Falling in Love (With your Bike) Again

Don't trade lust for a new bike with love for your old one. Successful relationships require effort to make them work.

As trails are battered by freeze-thaw cycles and inevitably turn to mud between snowfalls, it can be hard to spend quality time with your bike and easy to lose sight of what makes it special. You may start to feel distant, as if seeing your bike through a pane of glass, not sensing the same connection that drew the two of you together in the first place. How quickly we all forget the good times of endless dry summer dirt, and what a shame that we sabotage ourselves, sowing seeds of doubt into the fertile ground of a relationship in a temporary rut.

There’s nothing wrong with your bike per se, but it doesn’t look quite like it used to. You find yourself tempted to poke around, just to see what is out there. You get a tinge of excitement, thinking about the possibilities and variety and newness of something else. Besides, the pictures online don’t show the creaks or misalignments of those freshly-washed whips. What your brain conjures is perfection, and while one of those other bikes may seem perfect for you, it’s worth considering the history and potential of what you have with the one you’ve trusted for years. You know its idiosyncrasies, its strengths and how the two of you have matching scars from that fall on that loose turn. Those marks of time are what make your bike more real, and love is about loving them too. 

You’ve done your best to care for your bike and it has always reciprocated, but as lust fades to passion and then to normalcy, perhaps you haven’t put in as much effort. In that case, it’s in your hands to rekindle what was once there.

Relationships are maintained and grown through day-to-day consistency and small acts, and a jumpstart may be required if you’ve fallen out of those good habits. Try opening your camera roll and revisiting the start of your time with your bike: The first time you saw each other, or went for a ride together, or troubleshooted a mechanical issue and came out knowing more about each other and more prepared for the next one. These are all memories of challenges you’ve faced as partners and ways you’ve learned about your bike’s unique needs. 

Once you remind yourself of why you fell in love, make your intentions clear to your bike. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture—which to some neglected bikes can feel disingenuous—but something to show that you care for your bike and want to treat it better. Even just a thorough wash can clear out some of the grit causing friction and grinding both of your gears, but it’s the quality and attention to detail that really allow for intimacy. Acknowledge a previously-unseen paint chip as something cute and special. Feel the tension on each spoke and applaud your wheels for withstanding your ill-advised line choices. Make your bike feel attractive and loved, because it is.

Work to develop gratitude toward your bike and talk it up to friends. It’s too often that we keep lists of things that are wrong with our bikes without giving it credit where credit is due. We love to ride a section of trail with friends only to criticize our bike’s performance at the bottom of the run. It’s rare to hear people regroup at the base of a rock garden and verbally praise how dialed their bikes felt through it. Maybe we should try. 

Photo: Will Herold

As you and your bike begin to reconnect and do more together, there are bound to be issues with communication. Some riders feel that their bikes are not communicating clearly with them, making vague noises of unknown origin, and dismiss them entirely. This approach invalidates your bike. Its pivots and contact points are important and deserve attention. Work with your bike to hear it out and create a solution. Even if it’s a problem that can’t be addressed this week or this month, you can recognize that you see the issue and will try to fix it when possible. It’s unrealistic to solve things in a day, but you can commit to long-term, incremental changes with your bike instead.

A small tip for February: the studies on gifting are clear that experiences create stronger relationships, and are better received on average, than material gifts. Again, this doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, but a new trail or road that you and your bike have never seen before might strengthen your bond and spice things up. Even a stone’s throw from your backyard, there are usually a few features to session if you get creative. There’s nothing wrong with material gifts, however, especially if it’s something your bike sorely needs but won’t buy for itself. 

Some may object to buying gifts or making gestures on a day that obliges us to think about our beloved, saying that every day is an equally good day to appreciate your bike. Those people are also correct. But you should probably check with your bike in advance if you think you’re not doing gifts this year.