It’s that time of year again, when it’s cold and not yet snowy; shoulder season, the doldrums. I don’t have anything to train for these days, but I’ve been riding the trainer a bit, just to take the edge off. As I was pedaling/staring at the wall the other day, running all the familiar thoughts through my head, I realized that my road bike is eight years old. I don’t know how old that is in bike years, but it’s a hell of a lot of trainer time together.
Eight years means I met this bike when I was fifteen, which means that it knew me before I’d left home, started college, started drinking coffee, or even had my first real boyfriend. It’s stuck around longer than every boy since, and no matter how much I neglect it or how often I crash, it’s always right there when I need it.
This bike has traveled to California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado. I’ve ridden it, driven it, and packed it in boxes. Once, I had to clean feathers and guts out of the cable housings after an unfortunate incident with a flock of sparrows. When I crashed my car in Island Park it hit the ceiling so hard the derailleur hanger got bent- but we were both ok. I’ve slept next to this bike on the floors of strangers houses and woken up with chain grease on my face- it’s every mile the vagabond I am.
I’ve sweated on this bike, I’ve cried on this bike, and I’ve bled on it plenty. I’ve ridden it with my arm in a sling, I’ve ridden it with stitches in my knees (don’t tell my surgeon) and I’ve ridden it in all states of fitness or… otherwise. It never judges me, but it always forces me to be honest, which I grudgingly appreciate- It’ll never tell me I look good in those jeans if I don’t.
And we’ve both had plenty of parts fixed up or replaced over the years. A set of new tires here, an ACL there, plenty of nuts and bolts between the two of us- this bike knew me before my knees looked like this:
and not many people I know can even say that.
I tied this weird piece of hemp onto the handlebars six years ago to remind myself never to take racing too seriously. Afterwards I ate an entire container of vanilla cake frosting and proceeded to vomit it up during (and after) a criterium. Not sure what the lesson was there, but the hemp remains!
This bike and I have poured dreams and ambitions out onto the pavement together. It’s usually the training tool and rarely the machine I “race,” but that means it’s seen my daily moments of hopelessness and of determination, when the routine of training seems utterly stupid or utterly transcendent. It’s calmed my frenetic brain for eight years, and through simple acts like reaching a new town or the top of a hill, it’s taught me that our limits only ever exist in our heads.
I’ve met some of my best friends aboard this bike. I’ve also had some of my best solitary time, on those mornings when the seasons are changing and you’ve got the horizon to yourself. But it’s not that time anymore- it’s trainer time, staring at walls time, and that’s oddly comforting lately. Almost everything about my life has changed drastically in the last eight years; this bike’s one of the few that haven’t.
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