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Hello, old friend


An old friend gave me a lift to the office today.

I feel sort of bad.

He and I haven’t done much lately, not since the last bad-weather day of last winter.

While I spent plenty of time with my other, faster, flashier friends, my old friend just hung around, waiting for me to come back.

I’d see him lurking and say, “You know, we should do something someday. I’ll call you,” then, of course, I never did.

A lesser friend might have bolted, but my friend, he’s a true friend. No matter how badly I treat him or how much I ignore him, he’ll always be there for me.

So the weather turned cold, and down came a couple of inches of snow, which melted then refroze, and the streets — though fine for the most part — had sneaky pockets of snow or, worse, treacherous patches of black ice, and my faster, flashier friends didn’t want to come out to play, and my old friend just hung there, waiting, and I thought, Why not, and I took my old friend off the wall, filled his tires, spun the cranks.

I had anticipated this day, actually, a couple of weeks ago.

Thinking we’d be reunited by circumstance, I took my old friend down and was appalled how far I’d let him slide. He was still dirty from our last ride together. His neglected chain was dry and rusty, his tires flat and cracking.

So I bought him a new chain, lubed what needed to be lubed, wiped off the worst of the grime … then hung him back on the wall once the weather cleared and I no longer needed to think about riding my “beater bike.”

I took him down again Sunday, half expecting some sort of reproach, but instead was surprised to find my old friend — my designated bad-weather bike, or, as my wife calls it, my “snow bike” — ready to roll.

Years ago, when I first bought it, it was by far the best bike I’d ever owned. We piled up a lot of miles, but the more I rode, the more I wanted something sleeker, something faster than that fat-tired mountain bike.

Eventually I bought a go-fast road bike, and the mountain bike was pushed into a corner of the garage.

I still took it out on occasion, but those occasions became less and less frequent.

It became my bad-weather bike. Outfitted with fenders and sporting road-worthy but still fat tires, it handled snow and winter grime better than anything else in the stable, even it if only was ridden a couple of times a year.

Sunday, as I rode to work, I was surprised at how easily the controls fell to hand. The brake levers and shifters just felt right, the reach to the bar dead-on, the saddle a perfect fit. And the low-volume, fat tires, combined with a suspension fork, resulted in a —dare I say? — plush ride compared to the quick-but-somewhat-harsh perches upon which I normally pedal.

In comparison to the other bikes in the stable, sure, it’s a bit heavy, its technology a bit dated. It seems a bit sluggish, but it also feels … just right.

Now that my old friend and I have been reunited, I just might ride it the rest of the week, maybe into next week, too, not because I have to, but because I can.

Or maybe I’ll hang it back on the wall in my garage again just as soon as I can, knowing full well it’ll be there when I need it again.


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