I’m not one of those cyclists who reveres the bike and holds it up as a paragon of virtue. Sure, I love a good bike, and I can happily while away many a long hour staring at the lines and the curves of a classic steel workhorse, or a modern carbon framed thoroughbred, but I try to keep things in perspective.
I certainly don’t ride my bike every day; I don’t commute on it, go shopping on it, or dawdle up and down canal paths for pleasure, and I try to stay out of the cyclist v motorist debate as much as possible – not because I don’t care, but because I have nothing to add. I generally ride on quiet roads with (mainly…give or take) cyclist friendly motorists.
I am, however, the kind of cyclist who gets grumpy if I can’t ride, and I can rustle up a long line of reliable witnesses who would confirm this fact if required.
Whether it’s a need for endorphins, fresh air, or simply to burn off a bit of excess energy I’m not sure; although to be honest, the last time I recall being in possession of any excess energy was the summer of 2010, and that was fleeting at best.
Whatever the reason, riding my bike seems to be the answer to stress, over-work, under work, hopes, fears, dreams…
…whatever the question, it’s the answer, basically (except for money issues, of course, which it’s the cause of).
Anyway, the problem is, I haven’t got a bike; I’m a cyclist without a bike, which makes me…what?
Regular readers may have picked up that I’ve recently been in the market for a new steed (for the record I’ve settled on a Wilier Zero 9, with Campagnolo Chorus group-set and Zonda wheel-set, and I’m very excited). To prepare for this imminent spring clean of my bank account I’ve sold my current summer bike, which leaves me with my winter bike (a slightly bruised and battered Pinarello Angliru).
And now the Pinarello has died!
When I say died, what I mean is that many years of riding in all weather and not looking after it quite as well as I should have resulted in the need for a new headset.
“What’s the problem?” I hear you say. “Buy a new headset…fit a new headset…and crack on!”
The problem is that a Pinarello Angliru apparently requires a very specific Pinarello headset. The additional complication that the bike is pushing 10 years old means that I’m left with my sole means of bike related pleasure being left cooped up in the corner of the workshop of my nearest Pinarello dealer, whilst they source the required part.
Which leaves me bike-less for an as yet undefined amount of time.
The shiny new bike arrives in about 3 weeks, but I have no intention whatsoever of riding it in whatever grim and grizzly weather February throws at us here in the north of England. My plan is to keep the new bike warm next to the radiator in the dining room of my house, and spend long evenings staring at it; though granted, that little arrangement is yet to receive approval from the domestic committee.
But equally, I have no intention of spending three bike-less weeks growing ever more tightly wound and grumpy through lack of endorphins, and the nagging feeling that my coveted winter fitness levels are slipping like sand through my fingers.
Thankfully, a regular cycling friend – clearly having mentally projected my predicament across the coming weeks, and glimpsed the effect of my inevitable mood swings upon those around me – has offered me the use of his winter bike. Which is very generous, of course, but riding another man’s bike does carry its own sense of unsettling unfamiliarity.
Riding a new bike is usually great, but generally it’s on the basis that you will spend many long hours getting to know each other. To ride it with no intention of forming any kind of lasting bond feels a bit wrong. Cheap…seedy…unfaithful, even.
But now look where I am.
At the start of this little piece I made a sweeping claim about my ability to keep the humble bike in perspective, and I’ve just heard myself write wistfully about one bike that died, one that I want to keep safe and stare at longingly, and another as an animate object with whom I’m having relationship difficulties.
Not only have I lost my bike, I appear to have lost any perspective in the process. We can only hope that getting the Pinarello back up and running will restore the equilibrium.
Meanwhile I will treat my friend’s kind offer with respect, keep the new bike in the garage where it belongs, and try not to mourn the death of the winter bike if the damage turns out be terminal.