Nope! This is not what I intended to talk about at all. This was where I was supposed to boast about how bike month charged me up and how I actually got out and rode my bike this year. All true, I suppose, but while I was thinking it over a little light bulb went on and I realized something awful about myself.
It all started years ago, I suppose. First it was purchases of necessities like bike gloves, riding shorts, tire patch kits, fig bars and dried apricots. All of these were things I required to maintain a training routine of 6 to 8 hours a week.
Sometime later, after my saddle time and mileage reached the swagger level, there were puchases of cables, brake shoes, grease, tires, and other necessary expendables that kept my bike on the road. My mileage justified these purchases and they were necessary to maintain a ridable bike.
Eventually I reached a point where I was quite fit (note the past tense, I’m a shadow of the rider I was fifteen years ago) and I fancied a truly nice bike. And what a bike; a fine Italian made frame with the most exotic steel tubes cut to my specification, lovingly joined with silver solder to custom etched lugs. I specified the finest components Campagnolo could deliver — everything they made, I ordered — all the way down to the pedals, cables, and seatpost.
I laced the spokes and trued the hoops myself. Then I lovingly and carefully assembled the bike from those individual components.
For this truly special assembly job I handed over all my adjustable wrenches and Vise Grip pliers to my wife. Then I instructed her to not return them to me even if I begged or bullied to have them back.
The assembly job was quite smooth and uneventful due to my unusually patient and meticulous assembly procedure. It was love I guess. I was very careful not to compromise the excellent fit and finish of those high-zoot parts. I immersed myself in the foreplay of assembly work for two or three evenings until I was sure it was done.
The finished bike was beautiful and by God it was perfect! I’ll never forget the way my shop light played upon the satin finish of those smoothly curved component parts when I pawed at them.
Oh! How I hesitated before that maiden voyage ride on that flawless, virgin bicycle. The honeymoon was a dream. The first few years were fine, I guess.
But there are a few problems with owning a top-drawer all-Italian bike. First there’s the responsibility of not becoming a poser. A trophy bike, like a trophy wife, somehow implies and demands a worthy rider. But worse than that is the “estrangement” issue.
A solid bike simply doesn’t break or wear out parts very often. That can become a problem for someone who enjoys wrenching on their own bike. It’s sort of like having your significant other roll over and feign a headache when you’re in the mood.
And if you do get busy, it’s just going through the motions. There’s nothing that really breaks, so it’s just a quick flick of the screwdriver and a couple shots of grease. Then it’s back to plying the street for another month or two until the next “adjustment opportunity.”
I eventually became a stranger at my old hang-out (the bike shop) because I never needed parts. Eventually I couldn’t stand the isolation and started riding other bikes again. Even trashy bikes!
I’d pick them up at swap meets and pull them out of dumpsters. Sometimes I’d just remove the parts I wanted to keep and toss the remainder. But often I’d adopt an orphan and rehabilitate it with bits and pieces from my box of fetish components. Sometimes I’d put them out for sale, but just as often I’d make them part of my growing family of bikes.
And then I started letting myself go. I had my pick of bikes; almost enough to ride a different one every day of the week. But I practically stopped riding and began to lurk about at bike shops and on-line discount retailers. Which brings me back to bike month.
Yep, I rode my bike a lot in May. The weather was beautiful. But as I sat balancing my checkbook the other day, I realized that I’d been buying bike parts with reckless abandon.
The new hideously expensive Sidi (Italian) shoes were directly responsible for a couple mountain bike rides. Then I wanted kinky new eggbeater pedals and got them. Another handful of rides ensued. By the way, I do love those eggbeaters. No more foot-stuck-in-pedal tumbles when I only wanted to dab a foot down.
The fancy new blinky-light made safe low-light riding interesting enough for me to ride my bike to work — a 40-mile round trip. Then I went and bought a second identical blinky-light (two is better than one, right?) and made the trip a couple more times. I swiped a new water bottle at the last ACA meeting and managed to muster a couple weekend rides using it.
There’s more desperate shopping for bike gear to confess, but it’s kind of personal and depraved.
I hate to admit it, but most of my recent bike riding has been motivated largely by unnecessary aquisitions of shiny fetishes and bike parts. I guess I’m a compulsive component consumer and parts purchasing addict. There, I’ve said it! Now the whole world knows my shame. Just the same, it feels liberating to come out of the closet. I’m sure I’ll ride better now.
First published in Southwest Cycling News, 2005