But the perfect day on the bike keeps rolling around regularly – which is really a very wonderful thing.
There’s a great discussion over at Lovely Bicycle (” . . . The Mirage of the Perfect Bicycle”) and the consensus there is that there is no bike that will answer all desires. So why buy a new bike anyway? Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’m just enjoying chasing rainbows. Because I’m afraid that given a choice, I would always choose the pedaling over the elegant apparatus. That’s waht I was thinnking this morning, as I stopped at the bakery for a cup of peppermint tea to warm myself up between scheduled obligations.
I’ve been riding this plain and useful, unglamorous bike for many years, for many miles, and for more and more of my daily transportation. If I had had to wait for the perfect bike, I’d still be thinking about riding, paging through catalogs, spooling through the internets, rather than riding around in the January air, freshened by a light drizzle, brightened by drops about to fall from wild rose hips.
“Because I am American the first solution that too often comes to mind is to buy something new,” someone said recently (but who ?). In any case, it is too true. We do too often mistake buying for being. I do. I keep up this muttering of rationalization at the back of my mind as I stew over the idea of buying a new bike ~
I would be a different rider – more authentic – more realized – if I had a different bike . . . one that revealed me more truly, that made manifest my individuality, my true identity, sense of style . . . wait, what sense of style?
But what I love about biking – one of the things I love about biking – is that anyone can. Not just some elegant elite. It’s a true design for the 90%.
I do love the beautiful Dutch bikes but what I love more about Dutch biking is that the streets there are full of spokes spinning.
For me, it was a spring spent in Belgium – Bruges especially – where everyone rode cheap bikes and rode them everywhere. I can’t recount how many Belgians there told my bike-fanatic husband and me (just returning to two-wheels) how there was no point having expensive bikes in their country – something glamorous would just be stolen.
Everyone seemed to be riding the same black bicycle – sturdy, sensible and lovely more in the movements of rider and bike together than in any special design of the bikes themselves.
We love things, we Americans. The beautiful object. Too often we fall in love with the technical jargon and the gear and equipment, we lose perspective in our search for the best of the best – at the expense of the simple joy of riding?
(Though I’m torn because it’s this expert rage for technical minutiae that pushes better design – that makes the beautiful sweeping lines of vintage bikes available once more – that protects us from our other pitfall which is an apathetic gobbling of disposable junk.)
But still, for me, the bike is and always will be secondary to the biking. It’s not pictures of bikes and the clothes I wear when I bike that I want to be taking my time to take (though I enjoy those pictures of others elsewhere). I don’t want to be thinking, Bike. Bike. Bike, when I’m out on the roads, but,
That purple! Community potluck – how nice. Grange? What exactly is Grange? Why Grange? P and H? Oh, that purple and silvery gray!
What I love is that the bike makes it easier for me to see. It is the details of the world I ride through that I love more than any details of the bike’s construction.
I hate feeling snagged at the surface of an object the way I do with my obsession with beautiful old bicycles. But at the same time, I have to admit the power of glamour. A real power to effect social change.
No one seeing me biking my ride into town for groceries on my sturdy old hybrid, in my never-quite-stylish, though comfortable and functional clothes is going to be much drawn to put themselves on a bike. They may say to themselves, “Well, if she can ride, then I certainly could,” but they will never be as turned on to the idea of biking as they are when the truly, adoraby stylish and chic pedal past on a bike that is gorgeous, or fun, or best of all – both.
I guess it takes all kinds of bikers to build a better biking reality. I love to see the increasing numbers of cyclists in my town. I love the increasing infrastructure (sharrows, most recently) that I see every time I go into Portland and the growing acceptance everywhere of biking as a reasonable, enjoyable form of transportation. I love it that my parents have bought bikes. That my sister has started cycling. Maybe I have helped push bicycling along just because if unathletic me can enjoy riding to the coast and back over the weekend, why can’t they? If a gray haired ordinary woman can tote groceries, anyone can, right?
But the growing cachet of cycling depends more on this new stylishness that bicycles didn’t have when I started riding around town, not just for recreation and working out, but to get myself from here . . . .
. . . to whatever came next.
At least, that’s what I was thinking, while I sat sipping my peppermint tea, eavesdropping on the conversation of the group from the chamber of commerce at Houlton’s Bakery, warming up from my ride through light rain from working at the school, before heading out again for the groceries.