Essay: On New Bike Day
It is a hallmark moment in a cyclist’s life to take delivery of a new rig, especially after a hiatus from the purchasing scene. There is hardly an original way to unpack the new bike experience. With so many years between complete bike purchases the cycling experience is like starting over again. Every decision regarding a new bike is as complex as the process itself.
While there are numerous reasons people buy bikes, mine was a conglomerate of close people who aided with the process to replace a tired whip. I never enjoyed the bike atop which I was perched; it was a lame warranty bolt-fest with incremental upgrades that reached its zenith. At least I had one less concern throwing it into a corner at the local criterium. I was never worried about the bike per se; I could concentrate on keeping myself in one piece. The frame prevented crisp shifting, wide tires, and even wider rims. Though I loathed its presence, I hardly raked in the buckets of primes needed to upgrade.
New Bike Day is overstimulation. There is the crisp new shifting. There is the updated technology. There is the sensation of floating over the same pavement with a new rocket and new feedback. Of course there is the feeling that this is way more bike than necessary. New Bike Day is also a constant reminder to stop staring at the top tube’s glistening metallic flake in the bright sunshine. It’s looking down at the silver chain thinking it should be black and rubbery. It’s pressing the shifter paddles and getting immediate response instead of shifting up twice to go down once.
A lot of technology has seeped into cycling in ten years. To the untrained eye a road bike looks the same as it did decades ago. New Bike Day was riding on tubeless tires. It was the giddy zip sound of electronic shifting and eleven speeds. It was neither the absurdly tiny gauged steel tubes of antiquity nor the massive oversized gauged tubes of the early 2000s. This is a rocket of economy meant to go fast, every bolt and nub shaved and smoothed to eliminate drag should one consider riding 200 miles tomorrow. Those pesky ridges and crowns add up, but the rider is most likely bouncing down the road for a dozen miles.
Everything becomes a production on New Bike Day but the biggest I think is which route to take. Do I ride the standard loop opted when time is an issue, or do I retrace the loop I most likely executed on the last New Bike Day. Would I actually remember the experience, and would I look up enough to enjoy the view too? There were people who were invited but couldn’t attend for the maiden voyage. Attendees were nearly interviewed for the first ride. In the end it was a solo effort on the same fifteen-mile route just in case something in the Formula One-esque bike changed on me and I didn’t know what to do.
I thought I was gritting my teeth because of stress when I returned. My jaw ached and so, too, did my face. At first I thought I was holding on for dear life, terrified something would interfere with New Bike Day. Once the bike was dismounted, the kit stripped, and the ride uploaded did I realize I wasn’t chomping in anxiety. I was smiling. It’s still too early in the season to smile and swallow a bug. It went unnoticed. New Bike Day is my new favorite cycling day.