Thank you to the lovely Mike Collins for this topic area – many of my bike miles have been racked up joyfully with you.
In 2000 my then-boyfriend convinced me to buy a mountain bike.
We lived in Jersey & I’d been pottering about on an old, borrowed red thing which regularly locked brakes or discarded its chain. I had, for the first time in my life, an actual salary. The island is beautiful and has many places to explore. Project Mountain Bike began.
He researched it. Thoroughly. Regaling me with tales of suspension and light-weight frames, of multiple gearings and the difference between block brakes and discs. I paid a modicum amount of attention – asking questions as I cooked.. eventually rolling my eyes after being shown the 105thpicture of Some Bloody Bike… I couldn’t get overly excited.
I only really got what the fuss was about when I went to the shop. My hypothetical Bike – so far only dreamed up or seen online – became a 3D tactile, tangible actuality. Some technical stuff sort-of mattered (I’d pretty much had the “two wheels, a frame & some brakes. How hard does it need to be?” Mentality. I still can’t get geeked out by much of the Spec stuff)
To my boyfriend’s annoyance, pretty much all research went out the window as number of things went awry in the face of reality.
Firstly, the man in the shop saw I was.. let’s say “physically more substantial” …than many of the “ladies” who sought mountain bikes. I’m quite tall. I’m broad. I’ve got fairly long legs & a long back – so I’d need a bigger frame than most non-men bikes would offer me. This had not been part of the research.
Also – as previously stated – I didn’t give a toss about the brakes or the suspension ( I learned to re-think that particular lesson about 3 years later, rattling down a mountain at speed in New Zealand, after a helicopter ride to the snow-capped top….Ooh: Full Sus bikes are a THING), so I was pretty firm on the budget I was prepared to spend.
And I wanted something that could be sustained – substantial, scratch-able, beautiful, but fit for purpose. I couldn’t bear some stupidly priced racehorse of a thing, super-fast but so desirable I’d spend my life unable to leave it locked outside the pub for fear of it being bike-napped.
But I suddenly “got” that I was going to buy a bike. My enthusiasm spiked. I must have cycled 10 or 12 around the block, testing gears and weight, bouncing about… this is what my research looks like, I realise now.
So it was that a shiny black Scott Tampico, Made for Men, got bought and has been in my life ever since.
That bike and I have done countless miles.
It’s been up hill, down mountain, through cities. Along the way I’ve been thrown off it, fallen off it, crashed it and learned how to maintain it. It is hopelessly unfashionable now – heavy, block-braked, the fork locking mechanism is dreadful… but I love it.
I loved it even more when, in 2012, I committed to do a sprint triathlon and foolishly went out to buy a road bike. Skinny tyred, skitterish thing – light and pretty, quick as the wind, but bloody lethal on Edinburgh pot-holes. Each practice ride was a dangerous game.. the high-pressure tyres punctured often… it was too expensive to easily leave outside the supermarket without 4 heavy locks….. I’d come back to my hulking tank of a Mountain bike, which took road ruts like a steam iron through crinkles and I’d be grateful.
In 2013 I had to learn how to maintain it. My boyfriend had become my ex-husband and I realised he’d held the bike knowledge. I hadn’t ever really set it up my bike or looked after it. He had. All the maintenance paraphernalia – the Muc Off, the non-claggy oil stuff, the wheel removal– most of that hadn’t really sunk in. Absence brings opportunity. I took myself off to a bike maintenance class or two… even got a blog out of it.. and my Mountain Bike became something I valued even more – because I understood it in an entirely different way.
And so my relationship with my trusted bike is one of a long and enduring friendship. Roads travelled, miles clocked up and being willing to understand the mechanics of it for that friendship to continue. One day…maybe soon.. I will need or want to buy a new Bike… but I’m not selling the other one for anyone.