In my younger days I enjoyed mountain biking (the natural evolution of BMX riding as a child) and my trips were more about hurtling through woodland trails than meandering slowly enough to smell the flowers.
So when I returned to cycling quite recently, as I imagine we do with most hobbies we rediscover, it seemed natural to try to pick up where I left off.
I sought out the kind of mountain bike I enjoyed back in the day, a Specialized Rockhopper, and assumed it would fit my needs today.
I found an original old Rockhopper for sale, and after a few adjustments set off on a ride.
I really liked how light and nimble it felt compared with my ebike (which weighs nearly double what the Rockhopper does), but the riding position felt too aggressive, too stretched out.
Even after adjusting the seat and handlebar height, it remained much the same, low, fast stance.
I guess that when the bike came out (before mountain biking had so many sub genres and one bike did them all), most of the time you’d be going fast off road, so you’d appreciate this set up.
The trouble I had was trying to relax and ride it more gently, without wanting to hammer all out everywhere!
Then it dawned on me that the bike that might have been ideal for my needs when I was thrashing around the woods as an 18 year or 20 year old, might not be the best bike for my needs today.
Which begged the question, what do I need in a bike today?
My ebike covers the fair weather commuting, but because I don’t really want to intentionally get the electrics soaked, I wanted a regular bike I could commute with over the winter too.
Something robust but not too heavy, and that I wouldn’t care too much about getting scratched or wet.
Something that was a bit leaner and quicker on the road than a mountain bike, but could still handle the odd woodland trail without buckling a wheel or being shaken to bits.
So a little further research later, and of course the kind of bikes I started looking at were hybrids – offering the ruggedness of an MTB with larger, narrower, faster 700c wheels, a more relaxed and upright riding position, and plenty of lugs and eyelets for adding racks, mudguards and the like for winter protection and storage.
Being fond of the old Rockhopper anyway, despite its aggressive stance, I decided to keep my quest within the Specialized family, and found a Crossroads locally at the right price.
Four or five decent rides on the Crossroads later, my approach is surprisingly (but perhaps obviously!) more relaxed and slower.
It’s a bike I can happily trundle down country lanes on at 10mph (or even less) and savour the scenery.
Because the rear derailleur needs some attention, it currently only gives me the middle five (of seven) cogs. The front derailleur doesn’t do anything (which I’m wasn’t concerned about when I bought it as I’m going to remove it and just have a single cog on the front anyway).
So my highest gear currently is the middle cog on the front and the penultimate smallest on the rear, and my pedalling maxes out at only around 15mph anyway.
Where I do hit the occasional downhill straight, anything over 20mph feels almost unnecessarily heady!
The point is, my needs in a bike today aren’t the same as they once were.
Asking what your needs actually are right now – and before you commit to buy something – is a very useful exercise.
The same applies whether you ask yourself just what you really want from a bike, a camera, a relationship, or your whole life.
Because we evolve, we grow, we don’t stay the same, physically, mentally, or emotionally. Priorities change, life’s lessons impress upon us, our requirements shift.
In retrospect it really was no wonder that buying the kind of bike that was near perfect for my 18 year old self was not the best match a quarter of a century on.
I’m keeping the Rockhopper as a fun stripped down one speed conversion project to then hack around off road on, and going out with the family.
But for winter commuting and exploring the countryside, the leisurely Crossroads seems a very relaxed and natural fit right now.
How about you? Are you using a bike or camera you’re still trying to make fit a former version of yourself, rather than just accepting it’s time to seek something that works better for the person you are today?
Please share your thoughts below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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10 thoughts on “When Perfect No Longer Fits”
Dan, just have a question. if I don’t have a comment but want to see other people’s comments then what do I do? xoxo susanJOY
Hi Susan, well you can either go to each blog post and scroll down and see the comments underneath, or I think in the blogs you follow in WordPress you can select to have email notifications when a new comment is made, on any particular blog. Go to your WordPress Reader, and where it says Followed Sites, click on the Manage button.Next to each blog you follow in the list, you can click on Settings and select which notifications you receive. Hope that helps.
My bicycle (I’ve never had more than one) has certainly changed as I’ve gotten older. The first good one was a 1962 Peugeot PX-10. 21 lbs. drop bars, skinny Ideale saddle, toe clips, etc. A dozen or so bikes later I now have a custom Rivendell. 24 lbs. upright bars, sprung Brooks saddle, BMX sneaker pedals, etc.
Cameras are a different story. My first good camera that didn’t actually belong to my father was a 1956 Leica IIIf that I bought in 1965. Dozens of cameras later – film and digital, large and small format, cheap and expensive – the camera in my day bag this morning is the self same IIIf. I paid $100 for the IIIf with a 50/3.5 Elmar lens. By my calculation, that works out to less than $2 a year.
Unfortunately I’ve found Doug, that like cameras, old bikes are plentiful and endlessly intriguing! Very hard to restrain myself to one, currently three seems manageable.
That Leica has given you incredible service, I bet there are very few photographers that have owned and used a camera for so long. All credit to you!
I’ve just taken my Claud Butler on a good old stint through France and although it was heavier and less nimble than a road bike it suited the varying terrain extremely well. I bought it second hand off eBay 🙄. Not knowing if I’d ever do an over 1000 km trip in one go again, I wanted something also to tootle around London in afterwards. Will I buy something different if I do a similar but probably longer trip? I might look around for something lighter, but ultimately my little hybrid was brilliant and one does get used to the weight … I doubt I could beat it all things considered.
Oh I had a Claud Butler mountain bike about 15 years ago. Was surprisingly good, given it wasn’t all that expensive.
Do you cycle much currently Katie?
Well I got back in September and since then have only pootled around London. I miss it and I must say that the traffic and drivers here are not exactly conducive to safe cycling. In truth, I’d love to do a longer trip but I simply cannot leave my husband alone for a month again … it’s not good for him. I’m gutted, but I guess it is what it is. Wish I’d discovered cycling years ago.
I can relate to not being left alone, I love a few hours, even a day, but more than that I start to miss my wife and kids too much!
Could you do a weekend cycling trip somewhere in the UK?
Awww that’s so lovely! Funnily enough I know that he’s going away in the new year for a week, so if he’s busy with work then that might be my opportunity. It’ll be cold though .. I’ll have to have a think about where to go. I’ve got an idea but I’d need much longer which is frustrating. I love that you miss your family – that’s truly lovely.
I’m a very private person, and love time and space to myself. But I’m crazy about my family too, and don’t like too long without them!
It’s all about balance, like anything, and then you appreciate all aspects, even those (or perhaps especially those) that seem the opposite and contradictory.