So many good people have had their bikes stolen lately. Recent victim Yelli in Berlin says she’s hoping I’ll post something on how to keep a bicycle safe. I plan to do that over the next week, but in the meantime, a bit of fun:
A couple of weeks ago, I finally bought myself a new mountain bike.
Fifteen minutes through the travel category here will show you I have no problem spending money, as long the only thing to lug home are memories. But toys and gear don’t grab me.
I can’t even stand shopping for stuff that will add to the simple pleasures I get out of life, which is probably why I have a 15-year-old bicycle, 10-year-old skis, a 4-year-old computer and iPod, and why it took until only two years ago to finally pick up a digital camera.
But after convincing myself that getting a new bicycle would give me that extra kick in the butt to get out riding again for the simple joy of being on wheels for its own sake instead of merely a way of commuting, and having given up on Angela Merkel ever getting back to me with my idea about a bike-scrapping rebate, and reminding myself that in less than a year I’ll be turning 50 and officially a crotchety old geezer, so why not give myself an early birthday present to lessen the pain of it, I went shopping for a new ride.
One stop at one shop was enough to convince me that I didn’t need to look any further to buy a decent bike. It took a couple of weeks for the frame to arrive from the factory in Italy, but as soon as it did they called me over so I could watch them build it.
If it’s true that you should buy quality and moan only once, I was moaning like hell two hours later at the till, but only half-way through my first spin down the Elbe the sticker shock was far behind.
It felt like flight on wheels. What a difference from the old one! It feels so light and fun to ride I was thinking: why didn’t I do this a few years ago?
Actually, I’m glad I waited. Bike technology has been flying ahead along with everything else, but since I’ve been out of the market for so long and not really paying attention, I’d missed all the new developments.
The biggest change is in the brakes. I’d first discovered the amazing quality of disk brakes while on a raging blast on a rental bike through the Whistler Mountain bike park during my trip to Canada two summers ago.
As long as you keep oil and grease away they grab no matter if you’re going through rain or mud, though they’re so responsive, you stop too abruptly if you apply the same force as with the older rim brakes.
I’ve been told they’re practically maintenance-free: no rubber brake pads any more, no more fiddly adjustments, no constant wear on the rims, which if you leave too long without checking can actually wear through.
And no cables to snap when you least expect it, either.
Instead of a metal wire, the cables are filled with a fluid that looks a lot like motor oil.
Most of my riding is on the city streets, but the mountain bike tires are too slow on pavement, so I also convinced myself to dig a little deeper and pick up an extra set of front and back wheels, onto which I installed some narrow and light road-racing tires bought in Canada on that last trip. So you might say I bought a bike to fit the tires, instead of the other way around.
The thin tires make it look rather strange. With the fat, nobby ones it’s just a regular mountain bike. Slip on the skinnies and it’s as spindly as a spider web:
Fat tires or thin, it’s been a lot of fun so far.
I’ve even had fun junking things we’ll never use again to clear a spot for a safe place to park it overnight. Yes, we’ve learned our lesson. A thief is going to have to break into our building past three locked doors just to get near it, and then he’s going to have to break through a damn good lock. More on that later.