Thursday, March 10, 2016

Why Your Friends Need Beautiful Bicycles

What a strange start to Spring we are having this year. The air is colder than it had been all winter. But the bursts of brilliant sunshine give the landscape a glamourous summer holiday feel. And so we ride, multilayered, woolly-hatted and thermally gloved, feeling oddly tropical under these perfect azure skies.

Cycling behind my husband in this clear and sharp arctic sunlight, I have caught myself fixating on his beautiful new roadbike. The metallic greens and blues of the "Donegal" paintjob shimmer alluringly, accentuated by the outward flicks of the seat and chain stays. As the sunlight catches one curve, then another, I see bursts of olive, turquoise, emerald, sapphire, sage. With a playful randomness, they light up like fireflies or bits of scattered seaglass.

As I pedal and stare at his bicycle frame, mesmerised, I become aware of a feeling I do not want to have but can't suppress: I am envious! Genuinely, childishly envious of another person's bicycle. Because it's prettier than my own. More colourful. Sparklier... Ack!

Of all the emotions on the spectrum, I very seldom experience jealousy or envy. And so in those rare times that I do, I find it disturbing and feel the need to confess it immediately.

"I'm jealous of your bike!" I say, with a wistfulness he cannot help but laugh at.

"Oh yeah?"

"It is so beautiful!"

I proceed to tell him about the colours, to describe the way it catches the light. He is grinning, enjoying such ludicrously poetic appreciation of his new machine.

"That is lovely," he says, "tell me more! I have no idea what this bicycle looks like beneath me, you know - it's you who gets to stare at it and enjoy that custom paintjob. I only ride it!"

When the truth of this hits, I almost feel sorry for him. And my envy at once disappears. It is true that we seldom look at our own bicycles. When we ride, our view is really limited to the handlebars and a few other bits of the "cockpit." Instead, we spend much more time looking at the bikes of our cycling companions as they pedal beside or in front of us.

Ergo... instead of fretting over what our own bicycle looks like, it makes more sense - for our aesthetic quality of life, as it were - to ensure that our friends ride beautiful bikes.

And should you meet a cyclist whose fanciful machine eclipses the beauty of your own, don't be envious. Instead join them on a long bike ride on a clear day - and enjoy the view!



42 comments:

  1. "Sparklier" made me laugh.

    Back when I rode faster(-ish) and with a group of others who rode fast(-ish), we would often joke that if you were going to stay up front, you had better have a nice looking rear-end.


    Wolf.

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    1. My impression is that bicycle manufacturers are putting in more thought into the aesthetics of this part of frame anatomy precisely for this reason!

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  2. "It is true that we seldom look at our own bicycles. When we ride, our view is really limited to the handlebars and a few..."

    Truth be told, I'm jealous of my bike's good looks and their fleet ways:)! Snowbirds yesterday that came over to the house chuckled at the bikes in my living room. I like 'em hanging around where I can properly objectify them! Thanks. Jim Duncan

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    1. While most of our bicycles live in the storage room and are not often looked at, we have 1 "bike spot" in the livingroom. Which-ever bike is the cleanest, shiniest, most pristinely maintained, gets to be the display bike ...which, alas, means it is usually not one of mine.

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    2. I keep mine in the kitchen so I can greet and admire it each morning. Just one bike for me; I'm a monogamist.

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    3. Until recently I had only ever one bike at a time - when I replaced my mountain bike recently I also bought a road bike - both bikes are quite beautiful and both are kept indoors - in my bedroom. Keeping bikes indoors protects them from the elements, theft and at least in my case, means they are kept very clean.

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  3. Not sure how you always seem to connect with something that I only recently experienced myself!?
    After owning my Bridgestone Xo-1 for 24 years I recently took advantage of the opportunity to sell it. I took it over for the prospective purchaser to test ride. While he rode it I rode his and I realized as much as I liked his I had never ridden along and observed my bike the Violet Metallic paint moving and sparkling in the sunlight! It was stunning! And I immediately was having second thoughts, but he had also become smitten with it and so I passed it on to it's next loving owner, but with fonder memories now in hindsight. - Mas

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    1. Violet metallic! Now that must have been nice.

      Luckily, whenever I've sold or given away a bicycle, watching the prospective new owner ride it only confirmed that they were right for each other, making me feel pretty good about the transaction. Likewise, I've been on the receiving end of such a transaction and could see that the person handing over the bike was pleased. It's a nice thing for both parties involved to pass a bicycle on into loving, appreciative hands.

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  4. It's easy with spring arriving and colors changing to be looking with awe at everything with fresh and eager eyes. I'll give you that. And I've not doubt you'd look at my current, messy, kitchen table as I type this and come up with some poetic descriptions of the contents and arrangements, and believe what you say. It's what you do. But this post surprised me just a bit and provoked a couple thoughts.

    I guess it's quite reasonable to believe you were envious of this bike and its colors and sparkles (how much did you have a say it the color choices?) after all you've been through these choices so many times and documented every thought and choice. You've also spent a good deal of time telling us how things look through your eyes and what that means. If nothing else it's easy to conclude that 'how things look' and inform your sense of style matter a great deal to you. The fact that you've consistently chosen a subdued palate and sorta quiet elegance to represent your custom choices, willing to pepper it with a burst of color here and there to personalize the bike is always poetic and personal…Beautiful!! I never thought shiny and pretty was what you were going for. With the hundreds of photos of your bikes and you on your bikes, you certainly know what you look like! I had to laugh because I will always stare at my reflections in windows while cycling down the street and I can't believe how many times I see others doing the same. I rarely miss an opportunity! There's a certain obsessed minority of us who desperately seem to think and care about things others don't. ;)

    I was also thinking about how living in a city full of bikes and cyclists informs my take on your recent riding and posts. You're no longer in Boston so the volume of bikes observed has to be less. Each day I experience many, many, dozens of riders and bikes both parked and moving through space. I enjoy that fact. I enjoy seeing people ride, hope they savor the experience as much as I do, and hope they manage to stay safe while interacting so much with the cars and trucks.

    So thinking my friends need beautiful bikes for my pleasure makes little sense. And ensuring they have one is something completely out of reach for my budget. I like being with my friends on longer rides because I like being with my friends. I'll watch and enjoy their form on the bike, converse with them, mostly take in the experience. I also enjoy listening to them brag about their bike or gadgets or whatever if it brings a sparkle in their eye…it's entertaining. Well, unless they start speaking about it as some sort of trophy that should be envied. I've never liked men parading their pretty wives or girlfriends either, or other moms dressing their kids up for their pleasure as opposed to the kids. For me bikes are the same ;)

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    1. It's funny because the things we appreciate most may not necessarily be the things we want to own for ourselves. With bicycles I admire the elaborate, but for personal use seem to feel compelled to choose the subdued. Possibly this is simply to avoid overstimulation of the senses, which is a territory too easy for me to venture into. I do have one "loud bicycle" and that is my shimmery lilac, prettily-lugged Mercian. I avoid looking at it too much, either in person or at the photos, for precisely that reason!

      We actually left it to Honey to design the paint scheme for the gentleman's bike, giving them only a vague, general sense of what he likes (blues... greens... fast!...). The result exceeded his expectations and suits him so well it is as if their paint guy is psychic. And that is really when a bicycle's aesthetic is at its best: When the bike suits the rider, and they "work" together visually, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts and it's a cool thing to observe.

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    2. That bike really is stunning in bright light. I am impressed that the Honey folks did that one off the cuff.
      They *are* very good.


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    3. So you're saying if you appreciate something, rather than owning it, it's best to give it away. I like that idea.

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  5. Thank the Lord I am not alone !!!! the world has others like me who love to see and look at Bicycles.
    Not just bicycles as such but cared for and well maintained examples of our obsession, aesthetic and practical "modes of transport" and individual expressions of taste and thought. I look at a group of cyclists and individual cyclists and mentally admire or admonish . Sad I know but there you go.
    We all have our cross to bear !!

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  6. Sounds like somebody is ready for a paint job. Maybe some chrome?

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    1. My main roadbike is titanium, and it's a crime to paint titanium!

      My DIY 650B bike is powder coated mil spec green, which is not fabulous, but just right for it.

      My lilac Mercian aside, I don't think I am destined for fanciful paint jobs! (and that's okay)

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  7. Bicycles should be elegant and beautiful.

    Sadly so few are and it could be why several years of having thoughts of acquiring a new bicycle has not yet resulted in a purchase...

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  8. My bike is beautiful. I know it is, because it makes me feel beautiful while riding it, even in difficult circumstances. What's beautiful and what's not is something to ponder. While reading the Jambi-Jambi blog about dirty bits and hairy pits and the idea of hygiene and beauty and contrasting it to this post I wonder who else might think my bike is beautiful. It's usually covered with stuff, fenders with decals, history, grime or when it's cleaned up and I take it on a date we're rather ordinary looking on the outside, but on the inside we're not. We're world travelers, wise, beautiful. So when I look at others and their bikes I don't feel jealous I just feel like riding more. This bike you show looks fast and like it wants to be an eye-turner! Well done.
    http://www.jambi-jambi.com/dirty-bits-and-hairy-pits/

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    1. That post on hygiene is very interesting. My health and general quality of life have improved a gazillion-fold after my daily routine began to involve contact with dirt. The older I get the less I do to myself as far as "maintenance" and my body seems all the happier, bright-eyed-bushy-tailier for it.

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    2. A dear friend gave up her 'city' job in order to become a farmer. Five years later, she also agrees. It's not just the dirt, it's embracing one's body and not fighting it.

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  9. This is timely. The other day I had come up on a cyclist riding a very attractive frame set. I could not get over the seat tube to seat stay connection. The color choice was fantastic too. So I just rode behind the cyclist, eh, I'm in no rush. Moments later the cyclist turns and yells that I should stop staring at her butt. That caught me by surprise, as it never dawned to stare at her butt. I explained how awesome her bike looked compared to my bland single stage paint, and that I was just hanging out. She laughed, and said that may better explain why no one passes her in group rides.

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    1. I was once intently examining the headbadge on a bicycle being walked by a man - only to be jolted out of my admirational trance with a "Hello! My eyes are up here!"

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    2. That very thing happened to me just a couple days ago! I was heading down the street and encountered a former student and his girlfriend at an intersection. We moved onto the side in order to catch up and he had heard I'd gone bike crazy and gave up cars. He had also heard of my bike. While he was trying to be polite and chat his eyes kept scanning the bike, up and down, right and left. Finally I said 'hey, man, my eyes are up here' His girlfriend (who was not into bikes) laughed. He was busted.

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    3. I hate selling things ((not just bikes)or giving them away) because I am generally too eager to make the recipient happy. Many times I sell too cheap, because I think my prize is going to a good place, only to find out later that the thing I gave away either literally or figuratively has been turned around for a tidy profit; this makes me feel like the recipient wasn't very appreciative or did not really understand the spirit of the transaction. As I get older it gets easier, I trust less and try to make sure I at least came out square on the deal so that if it eventually goes a way I had not foreseen, I can't be too depressed about it. - Mas

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  10. Opinionated, and no butts about it !!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  11. I've been riding for a long time and way back when parts were silver and they did shine as mine is now but then the Industry told the consumers that you will ride black parts on black frames and it bacame harder and harder to get a high end silver groupo , it's possible but not easy !!!!

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  12. lovely post, reminded me of the lost within yourself one in bringing alive the experience of cycling. but astrology comes into this - when I cycle with my girlfriend I get lost in the motion of her bicycle, the mechanics of the rear (im a Virgo, earth sign, we can get lost in detail) - it becomes dissociative (I dissociate a lot anyway).I suspect sharing envy may be easier than sharing that. to be nit picking - I prefer old bikes though, the patina on a old blue humber clubman for example

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    1. Astrology!

      For what it's worth the Aquarius - Gemini combo seems to make for excellent cycling partners. Someone needs to put together a velo-horoscope.

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    2. hmm, yes, for what its worth virgo-pisces combos make for lengthy introverted often only very remotely understood silences, but it is mostly OK.

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  13. You know, when you're in love with someone everything they have and do is beautiful. Just saying. The photo says it all ;)

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    1. True, but there are limits... the bicycle he was riding when we met was not beautiful, I assure you!

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  14. Once in a while I'll walk past one of my "pretty" bikes and be reminded how lovely they can be. Just complicated enough to be interesting, minimalist in form so as to never overpower their context, and so compact while still containing the idea of vast space and speed. I love looking at bikes.

    My wife and I keep having this conflict about me parking a bike against the back wall of our closed in porch. It's just one fancy bike and a floor-pump, it doesn't keep us from doing anything we want out there but to her it might as well be the logsplitter. It's where I retreat when the world I live in pushes me out(when secrets have to be shared, young men I'm not supposed to know about quite yet are being discussed, or when "The Bachelor" is on) so I'm sort of digging my heels in here.

    I love sitting out there reading or drawing, the younger border collie asleep at my feet in the "Hello Sailor" position(dogs are disgusting), the Christmas lights strung across the ceiling turned down low and a nice breeze drifting through the window... To also be able to look over and admire my bike just makes it about more than I can stand.

    I'm tempted to trade with someone for an afternoon so I can see it in motion, but it wouldn't be the same since I don't know anyone as spectacular as myself...

    Spindizzy

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  15. just a general comment: keep up the good work - I've been following the blog on and off from when you were in usa. I'm at a transition too and in my case wonder what to do next. I do therapy for a living and believe in attachments - sharing experiences and whatnot as a way to feel alive and connected (sickeningly pc as that may sound). I take something from this blog in the way it feels to me about connecting in the first instance; which is something like what I hope to do next (connecting, not blogging) if I make it through the transition and scrape together the pieces.

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    1. I think you're on to something worthwhile, ONWARD!

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  16. Reminds me of Peacocks. Entirely consistent with the natural order of things, No?

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    1. Heh never thought of that... and that bike *is* rather peacock-colored!

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  17. Have you ever suffered from the extension to this phenomenon, having a beautiful bike that you love to look at, but is actually wrong for you in some way, either size, intended use, or some other practical aspect?

    Several times over the years I have found myself having to have a heart-wrenching 'discussion' with myself when I realise that I've ended up with one of these bikes, a beautiful disaster that you know you need to sell, but then spend many months agonising over it because it's just so pretty!

    I also find myself on the other side of this scenario too, owning fantastically practical bicycles, that fit you perfectly, never go wrong, and meet every one of your needs while never placing so much as a spoke wrong, but suffer from being so ugly you almost feel sorry for anyone who happens to glance your way.

    It's tricky being a cyclist sometimes...

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  18. You put the feeling yo words quite wonderfully! When I was studying in Germany, my favourite part of the day was looking at the herds of bikes parked at uni, in the city or at my apartment block and I'd eventually find my favourites ahaha

    It's a habit I brought back home with me to Australia. The biking culture here is way different though, less of charming vintage bikes which are in circulation in Germany, but plenty of the sportier bikes which are handsome in their own right too! My friends keep thinking I'm checking people out and I'm like "no, no did you see their bike?!"

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  19. Never experienced that kind of envy. I could ride my wife's bike any time I like when she's at work, but what I really enjoy about it is looking the awesome ensemble of rider and bike.

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    1. Another fan of purples bicycles, I see!

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  20. After fit, the 2nd most important aspect of a bike is color and livery. People think I'm joking when I say that. I'm always checking out bikes, and sometimes recognize the bike before the owner. lol

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    1. Most people who are not into bicycles in a technical way, when I ask "what kind of bicycle do you have?" they respond by describing its colour scheme.

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