We all tell lies. Really we do – all the time, and any time there is a need to balm truthful scars with deceit. It’s an entirely human trait, and failing to follow our instincts would likely result in never getting out of bed other than to reach for a bottle.
I know this so am ready for it – an excellent example were the lies pitched by a teenage salesman with trainee moustache passing up any chance of irony by declaring ‘new is the new used‘. The somewhat more experienced Swiss Tony who finally sold us a car didn’t have a better story, he merely pedalled better fibs. But even those whoppers are dwarfed by a clearly deceitful rationale suggesting buying a new mountain bike somehow represents outstanding value. We all know any such purchase is baselined by the running costs of a Chieftain Tank, or possibly an entire small war involving gunboats, helicopters and a small thermonuclear device.
And if you think new cars suffer inestimable devaluation on leaving the showroom, bikes makes these looks like a safe long term investment. The second a bike gets muddy, it loses about 50% of its value. Not so much of a shelf life, more of a half life. All of which would suggest to the fiscally prudent that a handsome dividend could be returned if one delved deep into the 2nd hand market.
Wooah, steady on there cowboy. The first rule of any 2nd hand market is never to consider touching another mans’ smalls. Mountain Biking is a destructive activity – fork and bearing seals are no match for winters’ wheel flung water and mud. Unseen damage hides inside seemingly pristine components especially as one mans ‘full service’ regime is another mans chuck it in a damp shed and forget about it. Everyone lies.
Even so, such a vibrant second hand market was clearly a better option than prostrating oneself in front of the Marketing Man and His Shiny Appendages. I sallied forth into a reverse auction compiling a parts list carefully crafted to weed out the chancers to funnel barely used half price components into the low cost build I’d promised Carol. A short evening spread across a few choice internet forums had me preparing my inbox for the incoming avalanche of previously enjoyed parts.
Inevitably, the ping of multiple emails appeared to be nothing more than the curation of various sellers’ photos from their ‘private collection’ – possibly the result of some kind of mass dirty protest. If this was how these items were presented for sale, how the hell did they treat them beforehand? The told lies and I didn’t believe them, so here we are no further on but suffering much disappointment and something else rather more profound.
You see behind their dirty secrets hid one of mine. And it is this; mountain bikes are memory banks for good times and their authenticity is proven by a patina of composite wear over components of a similar age. Even the relatively new PYGA has many scars which bookmark great rides and map specific events where paint was scratched, rims were dinged, pedals were scraped and cranks were dented. That might be a rock strike resulting from a crappy line choice deep in a Welsh rock garden or swing arm paint rubbed away from careless trailer attachment. A fork which went from pristine to heavily used in a couple of rides and one specific tree.
It’s a triggers broom kind of thing. Stuff needs to wear out or be destroyed from a single generation of stuff once representing a shiny new build. Throw something new on there and don’t be surprised if the bike rejects it like a foreign organ surreptitiously inserted under the cover of darkness. This hypothesis of what is true and right allows us to lie about the efficacy of second hand parts. It’s not a great lie as fibs go, but this is now way prevents it being wheeled out on an almost daily basis as the weary postman collapses under the weight of the new and shiny.
There’s something else as well. A molecule of self awareness suggests the world is as it is rather than the way we would wish it to be. We may want for perfection but that’s a rainbow-ended fantasy somewhere beyond an infinite ‘to do‘ list. A list I am to tired, to lazy or to clueless to work through , instead soothing task failure with beer. But a new bike – now we’re talking, here is something framed for perfection. Just for a brief moment as it comes off the bike stand all-perfect but pre-riding. Anticipation in its purest form but a mirror for your imperfections. For all of its beauty, it reflects your shortfalls – of bravery, of skill and of power. For all of the newness, all you can offer is decline and past glories.
But what a fantasy while it lasts. This shall be the bike which transcends the very heart of mountain biking. The tool to mine deep into the mythical motherlode of flow. A time – briefly glimpsed and then cruelly snatched away – when bike, rider and trail coalesce in perfect harmony. Chasing dust from your best riding mates rear wheel, summer air lit by sun kissed motes of joy, that perfectly carved turn, the promise of beer and bullshit later. The time when you know it cannot get any better and then somehow it does – that is exactly what a new bike represents.
Which is exactly the lie we tell ourselves.
Pause. Pull back from the pretension for a while. It’s sentimental nonsense of course. All we’re doing is waving stop at the marketing bus, rushing on while waving our credit card and demanding a first class ticket to lifestyle central. For me, that metaphor is better realised if I continually throw myself under that bus in the belief/lie that the fiscal pain of being repeatedly run over is somehow worthwhile in the wider view of things. Delusion is quite the most wonderful thing – the mistake people make is to believe it looks the same from the outside.
So what have we learned? Our utopian worldview is nothing more than delusional deceit placing ourselves central on this planet. We lie to ourselves, our friends, our loved ones, to complete strangers, and most of the time we don’t even know we’re doing it. We pretend to make rationale decisions, but we’re slaves to a system that sells to our many and varied weaknesses. We buy, consume and discard with frighting callousness.
That’s all a bit depressing really. So let me finish with this. Mountain Biking makes me happy in a way that absolutely nothing else does. That’s not even close to a slight on my family, what laughably passes for my career and having a beer with my friends. But it’s different, less nuanced, more visceral, less lies, more truth. And I have not have the patience to postpone that happiness, nor diminish it with things not quite right, nor risk the memory bank of something potentially quite special.
So rather than be a passive receiver of lies and mediocracy, I need to plan many adventures. Anticipate great rides. Pretend that suddenly I will become a better rider, forge future memories of perfection under burning skies, achieve nirvana, ride to the end of the rainbow. And for this I need a new bike dripping with the nicest stuff. Luckily I seem to have built one.