Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Bike I Couldn't Bear to Own

A little over a year ago a friend asked me if I still had my Surly Steamroller. Yes, I did still have it. The color was the old metallic charcoal gray, no longer available, and he wanted that color. "Will you sell it to me?" he asked. I thought about it for a while. I wasn't riding it much at all so I agreed. I reasoned I could easily get another frame down the road. Besides, he only wanted the frame and fork; I could keep all my favorite Campy parts, King headset, etc.

My Steamroller replaced a beloved 80s Shogun fixed gear conversion. It started life a kind of coral color but had bleached to a nice semi-metallic pink. I rode that bike everywhere and I loved it. It was my first fixed gear. It was sensible since it was a 27" bike to begin with and that extra clearance left tons of space for fenders and a rear rack. The ride was cushy. It just fit and it cost me next to nothing.

The pain in my back was nothing compared to the pain in my heart when I crumpled the frame one night by running it into a fencepost on the darkened greenway. I still have the frame in the basement. I'm sentimental like that. The Steamroller frame came along like clockwork though. The day after I mangled my Shogun a deal literally fell into my lap. I was stoked and perhaps a bit overzealous. I built it too nice -- the result was a bike I didn't want to subject to daily riding. What a shame when that happens.

After selling it last year, I didn't miss the Steamroller all winter. But when spring came I saved my bike cash and bought a replacement frame in cream. All the parts were ready to go on including pink headset and pink wheels. I decided to fiddle with the choice of bars and built it up just enough for a couple of test rides:

Man it looked nice. It looked classy too. But the joy soon wore off. It looked too nice. Again. Not because of the parts spec -- I had already decided I was going to ride it as a commuter, not mothball it like some kind of cafe bike -- but because of the bling. Color matching on bikes is as old as the velocipede, but in the past few years the urban fixed crowd has tainted that once innocent fascination. As long as anodized bits and colored rims adorn a fixed gear anyway.

I rode the bike to work and back once. As I wheeled it to the basement that evening, my heart fractured a bit for a second time in this whole saga of the pink Shogun. I came to terms with two hard facts: 1) The Steamroller, no matter how fashionably accoutered, could not replace that beloved bike; 2) There was no way I could ride this bike in public. The implied guilt of association was more than I could bear. ("My god, what if someone thinks I'm one of them?")

Things come around. It wasn't hard to find a co-worker who was looking for a Steamroller frame. Another had a relative who needed a wheelset and was not disinclined to, but actively seeking, the bling. All's well, I suppose.

But I still miss my $25 pink Shogun.

1 comment:

Andy said...

Damn, Fleck. Did not know that being color coordinated on a fixie is out. How about pink checkerboard rims and neon green pedal toeclips and chai-no, wait...