Bikes, Suits and Guitars

What bikes, suits and guitars all have in common, is they are each uncomfortable for about a year. It took playing the guitar every day, for the whole of 1984, for my fingertips to stop screaming and my parents to stop screaming for me to stop. It took cycling every day of 1992, before the wind in my ears stopped driving me crazy and I could stop trying to make myself aerodynamic, when all I had to do was keep pedaling. More recently, it took wearing a suit to work every day, for the whole of 2008, before I stopped feeling self conscious about outshining every man in my town. And look at me now:

Perseverance, my dears. Perseverance. Often I feel as though "occasional cyclists" are looking to me for the right words, to help them break through, and be more like me (not to have my chipped teeth, or be 5’8"—no, they just want the best bits). Typically, they expect me to tell them what they should buy, to transform their cycling experience from the torture they have not forgotten since Ride to Work Day, to whatever kind of bliss I must be enjoying, to ride as much as I do. There is an irony here, as it was precisely my inability to buy anything at all, that caused me to break through the pain threshold, and eventually come to love cycling. In 1992, I was too poor to even get on a bus. And since the world is full of cycling gear, discarded by people who thought they could buy their way into cycling Nirvana, I was able back then to pick up a second hand bike for next to nothing. Fitness and well being, is my Karma reward, I’m sorry to tell you. If you are a Ride to Work Day only type cyclist, I’m afraid your Karma reward is to be trapped thinking that buying stuff will transform you. 

Ever eager to help, I have this advice, that you ration your expenditure on cycling gear, according to hours spent actually cycling. The amount will depend on your income and how much consumerism means to you personally, but someone on an average income of say, half a million dollars per year, should grant themselves, let’s say, $10 per hour spent in the saddle.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    For the “perfect” seat? Get used to something hard.

    On Monday afternoon Harris came round; he had a cycling paper in his hand.

    I said: “If you take my advice, you will leave it alone.”

    Harris said: “Leave what alone?”

    I said: “That brand-new, patent, revolution in cycling, record-breaking, Tomfoolishness, whatever it may be, the advertisement of which you have there in your hand.”

    Then there are saddles,” I went on…. “Can you think of any saddle ever advertised that you have not tried?”

    He said: “It has been an idea of mine that the right saddle is to be found.”

    I said: “You give up that idea; this is an imperfect world of joy and sorrow mingled. There may be a better land where bicycle saddles are made out of rainbow, stuffed with cloud; in this world the simplest thing is to get used to something hard. There was that saddle you bought in Birmingham; it was divided in the middle, and looked like a pair of kidneys.”

    He said: “You mean that one constructed on anatomical principles.”

    “Very likely,” I replied. “The box you bought it in had a picture on the cover, representing a sitting skeleton—or rather that part of a skeleton which does sit.”

    He said: “It was quite correct; it showed you the true position of the—”

    I said: “We will not go into details; the picture always seemed to me indelicate.”

    He said: “Medically speaking, it was right.”

    “Possibly,” I said, “for a man who rode in nothing but his bones. I only know that I tried it myself, and that to a man who wore flesh it was agony. Every time you went over a stone or a rut it nipped you; it was like riding on an irritable lobster. You rode that for a month.”

    “I thought it only right to give it a fair trial,” he answered.

    I said: “You gave your family a fair trial also; if you will allow me the use of slang. Your wife told me that never in the whole course of your married life had she known you so bad tempered, so un-Christian like, as you were that month. Then you remember that other saddle, the one with the spring under it.”

    He said: “You mean ‘the Spiral.’”

    I said: “I mean the one that jerked you up and down like a Jack-in-the-box; sometimes you came down again in the right place, and sometimes you didn’t. I am not referring to these matters merely to recall painful memories, but I want to impress you with the folly of trying experiments at your time of life.”

    Three Men On The Bummel
    1914 Jerome K. Jerome

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