Repositories of the Physical World

My girlfriend has a seatpost stuck in her Wazoo. As cheap and eye-catching as that lead sentence might seem, it is also, literally, true, and a jumping off point for talking about our emotional attachments to our bicycles. Bear with me here.

My girlfriend, Jennifer, owns a Voodoo Wazoo set up for touring, though when she bought hers, it was, in fact, a cyclocross bike with extra braze-ons for racks and fenders, not a touring bike (confusingly, now it’s a gravel bike). But as I said above, the seatpost is frozen in her Wazoo, and whoever did her fitting set her saddle height a solid 2cm too high. I can’t ride behind her because my knees cry out in pain when I see how straight her leg is at the bottom of the pedal stroke. 

The solution to the frozen seatpost isn’t easy; it’s so badly stuck, actually, that it needs to be milled out. Is this an effort and expense you ought to make for an aging, steel, jack-of-many-trades bike? Well, that depends.

We develop an emotional attachment to our bikes. And by we, I mean most of us. So why would we become emotional about something that is inanimate except when ridden? Well, because bikes produce feelings and memories and thus become imbued with the sort of love we normally reserve for family members.

I told Jennifer we should get the seatpost out of her Wazoo by whatever method was available.

What I wanted to convey to her was that, while this was, seemingly, a rather extreme solution, I saw it as reasonable because I respected what that bike means to her. The Wazoo is the bike she rode on a number of long tours, including one down the Pacific Coast Highway from Canada to Mexico. That was the tour where we met. Yes, she was riding that bike when I met her in 2013. 

So even though I was recommending a rather expensive solution to her, I was trying to find a way to show that I respected what that bike means to her. What I needed was the cyclist’s equivalent to namaste. One of the translations of that word is “the light in me respects the light in you.” It’s a way to recognize the divinity, the beauty, in all of us. 

The bike nerd version I envision translates as, “The place in me that values a bike as a way to experience the beauty of the world sees that place in you and values the beauty you have seen in the world thanks to that bike.”

Which brings me to my present point of meditation. My bikes are mementos of experience, repositories of the physical world, keepsakes of a landscape, a relationship, and, sometimes, a place inside myself. 

Years ago, when I first started writing about cycling, I wrote to articulate my relationship to the bike, how this one thing could bring me fun, adventure, good health, distant places and peace. All in one 20-lb. object. Today, what my overwhelming urge to do is to help give others the voice to be able to articulate why the bike is important to them. As a writer, I’ve never done anything more valuable than to help others find the words to say something they’ve been feeling. 

So for anyone who sees their bike as no more than a piece of gear, a way to get at fun, I’ve got your back. But for people who value their bike as more than just this thing they pedal, for anyone who looks at a bicycle and can see their own past, even as they imagine the future, I say revel in that. This isn’t nostalgia; it’s something divine. 

Join the conversation
  1. TominAlbany says

    I held on to the ’89 Schwinn I bought right out of college far longer than I rode it. And, before I donated it to the bike rescue so that someone else might get to feel the joy it brought me, I rode it most days for a week or two. There were issues but, after years of sitting idle, I lubed the chain, pumped up the tires (27 x 1-3/8″!!) and said goodbye. The stem shifters still worked and it shifted pretty smoothly, considering. But, it was a joy to recall how it felt to sit on that bike and do the things and remember some other things.

    I get it. And I want someone else to as well!

  2. schlem says

    If you’re going to sacrifice the seatpost anyway, try heating it with a propane torch, well above the clamp, allowing the heat to work down into the seat tube. Attach a lever arm to the seatpost (I don’t know how), and gently exert a torque while you send all that thermodynamic dynamism to the thin mucilage of corrosion and petrified grease. That’s what I would do, but what do I know?

  3. jcs2317 says

    I like what you were saying in the last paragraph. For me, my bikes are time machines. They transport me back to my youth and give me the same joy that I felt as a much younger me.

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