There’s something in here I nearly love, but I also feel like I somehow blew a chance for something more, something about or in the third paragraph maybe. I never said what I’d set out to, or at least I never said it with the power I aimed for and felt. I guess I think the end, which I like, just kind of kicks the shit out of the rest of the story.
Buy any bike you see. It doesn’t matter. Buy it because it gleams in the light in a shop run by guys you don’t really like but who seem to know what they’re doing. Buy it because it’s a good deal. Buy it because it’s supposed to fit that way. Buy it because some guy who says he rides a lot says it’s a good one. Lift it up by the top tube. Squeeze the brake levers. Take it outside and in the parking lot during those first pedal strokes, tell yourself how great it feels. But also tell yourself not to worry, that everything will feel better once you’re used to it. Pack the bike into your car and drive it home. Never think too much about this.
Ride the bike somewhere. Somewhere that feels far away. The next day ride somewhere else. Show your friends the bike. Ride it again. Should you name it? Should that noise be there? Should your body ache like that? Go back to the shop seeking some answers. You will find out that you just need to get used to the bike. Don’t think too much about this, either. And don’t look at the other bikes on the floor, not the ones that are gleaming like yours used to but already doesn’t anymore, and especially not the one that took the place of yours, the one that comes in a whole new color and, it seems, a whole new type of gleam.
When you get the bike home, ride it somewhere again. Concentrate on getting used to it. And ride it again. These interactions will become a relationship. You will have heard other riders talk about this, so this must be what they are talking about. There will be moments of ecstasy, and more of just simple happiness, and the bike and you will go through some bad shit, too, like when it breaks down all the freaking time or when it strands you, or when it seems sluggish, or when it seems dull or heavy compared to other bikes your friends buy. But the worst times, the saddest times, really, will be the ones at home when you walk by your bike and see it and realize how long it has been that you have been walking by it and not seeing it.
Buy a bike like that. Buy it because otherwise you will end up with a bike you love so fully that the ecstasy will not be captive to the good and simple times but is there when things are bad, too, and sometimes when things are the most bad, and sometimes most of all when things are most bad. You will end up with a bike that makes every ride an adventure or a story you can’t wait to tell—or can’t tell—or a prayer, or a song, or a benediction, or a transfiguration, or a dance—a waltz or a tango or an ass-shake at the chaperones of the world, you take your choice—or a meditation or this: a bicycle ride. You will end up with a bike that doesn’t take any of your shit, ever, but that allows and engenders a kind of tenderness and affection you cannot speak of. This kind of bike changes who you are, and your understanding of who you are, and your understanding of bicycles, and of riders, and your understanding of understanding. The price of this kind of bicycle is high. It’s this: your old life.
Much simpler to just go ahead and buy any bike you see. If you choose the other kind, at least I told you so.
Originally published in The Selection, December 6, 2013