Soul rider

26 07 2012

Bikes have souls.

Treat them with respect, and they will reward you. Neglect them and they will react with disdain, plaguing your life with creaks, snaps, flats and frustration.

The Lapierre is very French; she exudes style and panache even while in repose.

After the usual series of kids’ bikes while growing up, including the souped-up three-speed with a “sissy bar” and “chopper” handlebars, and the department store five-speed constructed of heavy “hi-tensile steel!” and reflectors affixed to every imaginable surface to stave off various potential lawsuits, my first “real” bike was a grey Peugeot. I bought it at the end of my high school days, and, as Peugeot was still a respected name in those days, ridden by pros in the Tour de France, it felt very grown up. It even had toe clips.

But it was still heavy, and didn’t age very gracefully.

Towards the end of my university days, I happened to wander into a bike shop while running errands one Saturday when a lithe Italian beauty, Rossi, caught my eye. Its Columbus tubes gleamed. its chromed forks and stays twinkled. It beckoned and I answered. One test ride and I was in love. It’s cost put a serious divot in my student’s bank account, but I didn’t care. The bike had spoken.

It became my most prized possession.

When Look started selling clipless pedals, I ponied up $300 for a set of heavy red ones and sleek Lake cycling shoes. Suddenly the local hills didn’t seem quite so daunting anymore.

We enjoyed many years and thousands of kilometres together.

And even as the Rossi was usurped by subsequent bikes, my affinity for her never waned. For years she held a place of pride in my apartment, a kind of kinetic sculpture to be admired and dusted weekly. She served a stint as my trainer bike.

But I could tell she wasn’t happy being cooped up. Her downtube shifters and Campagnolo gears fell slightly out of adjustment. Her tires flattened.

When it came time to move, to begin my life with Princess of Pavement, I knew I would have to let the Rossi go. But the waste bin was too cruel, my attachment to her too strong. I knew she still had some life, even some 20 years after I first acquired her.

And so she entered the life of RDM, an impulse throw-in to another transaction. But one that, as he so eloquently writes, changed his life too.