When I get together with my cycling buddies over a few beers, the discussion usually veers towards their beautiful bicycles. More than once they’ve tried to convince me that only if I had an expensive bicycle it would make me ride it more. However, the moment I hear the word “expensive”, I know it’s wrong for me.
While my friends talk about their stiff and lightweight carbon frames, I am imagining this bicycle on the roof of a Himachal Roadways (HRTC) bus. When my friends are discussing their custom “celeste” paintwork, I am mentally reassessing how my strategy of locking my bicycle next to a nicer looking bicycle at a metro station won’t work anymore.
Now don’t get me wrong. This has nothing to do with a bicycle maker’s skill (which are excellent) or the size of my bank account (which is rather less than excellent), but rather it has something to do with the way my brain works. Folks who know me well will not be surprised by this. When I recognize something as “good enough” – I stop caring. All arguments about upgrading, because it gives me a 5% watt or weight advantage, fall on deaf ears.
What shapes this attitude is the first and only vehicle I own – a used and cheap Maruti Gypsy circa 1996. I’ve abused this Gypsy out on the worst possible roads. Used it to haul loads of wood and as many as 16 people at one go. It’s beaten up and quirky in a lot of ways. Yet, because it is cheap I’ve never shied away from any unknown trail I encounter. “What’s the worse that could happen? If it dies on me, I will push it down a mountainside”. Contrast this with my more expensive motorcycle. On my motorcycle, I am constantly fretting about who may be toying with it, or where I park it or will it be safe overnight or not. Because my Gypsy is cheap, I never have to worry if it will scrape the side of a jutting branch or hit rock bottom on a flooded stream. Now that’s a zen-like feeling that leaves a lasting impression.
Back to bicycles, this “good enough” feel factor is not a case of sour grapes. Over the years I’ve ridden and given away many a “good” bicycle – from a classic Koga Miyata to a Rohloff & Gates belt drive city bike. I’ve also resisted the siren’s song for a custom “I’ll build you what you want” bicycle. Yet, from every bike I’ve ridden and owned, I’ve learnt something and have only understood myself better. From a pure race machine to a fat bike, I tend to oscillate between different bicycles every few years to keep my passion afresh and keep ennui away. This means I’ve never won a race or claimed KOM (jack of all trades, and a master of none) in my life. But I am okay with this “non-serious” bicycling commitment. It is because of this non-serious commitment I’ve always enjoyed my time riding, rather than obsessing over what an “expensive” component brings to the table.
Of course “expensive” is a relative term. To my non-biking friends, the idea of spending ₹ 20,000 on a bicycle is overindulgence. While my other friends just “get by” with Ultegra components on their titanium bicycles. Yet every bicycle I’ve owned has repaid me many times over with the fun I’ve had on it and the enjoyment of “being out there”. Sure if a custom bicycle gives you more pleasure than what you are riding today, then by all means go get one. But if a used, inexpensive bicycle that you picked up at Cyclop brings an equally big smile to your face – that’s good too. There’s no judgement here, just happy cyclists.