// Aggressively Treaded
Posted on Monday, September 10th, 2012
Written by Nick Moore
I have an ugly bike. My father bought the suspension-less mountain bike in the early 80’s, then gave it to me three years ago, after my gorgeous Motobecane was stolen from the bottom floor of my house in Berkeley. It possesses no hint of the grace exuded by bikes—like the sexy Motobecane, which I can only hope is somewhere out there in the cyclosphere, being enjoyed by someone other than the jerk who stole it—with skinnier tires, more slender frames, and gleaming coats of paint. Constructed for a man of my father’s build, 4 inches taller and 40 pounds heavier than myself, its saddle must be lowered to the fullest extent for me to ride comfortably. It sits on the top tube like a head without a neck, granting the entire bike an unflattering squatness. Both tires are thick and aggressively treaded, but even a cursory glance reveals they come from two different bikes. The paint has worn away to the point where reading the words “Mountainback” and “Ascent”, which once proudly adorned the top and bottom tubes, requires considerable visual imagination. The royal-blue base coat remains, giving the bike its only attractive feature. But I can say that despite its POS character, I have developed genuine affection for the thing. The sight of it leaning on its kickstand on the hillside while I behold a spectacular view, or the comfort I take in knowing it’ll be awaiting me in the same spot I’d locked it up (the advantage of such a bike is that it doesn’t much appeal to thieves), sometimes reminds me of a faithful dog, ever patient and obliging. Its handlebars, which tilt unevenly to the kickstand side when stationary, can even resemble–to someone in such a sentimental mood–big floppy ears.
I’d think myself a little strange if I felt like the first person to experience this kind of unrequited, inanimate kinship. But people have been naming their cars since the first Model-T rolled off the assembly line.
What explains this compulsion to personify the objects that transport us from place to place? Is it not enough for a bike to exist as an extraordinary but lifeless machine, designed and constructed by human hand but devoid of sentience? Perhaps it is an instinct, ingrained in the days when we traveled on the backs of horses, creatures with personalities and with whom their riders could form genuine emotional bonds. The answer, for me, lies in the solitude of biking. These days, I am most often alone when I ride; in a very real way it is then my only companion. Without its canine loyalty, I would be unable to undertake the impromptu journeys I find so critical to maintaining sanity in this disordered world, and in this regimented yet unpredictable life.