Riding the old bike through a new town
The difference between the old and new Aspens is sometimes defined in subtle and personal ways. Prior to last week, I had oftentimes looked forward to getting on my mountain bike for the shear enjoyment of going to out-of-the-way places I liked. For the first time I can remember, which doesn’t necessarily connote a lengthy passage of time, last week I threw my leg over the aluminum contraption simply because I felt like I had to get away from madness for awhile. Whether the madness was my own or that of bored summer tourists gathered in mass and frenzy at the water fountain on the mall desperately searching for something to do, all the while pretending that they were doing something, I can’t say. Whatever, I did not look positively on the switch from rushing toward an activity to riding away from a rat race.Rarely able to accept hard truth without a fight, I initially blamed my partly cloudy outlook, for it truly wasn’t an occasion to tie the rain gear around my waist in anticipation of a downpour, on my old bicycle. The chain is worn and the grease on it so old and dirty that, like old and dirty politicians, it has turned from slick to sticky, just hanging on, creating noise, making the machinations of the simple machine complicated in the process. On that bike, I can only suggest to the gears that they shift. They usually take to it, but only when they are ready, and after much groaning. The ancient caliper brakes squeal under the heat caused by pressing against wobbly rims, not only every time I stop, but each time I exercise caution, as well. By today’s standards, it is yesterday’s technology. I know that I once loved this bicycle, and had fun riding it all over this county, but have trouble believing it in this modern era.The reason I was riding my old bicycle is that a wheel broke on my new one. It is an expensive wheel made for an expensive bike, now sitting in the back room of a repair facility somewhere. It is a lightweight wheel, designed to roll with minimal effort for maximum performance. It is such a great wheel, in fact, that nobody can fix it except the manufacturer, and it takes them six weeks! The wheel is so fine, that it is a virtual certainty that it will not break until the last time you ride on it for the rest of the summer, as in my case.Anyway, on my way through town to Government Trail, I adjusted myself to accommodate my old steed. It had just about broken me in when we (for city folks unaccustomed to forming personal relationships with machinery: She, being the bike, and I) hit the untamed dirt of the single track trail. The skinny, worn tires rolled up to a root about 50 feet into the trail, which was a very small distance compared to the eight miles beyond that, and passing over it was like trying to scoop a raw oyster out of the shell with a butter knife. We repeated the sequence of moving, bumping, and stalling several more times in the next quarter of a mile until finally I lost my balance over a large root and fell. The bike flew, until it landed on my chest. It occurred to me then that my bicycle was trying to tell me something. Of course! I immediately let some air out of the tires to soften them, making up for the lack of suspension I was used to on my fancy ride. Lo and behold, she was pretty well behaved after that!It was more difficult than what I was used to, and required more effort to maneuver around the rough spots, but, by and by, I began to enjoy myself. I felt an adrenaline rush; not the refined kind that we’re all supposed to feel nowadays from going super fast all the time. It was more of a primal rush; one of survival and the satisfaction that comes with that.With the old bike underneath me giving out a lot less than I was used to, forward progress became more about me. I, for a refreshing change, with all of my imperfections that technology had compensated for now apparent, was the integral component of the experience! I sought my way around rocks and over stumps. Balance was critical once again. The margin for error was less and that made for more excitement. I was putting in a little extra and getting at least all of that back!I realized then that we are meager subjects to the suppliers of all things better. And, yes, it may be true that the providers of progress mostly give us what we ask for, because those are the things we are willing to carry balances on our credit cards for, but we can only want what we know about. What happens with all the things we don’t know about?Now, remember at the beginning of this I told you how the difference between old and new sometimes presents itself in ways that are not immediately obvious. Well, it occurred to me that the major problem with constant improvement at other peoples’ hands is that we can end up too comfortable. Comfort is not the precursor to discovery.We need the opportunity to discover. No one is in the business of giving you that. You have to take it. It is our nature as humans, the most hurried animals on earth, to miss many things that we pass. While forward progress is inevitable, there is much to be gained by going back to simpler times, places, and even equipment to look at things we didn’t bother to the first time around, remember why we liked some of the things we don’t now believe that we could have, and, ironically, to learn new things.Roger Marolt wonders whether or not they will stop selling change if we all stop buying it. He can be reached at email@example.com
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