Author Topic: N-1


« on: March 25, 2019 »
It is a truth acknowledged amongst cyclists, that a married man in possession of a single bike, must possess a good excuse for his wife if he wants another.

It is a truth occasionally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a singular determination to press the famous Jane Austen quote into service as an opening, must cultivate more useful goals in life.

Pride and Prejudice would also work as a title for this post, much as I may prefer Sense and Sensibility; it’s a shame "The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex" is a nonstarter. Though I do live in Sussex.

Anyway, this isn't about having just one bike. I've got four in active use (with another hanging upside down like a bat in my sister's garage in Ohio). The question is whether or not I could make do with fewer.

Here they are:

What a paltry size for a picture, especially as I'm using the great outdoors as the backdrop, and it's the culmination of a shoot which involved heaving them all over a fence and propping them up just so. I'm not going to make you squint. Here's a size which does that justice while avoiding the annoying side-scroll problem you get on these pages with big pics.

They haven’t been bathed or powdered. I don’t coddle my bikes especially.

Starting with the leader of the pack, we have:

#1 The Dream Bike
There's a post all about it, here. This is the bike everybody needs. I don’t mean my Enigma in particular – titanium isn't universally beloved(?!), for a start. I mean that the imperative of the joy of cycling demands that you have the right tool for the job to achieve the moanial state.

Emma: Enigmaesque

It could be, for example, that you grew up on a farm, and your heart never left it.

Well, I didn’t grow up on an airplane, but for some reason my sense of ne plus ultra settled on this material for good.

Your dream bike may be custom tailored, or may come off the rack, if a designer has managed to mine your amygdala (which plays a key part in the processing of emotions) and come up with the goods despite never having met you or your limbic system.

This isn’t my desert island bike, unless the island has been paved. But despite the dream not being 100% happy, it is still the one.

#2 Yesterday's Dream
is a Litespeed Blue Ridge, presumably named after the physiographic province of the larger Appalachian Mountains range. It was put together for me by a pre-Rouleur Guy Andrews, my boss at the time, who made no secret of his displeasure at installing foam handgrips on the straight bars. I’ve lovingly/swearingly worked on this bike for almost 20 years now: it's prone to mysterious noises.

This started life with gears and grip shifters. Later I developed a fondness for downtube shifters and had holes drilled, which still pains me. The second half of its life has been lived singlespeed, which involved a transition period with a chain tensioner {shudder}.

Sorry Volvic, water not sourced from Clairvic Spring

It now feels a bit stodgy, and isn't great on hills, but sometimes I’m in a straight bar mood, particularly when it’s very windy. The fact that it accepted a magic gear also continues to please me.

#3 Break in Case of Emergency
Long my “I wouldn’t wear black for a year if it were stolen” bike, the Langster, an amazingly cheap impulse buy, has actually given me very little trouble over the years, and rides fine other than it doesn't want to be ridden no-handed.

Or no-headed

This is the one in my stable that looks the most like it belongs out here in horsey country, so despite never having named any of my rides before, I hereby christen it Deadwood. It was my first frame with what I’m going to call horizontal dropouts because Sheldon Brown is dead (or is he?) and can’t correct me.

As you can see, it accepts bodges with equanimity.

When taking that group portrait the Langster is the one I grabbed first to experiment with balancing on the bricks and uneven ground, if that means anything and I'm afraid it does. It toppled over twice. An obvious candidate to be toppled from the pantheon?

#4 The Little Engine That Could

I didn't photoshop this. It's an actual surveillance photo.

This mighty mite is a rocket ship. I think I don’t care about speed until this is propelling me through the city. Troubles, we’ve had a few, from being thrown onto a busy street after the handlebar clamp bolt snapped, to a recent case of abominable creaking diagnosed by the London Bicycle Workshop /SHOUTOUT as bad bearings in the front wheel.

So which can I live without? Never mind that I don't have to. Famous gedankenexperiments like Einstein pondering lightspeed and N-1 needn't be justified.

Let’s say the uncaring universe decrees I dispense with one for its own Austenesque reasons:

It is a truth here now acknowledged that a man with too many bicycles courts trouble and strife.

In a surprise upset I could ditch the dream bike, because it's always good to have a dream just out of reach, but that's crazytalk. The folder is safe, thanks to Southeastern’s policy excluding the big boys during rush hour. As for the Lite-not-so-speedy, how can I possibly let a single ounce of ti slip from my fingers? If I decide by colour the job’s an easy one, yet the Langster practically leapt into my arms at the shop, and has not uttered a peep of complaint year after year...

As happens so often, my head and heart disagree. I therefore yield to the obvious answer, sense and sensibility be damned:

Goodbye old faithful. One day you'll pass me on the road, ridden by somebody more deserving.

Animated GIFs and neologisms make me weepy


Thank goodness the above was merely a thought experiment.

With Enigma out of the picture and Litespeed abducted by aliens (oh the irony!) to probe its metallurgical properties, the Langster comes to the fore.