Okay guys. I’m still in California, but this made me so happy I decided I couldn’t wait to write about it.
I’m back in Sacramento now, but for the last few days I’ve been hanging out with my aunt, uncle, and cousins in Morgan Hill, CA, just south of San Jose–I’ll admit that I couldn’t even place it on a map until embarrassingly recently, given that I grew up not even that far away. Anyway, knowing my craziness, my aunt was kind enough to let me borrow her bike while she and my uncle had to work. We hauled it down from its neglected perch in the garage, inflated the tires, and raised the seat for me.
Her bike is old. It is creaky. It is upright. The chain rasps and the derailleur on either extremity is annoyingly rubby, though mitigated a bit if I held the shifter down with my thumb as I rode. The cables are beyond adjustment. The brakes squeal. It is a beast to lug up hills (and there are a lot of hills in Morgan Hill). The seat is totally not made for distance riding; the helmet she had to offer was made entirely of styrofoam.
Given the selection of the entire world, it is not the first bike I would have chosen to ride. But you know what? It was a bike, and it was perfect.
While I was riding it around–a much further ride, according to my aunt, than that bike has ever taken in its entire existence–I couldn’t help but think about bikes-as-status. Morgan Hill is the headquarters for Specialized bicycles, and there are many, many people out riding around–though most of the rides seem to be exclusively recreational, not for such pragmatic purposes as real transportation. There are many fancy bicycles. And I’ll admit that I definitely wished I had my speedy, light bike, especially with all those hills.
But on the other hand, my aunt’s old, rusty creaky bike took me exactly where I wanted to go–which, of course, was nowhere in particular and yet everywhere. I may have looked entirely ridiculous in my styrofoam helmet as I waved my giant-grin wave to all the bespandexed speedsters, but I was out in the world getting places on my own power. I even found a park with mountain bike trails, and I totally rocked her bike up those too. It may not have been the most elegant of rides, but you know what? It worked. It was fun.
It made me think of all the old, ugly, creaky, totally decrepit bikes I have ever ridden. And I realized that I love all those bikes. Not necessarily for the bikes themselves, but for the adventures they took me on. I wouldn’t trade in my bike for the world, but for that day in Morgan Hill, I wouldn’t have traded in my aunt’s bike either. Yes, my bike would have been more swift, more nimble, more playful; with it I may have ridden further or seen more. But in the absense of my bike, my aunt’s was everything I needed.
Biking is not about having the “perfect” bike, it’s about using what you have to do what you want. Yes, a nicer bike can be nice. But ultimately, it’s not about the bike. It’s about where you go with it, and as long as it rolls, I’ll be on it finding adventure.