Of course the thing that gets you is the saddle. It arrests you from the second you spy it across the parking lot. Images of discomfort, cheapness, misuse, overuse, and of course incompetence, all these things and many more are transmitted at the flick of an eyelid.
Some things, though, in their retiring nature demand closer inspection precisely because they care not the montance of a tare whether or not you notice, indeed, they are placed carefully, discreetly, artfully, so that your eye will pass over, if at all, and keep moving on. There is something to see here, but not for you.
The more our eyes dug into this old piece of steel, barely held together it seemed, the more we were rewarded. One brake only and that attached with a cable which barely worked with the mightiest of squeezes, then repaid the squeeze by refusing to release the rim.
One derailleur, the rear, shifted onto the fifteen, and the chain permanently slammed onto the big meat. The rider didn’t fear hills.
Brilliant Nitto bars that shone brightly on the tops where they had never been wrapped, perhaps, and sticky, ugly, black on the lower halves from some peeled-off ribbon of Christmases past. Schrader valves. Thirty-six spokes. Mismatched, mostly bald tires. Chain grease that bespoke an oiling every few years or so. The artfully beautiful pantographed “FUJI” on the steel crank. An original and originally corroded centerpull rim brake. Cable clamps around the tubing from a day when internal routing wasn’t even a dream, the pie plate still happily jammed in between the freewheel and the hub.
The down-at-the-wheels worthlessness of the bike was belied by the owner’s attitude, unmistakable in the giant u-lock that bolted this prized possession to the bike rack. His or her sole means of transport to a minimum wage job at the supermarket? His or her hipster ride to get groceries?
I don’t know, but I do know when a rider looks at their bike with fierce affection, because beneath the rust and jangly parts you could easily see the noble and lovely lines of the classic triangle, so much strength and endurance and longevity built into that simple triangle of steel, prettier than any plastic.