Just one bike

A friend came over today and took a quick tour of the apartment. “Where are the rest of your bikes?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I see your road bike, parked next to your bed. Nice. But where do you keep your other bikes?”

I had to tell her that’s all I got. No ‘cross bike in the storage locker, no MTB, no beach cruiser, no cool bike from back in the day.

Just one bike.

Mostly it’s because I’ve never been able to figure out how to ride more than one bike at a time, and also because of Scott Dickson, he of Paris-Brest-Paris fame. We were riding one day east of I-35 between San Marcos and Austin and I was well into my third bonk and according to Scott we were “almost home” and were “just going” to take a “little detour” right here to “get a couple of extra miles.”

Scott opined that it made no sense to have two bikes because all that meant is that neither one of them would be working perfectly.

That’s not to say I don’t like bikes or admire bikes or secretly wish I had a bunch of them. My friend Deb has a bunch of them. A whole bunch. She has a bicycle problem, in my estimation, one that she’s tried to remedy with a giant garage, to no avail.

Today I was almost overwhelmed with the urge to buy a second bike. Dave W. came by and showed off one cool bike, his Follis, made in 1392 or thereabouts. It has the coolest thing I’ve ever ridden: A hand-operated front derailleur.


You want to feel like the world’s baddest badass? When it gets time make the big meat sing, you don’t click no button or whack no handlebar shifter or even flip a lever on your down tube. Nah, you drop your entire fuggin’ arm down to the big chain ring and grab a big steel handle and prize your chain up onto the 53.

And when you go uphill, you reach down and manhandle it back.

It was surprising how smoothly it shifted. The bike had super narrow bars with cloth tape, just like the Nishiki International that Uncle Phil sold me back in October of 1982. The water bottle cage was up on the bars and the big, leather Brooks saddle was behind. It had a big, beefy Simplex derailleur and five — that’s the whole number between four and six — cogs on the freewheel. Yes, freewheel. Not “cassette.”

Spaghetti cables coming out of the brake hoods. Big goofy brakes that didn’t stop very well.

But it rode so smoothly, and wasn’t afraid of cracks, bumps, or deformities in the pavement. Rolled over that shit like a tank.

But what I really loved about that bike was the smile that came with it.



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26 thoughts on “Just one bike”

  1. I still have my old Peugeot, but I’m starting to think that I may have to get rid of it soon, I never ride it and I’m starting to think it may be cooler to have owned it than still own it.

  2. I’m trying to figure out what is different between that Follis and my Stella Pro…oh yeah, the Stella has a front derailleur.
    Clamp-on everything.

  3. >It was surprising how smoothly it shifted.

    I know! You are probably old enough to remember when timing shifts was a skill.

    I don’t miss the brakes and the pitiful range of gearing. I also find the modern fork/stem far easier.

    That’s a truly rare bike. Often the steel rots because of the high carbon content. Watch those cable routes. That’s where the rot began on countless bikes.

  4. I will have to go back and read this piece; just wanted to let you know that I auto-filled that title to read “Just one MORE bike”.
    Obviously, there may well be benefit in the reading. Thank you. Late for an appointment here; “rain check” please.

  5. What? I don’t have a bike problem. I just love bikes. They are beautiful machines. That Follis is awesome! The lug work with the cut-outs on the front telling everyone where it was proudly and painstakingly made by hand: Lyon, France. The time it took to file those alone is probably more than the time it takes to make a plastic bike frame. Our plastic, lightweight bikes just don’t elicit the same feeling. But they are lightweight. And fast, if our engines are working well. As you know, both are in my garage. I’m an equal opportunity bike owner! And proud of it!

    1. The step to bicycle sobriety is acknowledging that you have a problem. Or in your case, acknowledging that you need a larger garage.

  6. Priceless! Years from now, “archaic” carbon bikes with “old school” electronic shifters from the 2017 era will bring smiles too. Time marches on…

    1. I respectfully disagree. Our current carbon bikes will repurpose into some either Pataguchi clothing (yes!), or High School track surface.

  7. Must have been he eggbeater pedals tickling the bottom of your feet.

    I recently found a sistership of the first road bike I bought in 1972. It is apart for cleaning, should be entertaining to ride when done.

  8. number1bikermonkey

    I can give you lots of reasons why owning multiple bikes is a good thing. The smile on your face while riding that Follis is reason alone. Riding brings joy and different bikes at different times, or in different places, are well worth the garage space, imho.

  9. Possibly inspired by your writing, or inspired against it, as a defense of condition, last night I pulled down my old college race bike from a hook in the garage, pumped the tires (and popped on good lights front and rear) and road it the ~0.8 miles and back to the grocery store to pick up some dish soap to prove to my wife that I do care to help with household stuff. I’ve thought of getting rid of that bike many times over the last thirty years and at times it’s been far from serviceable. And at its core a Nashbar Tange 2 lugged frame that’s only “good point” was being stiff in a sprint and rattle can repainted to hide its 1980’s fantastic hot pink, there’s not a lot to fawn over or esthetic reason to keep this bike around. But I do, or I have, because I was never a salesman, and I wouldn’t want to see a friend get hurt if I gave it away, and to be honest, I’m horrible at throwing out junk. But also I get a kick out of riding it a few miles once every few months. It’s not quite a time machine, but it does bring back the memories of escape and exploration and building friendships and realizing connection to space beyond campus and studying and worrying about getting through school and what would come after, and etc.
    I also threaten myself regularly to use it on real rides, though it’s gear range and brake quality and weight and ugliness and less comfy seat and… maybe one day soon anyway, just for kicks, though not today.

    1. It has a lever. You reach down and crank it over to the big or small ring. Friggin awesome.

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