Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pros vs amateurs: the argument for second hand bikes

ok so the battle lines are drawn
on the one side those who ride lycra and wear plastic
on the other
those who ride wool and wear steel
pros (lycra monkeys to amateurs)
amateurs (re-enactment cyclists to lycra monkeys)

I put my hand up as a re-encator.
re-enactment bikes are characterised by
handlebar bags (canvas of course) attached to decaleurs,
aluminium mudguards, preferably hammered
leather saddles, etc, etc, etc
(just look at my "Like" list)
critics suggest that we amateurs are all just aping the preferences
espousing the gospel if you will
of Grant Peterson (Bridgestone/Rivendell) as interpreted by his prophet
Jan Heine (Compass Bikes/Bike Quarterly).
the accusation is that we shun modern technology 
and actively choose the old-fashioned
from some luddite/romantic motivation
that is just thinly disguised middle-class privilege
and elitism.

my response would be this.
only an idiot would think that the kind of bike they ride does anything
to set them apart from the masses.
we are all part of the great Peloton of humankind, pro or amateur.
in my situation the urge to "re-enact" comes from the urge to recycle.
it's closely aligned with what me and mine call "opp-shopping".
a good friend calls her process "garage-sailing".
it is, in effect, similar to the age old practice of gleaning.

unlike gleaning however
items may cost some money.
how little is the skill of the opp-shopper.
every purchase must be accompanied by a proud declaration of the purchase price.
"Is that an original Pucci skirt?"
"Yep. Four bucks from Wonthaggi Salvos"*.
but the sense of scavenging from around the margins
of the capitalist marketplace has great similarities
to the scavenging around the margins of the harvested field.

*my all time favourite opp-shop joke
was on 3RRR's now defunct
(nostalgia again!)
Punter to Punter
Slim asks Con what is that suit he's wearing,
"It's Yves St Laurent. I bought it from their Australian distributor
the Brotherhood of St Laurent."

the main quality of this process is that the item
whatever it is
must be pre-owned.
customisation is possible
but only within the limitations of searching from amongst the already-made
and the already bought-and-sold.
this process can be magic.
my wife is a master of the pre-visualisation purchase:
ask her for almost anything
and within a month she will have found it
in an opp-shop (aka thrift shop, flea market, Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, etc).
how is that possible?
she is seemingly drawn
sometimes to shops and locations to which
she has never been
walks through the door and there it is.
an example of Shelldrake's morphogenic field theory at work?

even better than just second-hand products
are second-hand products from defunct brands.
I love promoting Viscount bikes and wearing their tshirts
which I had to make myself by the way
because they don't exist.
I'm not actually supporting the company
just hoovering up their left overs wherever I find them.
Nostalgia too, I'm not embarrassed to admit it.
I cause some carbon miles in getting stuff shipped from overseas these days.
But nearly everything I buy 
even if it is NOS
new old stock
was manufactured for someone other than me.
I was not the target market.
this gives me great satisfaction for some reason.

still the best is finding something remarkable
by the side of the road.
or is it destiny
seems to aid the development of my vision of a bike
much better than personal taste
or desire.
I choose it because it chose me.

it is not luddite-ism or anti-technology
it is against marketing dressed up as innovation
and "progress".
the best solution
is always the simplest
and most beautiful
that uses the most renewable materials possible
even if it is a solution that was found several generations ago.

having to re-invent the wheel is a kind of ego
a kind of historical blindness
and a cynical marketing ploy 
to maximise profits through
flooding the marketplace with the suggestion
that this year's is 
by definition
better than last year's
even though both have been engineered to fail
to leave a space for next year's.

to that kind of thinking I say
just fuck off.
I'll ride my old steel bike
that wasn't made for me
but which I have adapted to be mine
and I'll be happy.
although I'll draw the line at tweed.

my bike is an aesthetic object
whose beauty in my eyes lies in the myriad small ways it solves problems
it is not a tool for winning races
either in the real world or in my imagination.

**one more Punter to Punter suit joke
"Del Monti suits: the people who believe suits should not only taste good
they should be good for you."
If you're over 35 and born and raised in Melbourne
you'll get it. :)

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