Letting Go

Alternate Titles:

  1. Giving Up, Giving Up, Giving a…
  2. How to Break Up With Your Bicycle
  3. n Р1 (see Rule #12 for an explanation)

I recently consigned my Dahon Tournado. It’s a great bike, and it’s done a great job for me, on everything from long rides in the hill country to single track to the Iron Cross 100km cyclocross race. But I wasn’t using it anymore, so it had to go.

As somebody who’s only been cycling beyond commuting usage for about five years, I still consider myself a beginner. Sure, I can go long distances, on a reasonable variety of surfaces, and sometimes I even feel like I’m not all that slow, but I feel I have yet to attain a level of maturity in my cycling outlook. This self-professed “cycling immaturity” is most evident when looking at my bicycle collection.

Just before I married my beautiful wife, I owned 6 bicycles, a unicycle, a disassembled longboard, and I was in the process of building up a tricycle. Like a magpie, I sought out shiny bits of human-powered beauty and surrounded myself with these trinkets, loving them for the way I saw myself reflected in their polished surfaces.

Each machine represented a dream which never quite seemed to materialize. A mountain bike for epic singletrack adventures (I never got around to singletrack because I didn’t have a car to drive to the trailhead and road adventures always interested me more.) A folding bike for travelling by bicycle in distant lands (the bike handled poorly for my size and I never travelled with it.) A tandem recumbent bicycle for toodling around with my sweetie (my sweetie hated the idea of being caught dead on a tandem recumbent bicycle.) And so on.

As an engineer, it’s hard for me to own a tool as hackable as the bicycle, without considering the implications of said hackery. Put another way, each bicycle is an open-ended game of configuration, specification, and modification, to which I find myself drawn like a moth to a flame. More simply, each bicycle consumed my waking thoughts, and I devoted myself to more technical daydreaming than I care to admit.

Since then, life events (marriage, and several moves) have resulted in my flock slowly but steadily shrinking. Although I grieved for the loss of each of my bicycle alter-egos, I admit to feeling a sense of relief every time another one rolled out the door. It is true that I have acquired several replacement bicycles in that time, but the trend has certainly been downward. The most recent release of the Dahon Tournado in question marks a remarkable turning point: I now own only one complete bicycle.

As a consequence of my growing cycling maturity (I prefer to believe that I am growing up in maturity rather than down), I have come to realize that it is more about the rider than the bike. It’s easy enough to nod along at this simple axiom, but much harder to buy into the ramifications of this phrase:

  • There are cyclists who can do more on steep mountain pavement on an ’80s Diamondback mountain bike, than I could do on a state of the art carbon fiber dream-cycle
  • There are cyclists who can do more on technical singletrack on a wispy road bike, than I could do on a plush full-suspension trail bike
  • There are cyclists who can pull more weight on a fixed gear in the hills than I could with a stump-puller touring setup
  • Anything of note I ever accomplish on a bicycle will be due to hard work and logistics first and bicycle technology last

And so here I find myself selling a perfectly good bicycle, because it can’t do anything that my other perfectly good bicycle can’t do, and I find the mental weight of ownership dragging me down.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t have other new bicycles already pedaling around in my head. And I am already struggling with newfound anxieties over single bicycle ownership (“What if it gets stolen?”). But I am also really jazzed to have arrived at a benchmark of owning a single bicycle which, so far, has enabled all my needs: long road rides, easy single track, commuting, and light touring. I now have the option to buy another bicycle to advance a particular passion (for example, if I learn I just love aggressive downhills.) More importantly, I don’t feel like I have any bicycles getting in the way of the simple joy of going out for a ride.

Appendix

I don’t mean to put down anyone who enjoys collecting bicycles. It is a fun and harmless hobby, and, especially for period-correct restorations, can be fulfilling and instructive for others.

The Dahon Tournado bike I sold was a stout, customized, and well-loved touring bike which splits in twain for air travel. It is being consigned by Seasoned Outdoor Exchange of Boulder.

The bike replacing both it and my erstwhile road bike is a Yeti Arc-X cyclocross bike. I am already daydreaming of upgrades to enhance its abilities both off-road and on-.