Saying “Goodbye” to an Old Friend

February 24, 2012

Selling a bike: It’s something some of us do with a great amount of trepidation. For others of us it’s just like any other material good. In talking with a friend, we decided that the attachment must have had something to do with the act of literally pouring your own sweat and blood onto the top tube, and often the places that you go together which are otherwise inaccessible. There is something special about your bike, and there is something sad in selling one from your stable.

Today I bid farewell to my Colnago ‘cross bike. The bike itself had a story. Really, any bike is just an assembly of tubing, and their stories are really the stories of the rider, but there is a human need to anthropomorphize the objects around us. Some of us understand this, and others don’t. I always found personifying inanimate objects to help connect and understand. As a science grad student, I met one particular professor who took offense and took the piss out of me on more than one occasion for trying to understand protein mechanics by asking what the proteins “wanted” to do. I suppose from some views you could reduce the whole of human consciousness to this: a series of chemical reactions and probabilities, as this particular PHD believed. Still, it removes the wondrous element of the human experience. I say this as both a nonbeliever in religion and yet an avid fan of fantasy and literature. My bike was alive, and I’m here to tell our story.

I arrived in San Diego in the Summer of 2010, leaving behind pretty much everything I had in Houston, including a wonderful relationship that was to be maintained over the distance. I packed everything I could into my hatchback, threw my 29er and a track bike on the roof, and drove off to start a “research internship” which I knew close to nothing about and had managed to become involved with during a vacation on the west coast. Looking back, it was an extremely dumb idea, as most things we do tend to look in hindsight. I knew absolutely nothing about San Diego, nothing about NIH research, and wasn’t even sure if that was something that would be worth it. I just knew I needed a bit of new scenery. My hometown was the site of a lot of bad memories, and a lot of good ones too, and a lot of baggage in terms of who I was and what I was capable of.

Even before I had an apartment sorted out, staying in whichever hotel I could legally keep my cat cooped up during the days I worked, I sought out my local bike shop. For me, the landing pad was Adams Ave Bikes. Another rider I passed by asking for directions referred to them as “the bike racing team that also likes to drink beer.” Great. My kind of folks. I walked in and there was an espresso machine and wooden bar to take a seat at in the back. Even better. I think everyone who goes by there has about the same reaction. You can’t help but want to be a part of it. The shop owner, Andrew, and I chatted about how I wanted to try some cyclocross. I had originally intended to move to Portland and become good at this cyclocross thing, and I knew there was a new series in town: SoCalCyclocross. After looking at the options from Specialized and Surly, Andrew got a sense of what I liked. I didn’t have a filet mignon budget, though. He found me the Colnago World Cup. It was aluminum, priced right at what you could get a Specialized or Giant for, and looked dead on like the same bike I saw Sven Nys riding.

A couple weeks later it came in, and I was inducted into the cross world. I commuted on the bike, taking every stop light and sign as an opportunity to practice dismounting. I took long detours on the way to work to hit dirt trails and practice shredding through the turns. Once fall rolled in, I spent every single weekend driving, eating and sometimes sleeping in my car going to Los Angeles to hit the CX races. I had never raced anything other than a couple fun practice crits, and I was living the Cat 4 pro life: Which is to say I raced right when the sun came up, after waking up well before it, nobody saw me suffer, and if I was lucky I had some cash to go grab a taco before I got to watch the real pros do their stuff. I met Adam Craig, Molly Cameron, Ryan Trebon. I saw Chris Horner take insane pulls on the paved section into the finish line. I saw Scott Chapin catch insane air off the tiniest undulations in the course all while shredding his way into the front pack. I witnessed Sue Butler and Devon Haskell (now Haskell-Gory) kicking ass at the front of the womens pack in Merckx style breakaways. I felt like I was a part of something huge, even though my pitiful results amounted to nothing.

But still, as the season wore on, I got better. I found a coach. Crank Cycling’s Shawn Burke brought my threshold up, and I started to have the energy to sit in with the front pack. I still knew nothing about racing, and showed up to races late, staging at the rear, which today makes me all the more impressed that I managed to claw my way to the front, often collapsing in a low speed corner having given everything I had all too early and exploding in a grimace of pain, dust, and defeat. I was a terrible cross racer (I still am). It seems that I was an even more terrible researcher. Work was stressful. I was often verbally assaulted. I had received none of the training on the systems I should have been learning and had to figure things out on my own, knowing that a mistake could mean legal trouble. I was a mess. I fell sick again. What started out as fun weekends in the dirt became my only escape from a hellish world that involved hoping a car would hit me on the way to my cubicle. My illness that hadn’t resurfaced since high school began to rear it’s head and I started to lose weight, be unable to eat, but still through it I trained every day, sometimes heading out for a 4 hour ride without any breakfast and the taste of vomit and blood still lingering in my mouth.

I was entirely alone in a strange and hostile world. In this world, I had many allies, and made a few good friends. All along, my little Colnago sat underneath me, taking me further and further away.

Today I said goodbye. I met the new owner, and we went for a ride together. It is how I have chosen to sell the last few of my bikes. I take the owner for a test ride. We ride together, chat, and I tell a few bad stories about some times I spent on the bike. I check the fit, check the brakes, seat height, and make sure the new owner is smiling. He was. I was, too. I’m sure that bike will live on and create even more positive energy in a world so bereft of good will.

 

Godspeed you! Italian steed.

 

-Mil


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