It's a tough choice these days. So much agonising over the right part, the correct gearing, the minute, subtle advantages from the latest ‘thing’. All these mechanical factors that build up the every increasing complex machine, that at its very core is about 95% efficient. Whilst mechanical advantages increase with spending, there is a point where it becomes just about the bike, and the whole actual riding, being ‘out there’, over the hill, round the corner, just vanishes.
Take mountain bikes, divided into wheel sizes, which create polarising discussion or arguments on what's better, faster, cooler, lighter or stronger. Road bikes: disc brakes creating the same division, mainly with concerns on safety. The entire focus is on the machine, it seems the object has to be the point, not the experience. When did it become the priority to pursue an argument over something, rather than to discuss a point and comprehend two or more sides make up things? Binary is overrated.
We all fall prey to the call of the promises of improvement, and it is an inherent part of the culture and its appeal - looking pro, with matching anodised parts and things set just so, marking us out as experienced or in the know, but it seems it divides as much as inspires. Stick a hashtag on it, make it marketable or just passing on knowledge, experience and refinement?
Turn this on its head, away from the ‘now', back to the ‘way-back-when’. What's the first or earliest memory of riding bikes? Most likely the freedom of tearing around estates and parks of the city and town, or for the rural based - exploring every track and path within the crucial back-by-tea measurement. Going further, being free. You remember the bike, your mates bikes maybe, y’know, the kid with the Raleigh Burner or whatever must-have ride of your particular generational bike shaped zeitgeist. But you remember the ride and the simple pleasure of the actual action, don’t you?
Do you remember that at some point, back then, no one really cared about the bike? Well, not so much that it distracted from the experience. There was a time, with memories hazy, lens flared, golden hour recollection that it was just about riding, about that simple amazing experience. Whether it was just going as fast as possible, weaving amongst bollards, or skimming past trees and fences. Raw ankles clipped on cranks, worn back tyres from skids. It wasn’t all that of course, the bikes where mostly death sleds, too big or better off turned in for scrap.
Just bike, rider and experience. Not this is better than that, just high fives, whoops and hollers, laughter and challenge. It was a case of riding the bike you have, let's have an adventure, let's just ride the hell out of some bikes. Let's be taken to places outside of where we know, and not caring if it had drop bars or gears, or plastic wheels or what size they where, just whether you could get back by tea, or had time to find the other way home.
Stop agonising over those bits, grab the bike, any bike, and turn the pedals. Let it take you to places or races, hills and thrills, beyond categories and cliches. What ever shape, size or colour bicycle shaped object you have to hand; most days it's best to just run what ya brung.