Essays: This Old Bike


This Old Bike
By Beth Hamon

March 7, 2006

Spring is fighting her way back to Portland. The Rivendell hangs forlornly in the hallway, waiting for a longer string of sunny days so I can pull her down and ride. She knows that as long as winter still threatens to pop up every few days I will be riding The Other Bike

The Other Bike, a 20-year-old Peugeot, lives in the shed. Too old, ugly (and frankly way too dirty) to keep in the house. It has enjoyed king-of-the-hill status through most of the winter, precisely because handling cold, slick streets with aplomb is what it does best. Gouged black paint with garish yellow fenders that don't match but somehow make the most sense; upright Wald bars and a big old, wide-ass Brooks saddle with coil-springs: this bike is meant to be a beast of burden and an unglamorous, daily commuter. This bike is the antithesis of bike porn and carries herself with an odd sort of pride at the idea.

Through the winter, while the Riv was torn down for its overhaul and all during the buildup of another project, she has carried an ever-slower me and all my stuff, and towed the trailer when asked, without complaining. Other sleeker bikes pass her daily, in a rush to be somewhere as their riders legs push insistently. Not my B.O.B. (beast-of-burden). We both know that middle age has crept into my legs and my belly, and that the rides will be slower, though no less glorious.

I rewarded her yesterday with a very roundabout ride to work. I added an extra mile and a half and about 20 minutes to the commute so we could take in all the cherry trees in lower Irvington, now in beautiful pale-pink bloom. The basket rattled and the brakes squealed a little in the damp air. No bother. A squirrel clawed his way up a tree as we passed, and starlings swooped overhead, looking for breakfast. The sky was blue, with patches of fast-moving grey clouds moved along by a stiff wind from the south. This bike is so heavy that she's the one I want to be on when I have to ride into a headwind. It was perfect.

I arrived at work windblown and refreshed, and couldn't wait for my day to be over so I could ride some more.

Hope your commutes are just as revelatory.

Happy pedalling



updated: December 19, 2006


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