It was sad to see her go, just like that, unceremoniously led away by someone else. We had been together for the past 8 years, sometimes very closely, sometimes I didn’t call her for months. But she was always there, ready, poised, available at a moment’s notice, rain or shine. Or snow or sleet. With her I learned how to ride on slush-covered roads, and defend myself during challenging, truculent moments. But it was time for our collaboration to end. It’s not that she was old, or lost her luster, or that I got bored with our relationship. The inverse is true; she was sturdy and stuck with me through glorious and painful moments alike. Specifically, two particularly unfortunate (and somewhat painful) situations stand out in my memory, where she guided me to well-timed soft landings, one on a pillowy fellow racer, the other ending under a tree, kit ripped to shreds, ferns, dirt and grass mixed with a square meter of what had been skin just a few seconds before. But it was time to go, to find a new partner, as I just didn’t or couldn’t spend time with her anymore. You see, Latin (Romance) languages have male and female articles. Without getting too involved, in Portuguese, inanimate and living subjects have genders: a tree is feminine, a car is masculine (obviously), a bicycle, well, she is the female companion I’ve been dating for the better part of the last decade. A bicicleta.
In maintaining my own Joe Racer rules of keeping the road stable to a minimum, the arrival of a new steed meant that the least-ridden machine had to go. Besides, I’m no pack rat. I mean, is there anything more unattractive than a basement filled with seldom-used machines, decapitated bicycles, cannibalized wheels, chewed up bottles, moldy half worn tires? No need to answer. There are enough folks out there in the habit of (or addicted to) accumulating semi-used weaponry for no reason. In other words, unless your basement is a shrine to the prodigious development of human-powered, two-wheeled contraptions, excess stuff has to go. Either give it away to a good cause or put it up for sale, but have someone else enjoy what was once a marvelous tool for speed. It’s good for the environment and better for karma.
This all sounds like nonsense, actually. Waxing romantic about recycling cycles… please. But is it really the bicycles we’re in love with (rhetorical question)? Or is it that the best moments in the sport, when you were your fittest, dropping fully-tucked triathletes without even trying, hurting your buddies on rides, getting into breakaways at races, were while astride that particular machine? It may well be that you’re parting with an icon that witnessed first-hand your best experiences in the sport. I’ll bet Lemond longs fondly for his Gitane and TVT bikes, respectively. Or that Miguelón would smile at the thought of an Oria-tubed Pegoretti, made especially for him. See what I’m getting at? You could fittingly say the same things about your favorite soccer boots, the high school baton used in your color guard competitions, or the Speedo swimsuit in which you met your girlfriend (don’t ask). Such are examples of the concretization of fleeting yet powerful moments by means of a well-fitting instrument that did exactly what you wanted it to do. As a result of its loss, it is natural that a small-scale mourning ensues. Nothing dramatic, really; just the unremitting pang, that pit in the gut that came the time you lost your favorite lovey as a kid when you moved to a different house, or when you said good bye to a childhood friend when his dad took a job several states away. It’s the void you’ll nostalgically cherish, but it’s necessary just the same, as it fostered growth and independence.
But we have good reasons to cheer: the bike is gone and its new owner is happy. Besides, I made him promise he’d take good care of the old steed, riding as much as possible and making sure to have a good time in the process. That alone etches a smile on my face, turning the gut pit into warm relief.
The old saying goes that the best cure for an old love is new love. She’s new, she’s blue, and veritably drool-worthy. May the tailwinds prevail forever, may this love be eternal while it lasts.
*Colnago photo by Krzyszof Blachnicki