walking around in tap shoes and pyjamas since 2010 - my cycling log (opens in new window)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

If You Love It, You'll Ride It

There are a lot of people in the world who are a lot more philosophical than I am, and spend a lot more time thinking about the 'whys' and 'wherefores' of things. I'm more of a doer than a thinker, and much more inclined to contemplate why I did something after I've done it than why I might or might not want to do it before.

Perhaps, then, it won't be surprising at all when I say that my philosophy — such as it is — about which kind of bike is best is extremely simple. In fact, it can be summed up in five words: ride a bike you love.

Cameron likes full-suspension mountain bikes with a lot of what we call 'sproing.' I like sleek steel gazelles (not Gazelles, they're okay, but not my thing) with sharp steering, and I particularly like the look of older steel GTs. I have a friend at work who has been riding fixies since before most of the fixie-hipster crowd was born.

None of our preferences have anything to do with fashion — rather, our tastes our dictated by other motives. My first really good bike was a red GT Arette I named Evergreen II: light, fast, and very, very responsive. Some of my friends who tried her thought the steering was far too sharp; I loved it. Perhaps because I also ride horses, I seem to use my weight to steer more than most people I know and I tend towards a very light touch on the handlebars. Responsive handling works well for someone like me.

I also simply loved the look of the bike — there was something very satisfying about the geometry of the frame and the weird little extra triangle, formed by the seat stays and top tupe, that's sort of the GT hallmark. Some people might not think it's important to like the way your bike looks, but I think it adds something to the experience.

Swift's riding and handling properties are basically identical to Evergreen II's. He's also similar in looks, though he's green rather than red. I love riding this bike, and therefore I ride a lot.

I suspect anyone who spends a lot of time doing somethign that he doesn't have to is probably motivated at least in part by love — if not love of the activity itself, love of something that comes along with it (achievement, perhaps, or the extreme satisfaction of applying sublime self-discipline). All of the dedicated cyclists whose blogs I read, and the few (because I am horribly shy in real life; Louisville is chock-full of cyclists) that I know personally, love riding bikes (and, indeed, I would say the kinds of bikes we like to ride may well shape the kinds of riding we find ourselves doing). I doubt any of us would love it so much if we were forcing ourselves to ride bikes we didn't love.

Thus, if you want to ride a lot, find a bike you love — even if the bike you love turns out to be a $20 fixer-upper from a thrift store. Plenty of solid long-distance bikes have been built around old frames, and good bikes are built to last a lifetime. Components may wear out, but a well-built diamond frame is an enduring thing — after all, diamonds are forever, right?

I hope to get a lot of good years out of my current machines (especially since GT no longer makes the slender steel gazelles I love). Swift, after all, is something like twelve years old and going strong (Traveller is only around two years old; a baby by comparison). If I should find a good excuse need to buy another new bike at some point in the future, I'm leaning towards Gunnar's Sport or Cross-Hairs. Both are light, high-quality steel frames well-suited to the kinds of riding I do, and I like how they look.

I've probably said this all before, and I'll probably say it all again (because in addition to not being particularly inclined towards contemplation, I have an unfortunate tendency to repeat myself). I think it probably bears repeating, though — especially when addressing new or would-be cyclists who are intimidated by the sense that there is some or another 'right' kind of bike.

Swift will probably see a few upgrades in the not-too-distant future (I'm still debating whether to switch to drop bars, or just get the nifty drop bar-ends sold by Niagara Cycle Works), primarily to replace moving parts that will wear over time and increase his suitability for long-distance rides. However, on the whole, I'm extremely happy with my bike, and that's why I ride like there's no tomorrow.

My sincere hope is that if you're reading this, you feel the same way.


  1. How much did you pay for that bike new?

  2. Ack -- missed your comment almost a year ago! Sorry.

    Both my GTs were bought used for less than $200; the Arette retailed for upwards of $500 (it was a semi-custom specially built for a friend of mine); Swift would probably have sold for around $250 - $300 back in 199whatever.

    I paid $370 for my road bike, Quicksilver, a 1994 Specialized Allez Pro, in 2010. In 1994, he would've retailed for around $1400.

    My new (also used) road frame was a gift, so I'm not sure how much it cost. I'm hoping to build it up with 105 components as much as possible, but that will depend on available funds.