Monday, June 25, 2007

Character Subtracted

Back when I had my old Concorde Squadra TSX, I used to get comments about the paint in perpetuity. First they would notice the Colnago-esque airbrushed paint scheme, which was without clearcoat and quite less stunning to behold. It was a strange palette that I can only describe as "ugly-chic". Upon closer inspection, they would notice the chips, scratches, and peeling decals and say "You should get that repainted, dude." My typical reply was something like "Aww, hell no." Or, "Fuck that."

Thing is, I liked the way it looked. It was aged and worn, no doubt. But, it had character. And I had helped shape that character by riding the shit out of it for over 15 years. There was a little bit of myself in that frame and I couldn't stand the thought of suffocating it under a bland "me-too" powdercoat. I preferred the bike as it was over some saccharine dream of what I thought it should be.

I like to think of bikes as having some form of personality. They're not just tools or toys or objects that the unenlightened deem them. I suppose it's a Buddhist way of thinking, but those that have been around and have put their miles in know what I mean.

Personality in bikes, however, goes deeper than just paint. Even if a bike is the same make and model, it's somehow a little bit different. Maybe the chainstays are a little bit more crooked this way than that (note to Joe Consumer/materialistic curmudgeon- no bike is EVER perfect). Or the overspray from the paint details on the seatstays flecked onto the seat tube in a weird way. Regardless, like what they say about snowflakes: No two are ever alike.

It's what makes us gravitate to different fabricators, philosophies, and styles of frames. What makes us choose a hardtail mountain frame from Steelman versus a double boinger from Turner. Or, the zippy carbon racer like a Pinarello Paris versus the traditional elegance of a steel Rivendell Legolas. Huffys and Pacifics have personality too, but they're the dull and inept wallflowers that nobody talks to and silently wonder why they were invited to the party in the first place.

Whichever way you go you're getting something that was the creation of imperfect hands (or machines) with imperfect materials in imperfect environments and built up with imperfect parts imperfectly. All of this culminates into a creation that is, with faults and all, unique. A bike that is quick, stiff, smooth, harsh, pokey, veers to the left, plush, silent, solid, tough, nimble, or a combination of any one of these and more.

No, I will never send a frame of my own in for repainting. I will not capitulate. Though the Concorde is no longer with me, I know the friend I sold it to will treat it with the same respect for its stock existence as I did. I can't say the same for all the other bikes that have moved in and out of my stable, but I hope they are preserved in their original glory as well.


Radio Freddy said...

Enough clearance for some fat tires and a number tab. Perfect!

Strangelife said...

One of the few bikes I regret getting rid of. It'd take 28's no problem. The number tab was one of those special touches I've never had on any other bike.