My bike was red. I was eight-years-old, and that constitutes most of what I knew about it. I learned years later that it was made by Peugot. Apparently, they made BMX bikes once. Maybe they still do? Anyway, a thing I noticed was that some kids were putting pads on their bikes, on the stems and handlebars and top tubes. I could guess that this was for protection, but it also looked cool as hell. So I began the process of saving up allowance to buy pads for my bike one at a time.
Once I’d set my mind to this, the bike, which I loved like plants love the sun, looked naked without the pads. It gnawed at me. These, I think, were the seeds of the bike mania that would manifest itself in so many odd ways throughout my life.
I could lust for a particular bike, and then eventually get it, but then not be able to resist f%$ing with it. My first few city bikes had to be rattle-canned some jarring color to prevent theft. I’d cut the bars down, swap the tires, always optimizing.
Once I got into “performance bikes,” the slope got even more slippery. A Crow Bar for my first proper mountain bike, an array of pedals, grips in a contrasting color, because looks matter. Bar ends.
And now what? I’ve weened myself down to 4 bikes I ride regularly. When I built each one, I aimed for the sky, carbon this, titanium that. But the itch persists. Maybe a bar with a little more back sweep would be more comfortable, a different color bar tape to freshen up the look of the road bike. Do I really wanna splurge on a titanium crank? I do. I really do.
This week’s TCI Friday asks, are you a frequent upgrader or do you ride it stock? The humbling truth is that stock is really good. Sure product managers cut corners on little bits here and there to hit target price points, but even a corner that’s been cut is usually a pretty good corner. Really, if you just do basic maintenance on one of today’s stock bikes, you have a great bike that’ll last. But for some of us, the mania persists.