Something’s been puzzling me lately…
You see, I’ve not long built up a bike that’s an off-the-peg frame. It’s put together with nice components – nothing cheap, but nothing particularly over-the-top either – and a set of hand built deep section carbon tubular wheels. Being a carbon frameset, and with the tubulars and good quality components helping, it comes out fairly light at 6.9kg.
On the other hand there’s my ‘best bike’: 1.5kg of custom steel frame, almost 2kg of handbuilt aluminium clinchers and – forks aside – not much carbon at all. I’m slowly rebuilding that with a Campagnolo Super Record groupset, as and when I can afford to buy bits (or when good quality secondhand parts become available). It’s weight? Well that’s probably likely to be circa 9kg when it’s done.
Now, I have an event coming up in late October – Fitz’s Extreme. Normally events like this are when I roll out my ‘best bike’. It’s usually the kind of day when you do such a thing, right? Wheel out the good bike to make you feel all proud and to show it off… except, at 255km and with 5000m+ of climbing, why the hell would I want to cart an extra 2kg+ around with me?? Good lord man, the ride is going to be tough enough on your light bike, let alone carting around two whole extra kilograms for no good reason!
Ignoring the ride length and vertical gain, there’s still the “what if” doubts and questions that serve to question the logic of taking my ‘best bike’ along: “What if” my bike gets stolen – from the car, the hotel, or along the ride? “What if” I scratch the bike in the car on the way there? “What if” the car gets rear-ended on the drive there and my bike gets buckled in the crash?…
And that’s when it occurred to me. We’ve got our priorities all screwed up.
Here’s the thing: quite often – and especially here in Australia – if you’re going to a special event you’re likely to be travelling. Sometimes a long drive, sometimes a flight (which actually means at least two flights, and possibly more), perhaps a train journey, and so on. All of which are putting that ‘best bike’ of yours that you’re proudly wheeling out to show off on this event at risk – and not just of damage, but of total loss. What’s the point?
I had a discussion along similar lines with a riding buddy of mine recently. He was in the market for a new race bike and was planning to spend a small fortune building something up with all the latest top-end kit just, purely to race on. His argument being that all the latest and greatest, lightest and bestest ‘stuff’ might make him faster.
My challenge to him was this: Why not buy yourself a nice new bike with all the latest, greatest, lightest, bestest stuff to ride on, then relegate your current bike – which you probably couldn’t care a toss about – to the risky, high paced, crash-prone world of racing?
And I’ve basically just asked myself the very same question: Why am I carefully spending money on components that are so delicious, to build a bike that’s going to be really quite lovely, only for it to hang in the garage to use on sunny days and special events?
We build bikes to ride them. Sure, Campagnolo Super Record probably isn’t ‘every day’ riding material – but if that’s how I intend to build the bike, and if I’m going to the expense of choosing that option (even if some of it is secondhand), surely I should get my worth out of it? As long as I keep it clean and well maintained it should last every bit as long as the Chorus – or cheaper – stuff I could have built it with.
And do you know what else? If the bike gets scratched or damaged, or if parts fail or wear out, at least I’ll know it’s because it was getting the use it deserves. Each mark will tell a story, leave a ‘patina’ of sorts, extend my bond with the bike I cherish so dearly. At least I’ll know those nicks and grazes happened because it was being ridden – not because it got dropped by a baggage handler, got squashed in the hold of a plane or got flung around in the boot of my car.
I made a pact with myself today, and I think you should do the same: When my ‘best bike’ is finished I’m going to ride it. It’ll become my ‘daily driver’. Not to show off, not to be extravagant, but because that’s what I’m building it to do – to be ridden, and to be enjoyed. Sure, it might still come to some events with me, but only when I’m confident of the way I’m travelling and the place I’m staying… or when it’s a shorter and less hilly event!
Of course the added benefit for me is that the extra 2kg should help make me feel like I’m flying when I do get on my light bike…