Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Tao of Kent's Bikes

I know folks who can clearly picture their dream bike. They know what the geometry will be, what the frame will be made of and what color the paint will be. They have decided what saddle will be on the bike, what hubs, spokes, cables, brake pads, derailleurs, handlebars, stem and every other bit of the bicycle. They have calculated the exact placement of every accessory mount and know the threading of every bolt. They may have taken this vision to some talented constructeur and made this image into an actual, rideable, real world work of art.

I'm not one of those folks. Over the years I've owned lots of bikes, but most of my bikes have come to me via a combination of scavenging and circumstance. Even the times when I've gotten a "new" bike, it quickly diverges from the original factory specifications. I certainly have ideals and ideas, but I also tend to learn something from every ride, so what I ride is seldom static. As Buckminster Fuller would say "I seem to be a verb."

I have far more ex-bikes than bikes, something that my wife will tell you is a small consolation. The other night she asked me about the red Stump Jumper M2 that was casually leaning against the dishwasher in our kitchen. "Is that another bike?" I confessed that it was. She rolled her eyes in an expression I know well, "We need to get you a shed."

The Stump Jumper is here because, well, I'm not really sure why it's here. Perhaps it's here because the Green Gary Fisher became the perfect beast: the bike that can haul damn near anything, with nearly indestructible tires and relentless practicality. So maybe I've learned most of what I need to learn from the Green Bike.

But what if I went off in a little different direction? Start with a lighter frame and don't put racks on it. Maybe some lighter tires. Heck, Planet Bike makes a set of low cost fenders, why don't I give those a try? And I could use that LX derailleur I have kicking around in the parts pile and that sweet set of Suntour Power Ratchet shifters. Oh, if I match that 42/32/22 crankset with the 28-11 cassette this thing won't just be a Stump Jumper, it'll be a Stump Puller...

I don't have a clear idea, I have lots of ideas. I don't have a perfect bike, I have various bikes that approximate perfection.

A Zen Master would have just one bike (fixed gear, naturally) or perhaps he'd be beyond bicycles all together. But an Issaquah Taoist, who lives at the foot of Tiger Mountain and often sees only dimly through the mist? All I know is that I do not know. And I have this red Stump Puller.

Perhaps I need to get a shed.


Unknown said...

As has often been repeated amongst cyclists - the perfect number of bikes is one more than you currently have.

Unknown said...

It strikes me that bikes find us for various reasons - sometimes to teach us a lesson, other times to have their trajectory assisted by us. They sit silently and patiently, and seem to regard our "ah-ha!" moments with tender amusement, coaxing us forward, whether by deed or by reflecting our actions.

brad said...

Haven't you heard? Aluminum is a wonder material for bikes. It's lighter, stronger, and provides a firm contact to the road. Some would say that it's laterally stiff while vertically compliant, but I would add that the energy lost in frame flex is reduced to nil and redirected into forward motion.

Congrats for coming over and away from that heavy, rusty, spongy steel.

GhostRider said...

Yes! The dishwasher in MY kitchen is also the place where my "N+1" bike goes, and my wife does the same eye-rolling, "what am I gonna do with this guy?" routine!

Remember that the perfect bike is the bike that you're riding right now...the rest (accessories, materials, components) is just icing on the cake.

Anonymous said...

the red Stump Jumper M2 that was casually leaning against the dishwasher in our kitchen. "Is that another bike?" I confessed that it was. She rolled her eyes in an expression I know well

Methinks she had to ask "another" because she can't, or has given up on, tracking the constant stream.

How does a bike casually lean?

Perhaps the bike being in the kitchen says it all.

Tai-po said... twin brother separated by decades and vast oceans...this must be where we are different. We managed to end up wearing the same ball cap under our helmets, yet I am one of those types that likes to plan every detail on a bike. I seek to create a perfect beast and you embrace the inherent perfection of the beast. How can we be so different, yet so much the same?'s that bike purging thing working for you?


Peter Peterson said...

You just need to hold out for the small boy to move out, then youll have lots of bike room

Anonymous said...

A true Zen master rides whatever is rolling when he needs to ride. Val

Anonymous said...

Uh.... nice rack!