A lot was going on in 2013 – 27.5-inch wheels had been sneaked into the Eurobike trade show on a surprising amount of Euro brand bikes the year before and were now causing ‘which wheel size should I get? ‘ chaos on the trails. I didn’t help by awarding Whyte’s T-129 29er the coveted Trail Bike of the Year award for What Mountain Bike magazine against 26in and 27.5in options. I described the 68-degree head tube angle as “pushing the front end a fair way out front” though and there were only a handful of dropper posts in the 25 bikes we tested. Double chainring 20-speed transmissions were still state of the art too. Oh and a Canyon Nerve with top spec components including Shimano XTR and Fox Factory suspension only cost £2,645 (sorry, I didn't note US or EU prices back in those days).
Worked to death
That same Mac laptop died last week. Keys worn transparent and then hollowed out with the relentless hammer of well over a million words (it shared a three million plus total for the past ten years with my iMac, so I can’t be sure of the exact split), almost entirely about bikes. Over a decade I’d brought it back from near death with several hard drive, memory and battery upgrades. Seen it be stomach pumped of the sandstorms of the Nevada Interbike show by a horrified Apple Tech with an airline. I even treated it to a couple of new chargers although the original one with a cable the color of a rawhide dog chew and held together with gaffer tape and Gorilla Glue reinforced thread was always it’s favorite.
But last weekend I pulled it out from under the sofa and it was no more. No cheery glow through its threadbare keys. No signature Apple start up chord. Not even a charging light glimmer of hope when I borrowed a different power pack from a pal. As it sat there cold and lifeless, that same sensation swept through me. As though I felt the draught of its cyber soul pass through me on the way to join its comrades who’d also fought gamely against ridiculous workloads and way too many dances on the edge of deadlines for comfort.
I should be glad really. I certainly can’t complain about how much it's done and how long it hung in there despite serial abuse. “That doesn’t owe you owt” as farmers round here would say. I should have rejoiced at the thought of upgrading too. It’s been years since it had enough space and power to handle the latest OS upgrade and it could barely open a PDF let alone process a 5k video. My wife got tired of the “it’s teaching me to touch type” joke years ago as she tried to pick her way around a keyboard where half the letter weren’t readable anymore too.
There's no doubt its replacement is far, far better too, with all sorts of clever short cuts and a screen that makes me feel like my eyes still work properly. it's bigger, faster, smarter and capable of doing everything so quickly it gives me the same vibes as trying to keep up with ‘kids' half my age when riding.
It doesn’t have the memories of where we’ve gone yet though. The scars that mark it as a real tool, not a toy. No more ravaged keyboard that instantly established the ‘work harder not smarter’ ethic I’m fiercely proud of as soon as I opened it.
Now I’m back in the ‘do you even ride that bro?’ or ‘all the gear, no idea’ category the trailhead elders silently cast anyone on a fresh bike into. In fact I’m so embarrassed by its sleek dark grey newness that I’ve dug out the soft case for the MacBook before the last one. The one where the whole casing bent from me carrying it one handed at bike shows while typing so it couldn’t swallow CDs anymore. To my shame and potential peril it was still in the case too. Battery dangerously bulging like a rotten roadkill badger about to become an intestine scattering IED.
But in the same way as wearing dirty or scuffed kit makes me feel more comfortable on a box fresh test bike, the old scuffed sleeve with the cartoon cat’s head my daughter drew on the back at some point gives me that back story I need (or at least seemingly need) to project. Fresh and fancy doesn't suit me, because I know I can't be trusted with the nice things.
Bike to the future
But enough of computers. Given that this is a biking website I should probably pull it back to something riding related. There are certainly multiple parallels that I intended to weave into a clever carpet of connections when I started. Otherwise I wouldn’t have instantly latched onto repeating the original idea of my mate Marcus, who once wrote about junking his favourite riding shirt.
But hopefully by now you’ve made your own connections and are looking at your pre loved bike and kit in a more appreciative light. Worn tires evoke memories of the rides that took away a few microns of rubber a meter. Missing knobs a corner that was/wasn’t saved from a slam. The projecting plug that gives you the shivers evoking how cold you got putting in, but how glad you were when it held. The slight tremor in a spun sidewall that's a reminder of that epic weekend in Wales, the ‘it could have been much worse’ scratch on the frame from that big wreck up in the Tweed valley. Even the way it twitches that 68-degree head angle and makes you wish for a 65 or the stubborn, dragging gear shift that's a world away from automatic Ai transmissions are all part of a character that shapes your riding.
So in the absence of a proper conclusion, I guess I'm saying whatever the stories your bike can tell, take the time to read them now. You might be surprised how much you miss them when it's gone.