Farewell to a Friend

Farewell Lead

It was not my first road bike, but rather a twin of it, in a different color, acquired after the original met a sad end. That one was razed, with a sickening crunch, from our car’s roof rack at the parking garage entrance of an IKEA on Long Island.

Wracked with guilt, although his fault of inattentiveness was no greater than mine, my husband bought me this second Trek Pilot 5.2 shortly after the “incident.”

Now, it’s time to say goodbye to a bike that helped kindle a passion. We’re moving, downsizing as empty nesters. Our new apartment can accommodate only one bike and that will be my hand-built Serotta. The bike I use for daily transportation will reside in a basement bike storage room.

It all sounds neat and organized, doesn’t it? But parting with this bicycle turned out to be emotionally fraught. After all, this machine took me places, terrestrial, psychological, even spiritual. It’s the bike that I rode when I launched this blog in 2010 from Lake Tahoe, where I traveled to participate in an event called America’s Most Beautiful Ride. Circumnavigating that enchanting body of water was the start of many adventures on this Trek.

Helmets on wall

A lightweight dream, my Pilot is constructed entirely of carbon fiber. It’s equipped with a Shimano Ultegra set and a triple chain ring that had been suitable for my beginning-road-cyclist self. The Cinelli handlebar had been a later addition. A slightly smudged sticker on the seat tube proclaims the brand a multiple winner of the Tour de France, and I’ll own up to having been influenced by Lance Armstrong’s dominance at the time I purchased my first Trek.

This is the bike that I pedaled on summer Sundays with a group of wonderful (and patient) people who taught me road skills and cycling etiquette and whose friendship I still enjoy today. It ferried me on the New York City MS Ride through a shut-down Holland Tunnel, where our gang yodeled to maxim echo effect. And across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in the company of my husband and tens of thousands of cyclists on the TD Five Boro Bike Tour. I raced my Trek in the New York City (then called the Nautica) Triathlon. Not all the memories are sterling: This same bike landed me in physical therapy for six months after a “more aggressive” fit gave me bilateral hip bursitis.

In more recent years, the Trek became the loyal backup to the Serotta, still well-loved but in need of increasingly costly repairs. It’s been the pinch hitter for loops around Central Park, weekend outings with friends and the occasional dash around town in jeans and cleats.

As our moving day approached, I decided to donate the Trek to Recycle-A-Bicycle, the not-for-profit that teaches vocational skills and encourages bicycling among New York City youth.

I scheduled the drop-off  to coincide with a mid-week cycling-related rally at City Hall. After the event, I felt a wave of sadness as I contemplated, from the shade of City Hall Park, the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge bike path. Final ride on the Trek on the first day of summer, I thought, as I thumped across the wood boardwalk, barely noticing the tourists or water views.

Bike on Bridge Boardwalk

I hadn’t felt this way about other possessions that I had donated in the lead-up to the move. No sense of melancholy accompanied the carting away of clothing, furnishings and books, only a brushing together of my palms: Check. Another task completed.

This was different. Clothing is worn. Books are read. Furniture is for repose. But a bicycle is ridden. You join with a machine, in this case a featherweight assemblage of carbon-fiber tubes, trusting it in the face of frankly formidable physics to keep you upright and in motions as you pedal to the office, across country roads, to the tops of mountains, and perhaps more perilously, to the bottoms. The connection between rider and bike is intimate — physically and psychologically. Small wonder that people refer to their bicycles as “steeds.”

Lost in these thoughts, I got turned around in DUMBO, temporarily trapped in a warren of one-way streets on the south side of the Manhattan Bridge before finding my way north to Recycle-a-Bicycle’s storefront on Pearl Street near the East River. The delay gave me more time to consider: Was I making the right choice? Setting aside the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, some stuff you keep just because your heart can’t let it go.

Still. I opened the glass door and rolled the bike into the cool interior. And there behind the counter stood mechanic Susan Lindell, whom I hadn’t seen in years. A happy reunion. Catching up on things. She’s started a workshop recently on bicycle maintenance and repair for teen girls.

Recycle A Bicycle Shop

Within minutes the Trek went up on the stand for Susan to remove the saddle and pedals. I’ll reuse the saddle. The pedals are a keepsake: the only remaining direct line to my first road bike, this white bike’s pewter-finished precursor. The one that died in the IKEA parking garage.

As I glanced around the shop at the refurbished bikes for sale near the entrance, others awaiting service or repair in the back, rows of bicycle wheels suspended from the ceiling, chain rings pegged to the walls, tools aligned above workbenches, I knew that I’d made the right decision.

Maybe there’s a second life in my bicycle’s parts, an ability to lend utility to someone somewhere, or better, to extend the fun and good karma that riding this bike has brought me.

As I zipped my backpack shut on my mementos and walked to the Citi Bike station for my ride home, I was able to say, finally, Farewell friend. And Thank you.

Bike Saddle in Backpack

Photos: velojoy

2 Comments

  • Love reading your articles, Susi and learning about some solutions for the future. So glad you and yours are safe and that you’re fighting back on these important issues!

    • Carolyn, thanks for your kind words and for reading. We’ve come so far in NYC, but we’ve got a lot of work ahead to continue to improve street safety and to create a more liveable city. BTW:I liked the article you posted on FB about the 3-D painted crosswalk in Iceland!

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