties to a slightly nicer model for easier upkeep. The changes will get smaller and smaller with time, but each of them will make the bike more and more your bike.

There are very few surprises once you understand what your bike is telling you.

While this is going on, you’ll also learn how to understand your bike and how it likes to be ridden. You’ll start being able to identify the causes of rubs just based on their feel (rim out of true? misaligned brake caliper? just a rubbing fender? loose axle in a generator hub?). You’ll gain fluency in the clicking noise bicycle dialect (worn bottom bracket? loose chain pin? filthy cassette?). You’ll start to realize that there’s a rhyme and reason to everything that goes on with your bike, and you’ll know when it doesn’t like what you’re doing. There are very few surprises once you understand what your bike is telling you.

By this point, you will be comfortable with your bike (more saddle time), and your bike will be comfortable with you (fewer breakdowns), and your bond will be strong. You’ll have appropriately named your bike. You’ll set a picture of it as the background on your smartphone and/or laptop. You’ll list it as your emergency contact on hospital forms. Once you reach this point, please go back and re-read the first paragraph. Those people in paragraph three are real bastards, aren’t they?

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