Actually, the correct phrase is “Now: Do you love your bike”? It’s the conclusion to an article from Bicycling Magazine’s editor Bill Strickland, published in the May 2008 edition. I’ve tried to find some sort of link or reference to this online but can’t. To see it in full, you’ll probably have to dig up a print copy itself.
I came across the article when idly flicking through some old magazines ( a great way to get inspiration for design shape/color combinations) . Not that 2 years ago is old. But, they say, this is an age when the only thing that matters is relevance.
This makes the modern (safety) bicycle timeless, in spite of no shortage of attempts to see it evolve (great coverage of these sorts of issues at bicycledesign of course). It makes other items ephemeral–specifically thinking here about Shimano’s recent redesign of the 105-Ultegra-DA trinity, particularly the shifters, bringing it into line with SRAM (they’ve really shaken things up) and Campagnolo.
But time is the issue here. Time and the really boring choice that we always seem to be presented with: rational or irrational. If you are not the first, then you must be the second.
The article comes in two short bursts. Firstly “The first one we love is a mystery”, then “In our madness”. I found it a bit hard to understand. But having gone over it, and it’s quite short, I think I get the message. Unless Bill was just having fun with us over this! (The inset is a photo of a funky graffiti painted overhead bridge “I LOVE MY BIKE!!”; probably the inspiration for the article)
“The first one…” takes us back to the first bicycle we ever had. This is quite powerful stuff. That first experience of riding is beyond words. It is “emotion and sensation”. It stays with us:
The color of our first bike–whatever color it is–will for the rest of our lives elicit an indistinct, seemingly rootless pleasure we rarely think to trace back to its source. And at the far stretches of age we will still summon, vivid and lush with portent, the scratch along the top tube, the nameplate askew, the scuffed-off end of the grip, the mechanical rattle of the chain against the chain guard.
He ends the section with:
Who among us has not abandoned our first love? It comes to us as a mystery, that bike, and in absence remains so throughout our lives, and maybe that why it is the one we never stop longing for.
Recalling that first bike connects us with a time when just about everything was new. The world was bigger. We were exploring it. And memories of our bike that made a lot of that experience possible are with us always. Maybe it’s this experience that makes this eerie connection between the Boards of Canada’s ultra-brooding Everything You Do Is a Balloon with bits out of a 1963 film about kids and riding safely so arresting–evoking an earlier time, tinged with great tragedy, that is only emotion and sensation.
The second part of Bill’s piece is “In our madness…” Here he takes on the question of how it is possible to love a bike, a physical object, and with this he really is poking fun at science–love as the effect of dopamine norepinephrine and numerous other chemicals. The extreme of this is the only recently discovered sickness of objectophilia: One man falls in love with a Hammond organ but leaves it for a steam locomotive. !! Simply irrational.
It’s a distraction, of course. Is it the bike, or “biking”? It’s biking–the way it makes us feel; the body it gives us; the friends; the excitement of the purchase; the enjoyment of a beautiful frame; the appreciation of its functional beauty, to list Bill’s main points.
I grew up on a mountain side in an “n”-shaped compound with three siblings and four cousins–we were all “brothers” and “sisters” to each other actually. My first bicycle was everyone’s first bicycle. Something along the lines of this one, although in not as good condition.
Because it was several sizes way to big for little kids, the way to ride it was left leg on left pedal, right leg straight through to the right pedal. It’s a continual standing stroke, top tube over the right shoulder, right arm under the top tube to hold the right hand grip, perpetual crouch. Riding past fruit gardens, rice fields, when I could get my turn. All of that experience came through that first bike which is with me not only just when I go back home, which is not as often as I probably ought to.
The power of these experiences are in the longing for something which no longer exists. You are just left with the longing which becomes a part of everything you experience. But still it gets back to the bike.
Experience is not rational. But that does not mean it’s irrational. Irrational is leaving an organ for a steam train! With a bike we become cyclists, become who we are, with as many ways to go about this as there are cyclists. And it can involve the joyous as well as extremely serious, basic issues. There are countless ways to be who you are. “Now: Do You Love Your Bike?”