Provenance

by VecchioJo   February 13, 2009  

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I have a new bike.

It started with a scrap of paper full of sketches and scribbles and ideas for a new frame, with some nice colouring in. I took this scrawl to the pub to meet my friendly local frame-builder and over a few pints we talked about this and that while he translated my random jottings into meaningful numbers and he promised alchemy to turn them into something lovely.

Some while later my frame turned up.

Before I've even turned a pedal on the thing this bike seems to be laden with what could be called "Soul".

Its tubes were brazed together in the lee of the hills that I've spent the last 20 years or so riding my bikes up and around, by a man that lives just up the road who I can go to the aforementioned boozer with. It's an expression of my thoughts and ideas, all the things I've found over my life's cycle of what I do and don't like, that length there, that length there, and peppered with the odd peccadillo.

The frame has a few new components hanging off it but it's mainly bolted on bits and bobs from the direct ancestor to this bike, and in a gruesome and guilty midnight grave-robbing moment, the bike that has just died was raped for a couple of essential grommets.

This is the fourth bike the headset has done its turn on, I can still remember where and when it was first pressed into a frame, and this time it was squeezed home in the frame-builders kitchen on a friday night. Which was nice.

The front hub is a quite ancient but still lovely mountainbike hub from a friends set of wheels he was going to chuck that has been reclaimed, regreased, reborn and rebuilt into a new wheel by another old friend.

The extra bit of palm-padding under the tape along the tops and in the drops of the bars comes courtesy of the off-cuts left over from a good friends bar-taping a few months back.

Most every part of this bike has some kind of history or emotional connection. Is it possible for a bike to absorb its place of birth and the lives of old parts, become a continuation of spirits? Is this just another form of the layers of experience and memory that usually take time to develop a patina on a bike and turn it from a mess of metal and rubber into a well-loved extension of ourselves?

None of this should matter, this lineage, all these connections, all this sentiment of ancestry. For it is merely a collection of inanimate cold bike components. Surely?

Does all of this make it any better than a bike bought off the shelf? As bike manufacturers often spout some sort of heritage and try to tickle all sorts of emotional buttons to peddle their wares, both of which we can submit to be massaged by or not. No.

Will it ride any better? Probably not, despite what emotion may want to argue.

But does it make it me simply smile every time I think of these things, look at the bike, and more importantly, ride it? Yes.

And that brake-hanger makes my tummy go funny.