Ride the Bike You Have

Jan Heine
Posted on November 6, 2012

Source: Off The Beaten Path

Jan Heine’s Singer
© Jan Heine

“You ride the bike you have, not the bike you might want or wish to have at a later time,” said a famous secretary of defense. (More or less. He was talking about armies, not bikes, but both are tools toward achieving an end.)

That statement paraphrases my thoughts about bicycles. Last year, we posted our series A Journey of Discovery, where we explained how we came to prefer certain bikes. Many readers were surprised that at the time, I did not have my ideal bike. “What, you don’t have a 650B randonneur bike?” was one incredulous comment.

For years, I was riding a bike that was made from stiffer tubing than I considered ideal, that had narrower tires than I prefer, and that had a geometry that was not optimized for the handlebar bag I made it carry. It was a very good bike, but as my preferences evolved, it no longer was what I would have picked, given a totally free choice.

Did this detract from the riding experience? Not much! I had a wonderful time on the bike. I rode it to my best-ever Paris-Brest-Paris finish and many other memorable rides. Only very rarely did I think during a ride “Oh, I wish my bike had less trail/wider tires/thinner tubing walls.”

In fact, I rarely think about the bike during rides at all. I just enjoy the ride. And even though I knew that I eventually wanted a different bike, I was in no rush. I knew my old bike would need replacement eventually – when I got that bike, it already had more than 30 years and 100,000+ miles of hard riding under its wheels.

So I started working on my new bike. I planned to change the things that did not match my preferences. Building that new bike took time, since I made many of the parts myself. In the mean time, I continued to ride my bike on more memorable rides. I used the bike in a number of fast 600 km brevets as I chased the Cyclos Montagnards R60 honor. I rode it on fast Sunday morning rides with friends. I ran errands on it around town. And I enjoyed every one of those rides.

Now I have my new bike. It performs exactly as I had hoped. I love riding it. I still enjoy riding the old bike from time to time. In the end, it’s not about the bike, it’s about the ride.

From the archives: My ride in Paris-Brest-Paris 2007.