I get teased quite often about the state of my bicycles when they are covered in dirt, grime or are in less than showroom condition. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but what really qualifies as a beautiful bike?
Is it perfectly restored classic bikes, perfect paint that reflects light from every angle, the sexy curves and flow of today's carbon frames or handcrafted titanium with perfectly smooth welds? It is all of those things and more, but beyond that I believe that regardless of brand, type, model or value, a beautiful bike is a bike that shows signs of use from being ridden.
Each place where the cable housing rubs the clear coat from the paint, scuff marks on the crank arms, a little dirt or scratch on the frame all speak to adventure and exploration. Whether the rider was exploring the limits of their will and endurance or a new trail or route to work the bike was trusted and capable partner in each adventure.
I have obsessed about the gloss on the paint or a chip from an unknown source with several bikes over the past 8 years. Riding my prized Madone on a dirt road or in the nasty, black muck and grit that forms on the side of the road from deicing activities during the winter were unthinkable.
Friday morning was one of those days - it was raining and the side of the road was covered with sand and black, oozy gunk that sprayed-up constantly at speed.
Part of the joy of riding a cyclocross bike is the freedom that comes from knowing that it was designed for the worst of conditions. Mud, bone-dry dust, rocks, roots and washboards are all within the intended riding conditions for these bikes. Add the rugged yet highly refined characteristics of a titanium bicycle frame and the freedom to ride anything without guilt makes it a truly beautiful bike.
These photos do not fully depict the nastiness on the sides of the road.
I expect I will appreciating the utility of a CX bike even more these days since it will be weeks before city and county will be able to sweep the dirt and sand from the area shoulders. Having a bike you can ride in those conditions without guilt makes it easier to get out more until it is safe for the road bikes and they come-out to play.
So, regardless of what you ride, my thesis is that it is only beautiful if you ride it thereby developing more character with each ride. A perfect bike that lives in the living room or garage is more like artwork than a bike with flaws that develop its appeal.
If you see me on the road or in a group ride I will probably not have the cleanest bike there, but I will probably be willing and able to share a few recent adventures.
Two Wheel Transit Bicycles - Cycling for Life