03 January, 2019


By Scott

I was listening to a podcast yesterday on the way home. It was an interview with Alton Brown, the Food Network host, author, and generally interesting fellow. The podcast/interview centered around watches and food - the watch website Hodinkee was the host - and one of the themes that came out was emotions.  In the context of the interview, it centered on why someone would obsess/fixate on a specific watch/model/style when they were buying or looking at watches. This got me thinking, as one can, about how emotion relates to bicycles.

I think for some, emotion and bicycles relates to the act of riding a bike. The joy, the feeling of flying, of moving around a city or place at a pace that is directly controlled by your efforts and that of the machine you are riding.

For others, the emotion of bicycles is the bike itself. The interest in the lugs or paint on a frame, the details of the derailleur mechanism or the other little features that only become evident when you examine the bike close up.

I mean, there is no logical reason for someone to spend time and money to restore an old Peugeot UO-8 or Schwinn Letour. One can go to a bike shop and buy something that is lighter, more reliable and compatible with modern parts for not much more then what some folks have dropped over time with new parts on a bike made in the late 60's/early 70's.

So why do we do it? Well that is where I think emotion comes in.

For me, it is a love of an all-rounder bicycle - an historically British style where the bike could be used for touring, both on and off road, and for commuting to work. For me, the Polyvalent is the modern progression of this style. Equipped with braze-on's for everything one might need and room for wide or narrow tires, it can be anything you want it to be. The feeling I get riding it over rough roads/tracks is fantastic. Knowing that I'm independent of anything or anyone else is very empowering as I explore the smaller paths and roads of Maryland.

I know of customers who obsess over certain brands. They collect and ride a variety of bikes from one maker and become very knowledgeable about the details and features of that brand/model.

So what emotion gets you when we talk of bikes? Is it the feeling of riding, an interest in a particular brand, model, or something else?


Stephen said...

I have ridden a bicycle off and on for some 55 years. My main emotions include joy and satisfaction. The joy and satisfaction of freedom, the ability to go where ever I choose to go on my own power, the feelings created by the flush of hormones from moving the body. The joy and satisfaction generated by exercising my creativity in building a bicycle from a frame that becomes kinetic art, a beautiful, singular machine that is efficient, frugal (compared to a car, truck, boat, or airplane), and unique. I recently rebuilt my 15yo Mercian custom frame with all new parts, including a beautiful set of VO wheels. I put the final part on it just last night (a derailleur extender that allows me to shift onto a 34-tooth cog), and it is like no other bicycle on the planet. It is me, and it is mine. I love riding it, and it makes me happy.

anniebikes said...

Bicycles are my freedom. Freedom to explore at a slow pace. Freedom from the automobile. Freedom to commute on paths without auto congestion. Freedom to explore cities on two wheels. I'm a commuter at heart with numerous long distance tours under my belt. I value stable bikes with wider tires and have recently acquired a Riv Clementine and a Dahon to see where that takes me in the future.

clau66 said...

Cycling is one of the few hopes of salvation on the planet.

It always excites me: both riding in the wind and - like a few days ago - building a wheel with a hub dynamo for a dear friend I met at night without lights.

The bicycle is really beautiful when you no longer need the mechanic.

Google English (forgive me)

John I said...

For me the joy is when the bicycle - that I built up from a frame with carefully sourced parts, home-built wheels, and set up to fit me to T - disappears beneath me on a hill.

John Frey said...

The joy of sailing down the other side of the hill I just climbed, the wonder of seeing and hearing the neighborhood and the countryside around me, the marvel at the minimal amount of material carefully assembled that allows me to travel many times faster than I can walk and farther than I can run. The satisfaction of maintaining such a marvelous machine mostly with basic tools and no computer interface. The fun and deep meaning of doing all that with family and other friends.

Southern Haberdasher said...

I have said on more than a few occasions (too often probably) "it takes all kinds". I honestly think that no where else in the world of human transportation is a single individual's personal style and priorities expressed more accurately than in the bicycle they choose to ride.

For me, it is the both the knowledge of community from afar and particularity of a singular person when viewed up close. Riding my bicycle I experience the solitude of expressed individuality, and yet i am reminded that I am a part of something larger and more important.

Oldcyclist58 said...

I just want to thank Velo Orange for making it possible to restore my old PX-10-LE, I have a VO crank, bottom bracket, and headset. I built new wheels using VO hubs and they come in at less than 1600 grams! The cable guides, also purchased from VO along with new cable housings. I am repainting it again for the 4th time right now! Soon, she will be singing along the hills and hollers of my home, 42 years of pretty fast riding. Used to I rode mostly alone because most people could not keep up, now I ride alone because I can't keep up. The bicycle however performs even better than when it was new! Like so many have posted, being able to work on my machine, knowing it inside and out and the sure confidence that she will still serve me well, that is a joy!

Michael C said...

I can echo all of the comments above, well said! I would add that I can't ride an ugly bike. Modern bikes are indeed amazing machines, but the aesthetics of classic bikes resonate with me. I bought a Campeur Frameset for my adult son and we built the bike together from new and used parts. He absolutely loves the look and ride of the bike, his prior bike was aluminum and carbon and I notice that bike is out of service now. Building the bike yourself gives you an appreciation of the small features not on many modern bikes (bosses/lugs/clearance) and instills self-reliance and confidence when riding off the grid. Like some of the comments above, I don't ride fast like I used to (took the computer off years ago!), but I now enjoy the ride differently, slowing down to notice the scenery. If someone passes me on a $6000 tennis racket without a word, I just smile and wonder if they'll still be riding when they are my age!

VeloOrange said...

Happy rising, Ron! Thanks for the kind words!


tallbikeman said...

Because of backward compatibility of most bicycle components bicycle fork/frames into the 1960's are all rebuildable. Most steel frames with lugged construction and Schwinn's welded formed metal frames, whether 1020 or some form of alloy, are candidates for rebuilding. I find the notion of not rebuilding is usually related to consumerism. Nostalgia and the knowledge of the practical aspects of many older designs keeps me rebuilding them. There are definitely new bicycles that fit into the wide range of riding possibilities that older designs tend to afford, but one can't argue with the monetary savings on an older fork and frame as opposed to new. I find that outfitting an older frame and fork with just the right gearing, brakes, handlebar configuration, and seat you want, exactly, then riding it till if wears out is one of the sublime pleasures of bicycling for me. I echo others in this comment section, I used to lead but now I follow and take regular breaks along the way. I run Velo Orange hubs, pedals and other bits and pieces. Great stuff.

Stephen said...

I'm glad someone mentioned the ugliness of many modern bicycles. I understand the concept of functional beauty, but many older bicycles (and some new ones) are simply more graceful looking, even attractive, than most new bicycles. This often has something to do with detail, proportion, color, and aesthetics. I think my Mercian is stunning, and it makes me happy to see and use it as designed. Not sure too many new bicycles these days make my heart sing:)