A few of my friends have joked that I have more bikes then I can actually ride. Well, as it turns out, that might actually be quite true.
The last few weeks of riding have been phenomenal. The trails are in fantastic shape, the weather has been better than we could have hoped for, and the company on the trails is more than enjoyable; whether you have two legs or four. But I find myself spending an increasing amount of time standing in my garage pre-ride trying to figure out what to ride.
Now this dilemma isn’t one I face because I am so particular about what tire tread is appropriate for the current tackiness or whether four inches of travel is more effective for cornering than six or any other pretentious technical balderdash. It is simply because all my bikes seem to be broken.
Yes, all of them.
There seems to be something amiss with nearly every steed in my stable. How that is actually possible? I am not quite sure. But inevitably it seems, when I select my mount for the night everything starts out pleasantly but as we get down the trail she is writhing at the bit and letting me know all is not well. I’ll be the first to admit it, I am very hard on my equipment. There is just some amount of wear and tear any rider has to deal with but it is starting to feel as if I am the Calamity Jane of the cycling community.
I jested with a friend this morning when I told him that it was a great day today, all of my bikes were actually working! Then I went riding. Not halfway out I heard the dreaded sound of rubber on frame. Another wheel out of true. No surprises there, I knock them out all the time, but this ended my six hour streak of a fully operational fleet.
Now you may be thinking many different things at this point. Some of you will no doubt lament with me on this. Some may take this a chance to promote the simplistic merits of a single speed, and others will chastise me for my purchase of “fancy” and “weak” parts. And all of you may indeed be right. You may also be thinking that I am about to go on a rant about something about now. Well that couldn’t be further from the truth – I stand by my statement, wrenching is good for the soul.
I am beginning to suspect that I have spent nearly as many hours working on my bike as I have riding them this season. It would be easy to see this as an inconvenience or a frustration. A hassle that stands in the way of getting “stuff” done. And maybe in years gone by I have viewed it as exactly that. However, the last few years I have begun to appreciate the value of wrenching. It’s part of the experience of being a cyclist. Mountain, road, freeride, XC – your riding preference doesn’t matter when you are standing in your garage with an allen key and cold beer trying to ferret out why you keep missing that up shift from 6th to 7th in the middle ring. And the sweet feeling of satisfaction is just the same when you get it dialed in just right and can stand back and look at your work with grease covered hands. Every bolt tightened, line cut, and derailleur tuned is part of the ongoing relationship developed between you and your beast. It’s personal, dare I say, it’s intimate.
Every time I throw a bike on the stand its like I unlock a time capsule. Like I said, people hassle me for having so many bikes but the truth is I can’t get rid of them, it would break my heart! Each bike has a personality, a story. There are memories buried deep within them that only seem to be unlocked when you throw your leg over the saddle and grip the bars. It’s a connection reserved especially for you. I have lost bikes over the years, whether sold, stolen, or traded. I miss those bikes as well, they were formative in my life and I remember them all. So, when one of my faithful stallions falters i don’t get angry or frustrated; I treat it as an opportunity to repay it for all it has done for me. It becomes an honor to put your blood and sweat back into your ride.
There is something cathartic about the experience as well. In today’s over stimulated environment it’s surprisingly easy to become inundated with distractions. Even when we venture out to do the things we say free us from distractions. As someone who is a gadget freak I can attest to this. We have gadgets for our gadgets.
How many G’s did I pull in that last corner? 0.06? Whoa, that’s 0.002 better than last time!
When you are wrenching on your bike and bash your knuckle on a chainring, there is no gadget to help you. Just the expletives that flow freely and the tools dropping to the floor as you dance around seemingly in pain, but you know you love it.
There is a simple satisfaction associated with working on a bike. A time to quietly reflect on all you and your trusty friend have been through and daydream about all the places you will go. So next time your friend requires some tender hands to repair some unforeseen damage caused when you were Just Riding Along, don’t drop him or her off at the shop; take her home and lay your healing hands upon her. Unlock that treasure trove of memories.
Remember – Wrenching is good for the soul.