La Bicyclette, Part II: Scars

La Bicyclette, Part II: Scars

by / / 48 posts

We meticulously care for our bicycle, stopping only just short of pampering it. Through ages spend coveting, building, and riding it, we become attached to it and its beautiful finishing details – the luster of the frame’s finish, the angle and sweep of the bars, the gleaming white tape, the tires, the wheels – all perfectly curated and cared for. Though we anthropomorphize it; the bicycle is, at its core, a tool. It is meant to be ridden. It is built to carry us to the heavenly heights of our sport’s legendary Cols and into the jarring hell of the Pavé du Nord; our machines will be subjected to vehicular transport, to ruthless baggage handlers, to rain, mud, snow, to crashes, and to careless accidents that come to it by way of its daily use. As the bike’s cosmetic perfection fades, it gives way to a beauty told through its scars: derailleurs and ergo shifters ground down in a crash, crank arms rubbed by countless revolutions of the pedals, chips in the frame’s finish from road rocks or gouges in the paint from a stubborn signpost used to improperly lean our machine against.

Through our journey, we have lost hold of the boundary between rider and machine; each wound inflicted upon la bicyclette is a wound inflicted upon our very flesh. It is the Way of Things. The ride is the cathedral where we worship, and the bike is the mechanism that carries us through this journey of discovery, beauty, pleasure, pain, triumph, and tragedy. I would much rather see my cherished #1 cleft in two upon the cobbles of Northern Europe than have her waiting at home, immaculate and flawless.

This damage is nevertheless categorized into good scars and bad scars. Good scars enliven the narrative we weave upon our machines and includes benign crash damage, rub marks on the cranks, besmirched bar tape, rubbed-off logos on the nose of the saddle, or that spot along the top tube where your knees have dulled the paint through total commitment to finding the V Locus. My Bianchi EV2, on its maiden voyage after replacing the original frame destroyed in a crash, was to be subjected to a catastrophic failure of my Mektronic drivetrain in a town-line sprint. The derailleur autonomously shifted, the chain snapped, several spokes broke free from the rear wheel and then rapped upon the rear triangle, tearing giant chunks of paint from the seat and chain stays. I nearly crashed and my new frame had already lost its cosmetic perfection, but these marks help tell a story which would be the poorer for their absence.

Bad scars, on the other hand, include the several dozen ding marks scattered about your frame and wheels from the time you carefully packed your bike into a travel case but neglected to remove a loose allen key which then spent the duration of the 12-hour flight to Europe bouncing around inside the case. Or perhaps that time someone helpfully leaned your bike against a car and someone drove off in that same car before you had a chance to move it, like I did to my dad’s new Merckx the first weekend he had it, as he was preparing for his first ride on it. And, of course, the time-tested rite of passage: replacing your forks after driving into the garage with the bike still on the roof.

Through use, our beloved machines will lose their cosmetic perfection. We  do our best to avoid them, but once the pain has faded, the narrative of our time together speaks through the scars left on La Bicyclette.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

// Accessories and Gear // Defining Moments // Folklore // Il Progetto // Nostalgia // The Bikes

  1. The good scars build a good feeling — the bike being race ready.

  2. if your not scarred, your not riding!  I look at some peoples rigs and wonder, are you even riding that thing?  Its freakin pristine…too pristine.

    I like seeing the knicks in the tyres, the symmetrical grooves in the braking surface (not the carbon though), the grit that accumulates under the fork between the ‘thorough’ washings , and the crap that is under the fi'zi:k Microtex, thank Merckx its covered!

    I am really mulling the cathedral/tool analogy around, that was insightful Frank

  3. Like a good hard wood floor or hard face, scars make a bike look interesting. And to paraphrase Bobke, are the prelude to a story that requires burbon and pork rinds.

  4. Yes, yes, yes.  Although we love our bikes, we also love to put as much torsion through the frame, cranks, wheels, chain and bars as our body can exert.  It’s after all what they are built for and I hate hearing of folks avoiding certain roads because they’re a bit bumpy, and not to minimise punctures.  Some scars are worse than others though, the ones caused by careless placement especially, a Rule #65 failure.

  5. Thanks for the reminder…I forgot to clean and put a little lube on the fork dropouts…it is a source of creaks….a tip I gleaned from a young but very competent mechanic. A noisy bike drives me crazy.

  6. Bad scars include chips in the paint on the top tube acquired when a four-year old’s game of fetch with the dog in the house results in the dog slamming into the bike and bringing it crashing to the ground.

  7. Bad scar here: Trusting someone else to pull your bike off of the mounts and raking the seat stays across a nearby

    wheel mount. Steel was screaming (screeching) to me “Whyyyy! Whyyyy!

  8. Good scars here: Awesome seat tube.

    And fork.

  9. My worst crash occurred when I was blindsided by another cyclist in a turn while riding my five-week old No. 1. It sent me flying and ground my seat, shifters and rear dérailleur. Also toasted my rear rim, bent my rear derailleur hanger and broke my rear brake caliper. The guy that hit me outweighed me by about 50 lbs.

    My injuries healed, but the scars on the bike remain (although the rear rim, hanger and caliper were replaced). The one positive I took away was that the components still function properly AND they are marginally lighter. So I guess I got that working for me.

  10. hey Frank, nice piece. but what do you mean by “stopping only just short of pampering it“? i don’t comprehend this theory

    @Duende

    Bad scars include chips in the paint on the top tube acquired when a four-year old’s game of fetch with the dog in the house results in the dog slamming into the bike and bringing it crashing to the ground.

    as I’ve been trying to prove to my wife, dogs and kids belong outside.

    @Dan_R

    Like a good hard wood floor or hard face, scars make a bike look interesting. And to paraphrase Bobke, are the prelude to a story that requires burbon and pork rinds.

    nicely put. good scars, for mine, are defined as anything i do to my bike. bad scars are defined as when someone else picks up your new ride and comments, “wow, that’s light” before plonking it back down like a bag of spuds and scratching the paint on the top-tube (and not even realising the magnitude of what they’ve done)…aaaarg

  11. Bones will heal, but a good bike is irreplaceable. – @frank

  12. This reminds me of a long ago time when Nelson Vails was building a new road bike (Team Raleigh for the visual image) in the shop I was soon to be working at.  I was visiting the shop at the time he was finishing the build.  Upon completion, he reached over for a ball-peen hammer and gave the top tube a nice little whack resulting in a small dent.  He said, “it’s going to happen eventually, I just like to get it out of the way.”

  13. @snoov

    It’s after all what they are built for and I hate hearing of folks avoiding certain roads because they’re a bit bumpy, and not to minimise punctures.

    There is a local hillclimbing ride here, where the first hill is up a gravel/dirt trail, roughly 8km long and 300m in elevation gain. It’s hard-packed and not too bad as long as you’re not riding it right after a heavy rain. I’ve heard of people using a close-by paved road instead, so they don’t mess up their fancy bikes. Seems stupid to me.

    I actually heard someone complaining about their bike getting dirty on the way up the climb. I broke in with “It’s a tool, it’s supposed to get dirty, it’ll be fine” and they returned with a “oh yeah, I guess…”.

    Then again, I am the idiot that took my road bike down what would better be described as “singletrack” the other week when I was exploring a local hill I’d never been up, which is a nature preserve as well. Going down that on a road bike was a bit dicey to say the least, but I managed to not crash!

  14. @Flying Crowbar

     The guy that hit me outweighed me by about 50 lbs.

    you mean 22.7kg.

  15. @mcsqueak

    @snoov

    It’s after all what they are built for and I hate hearing of folks avoiding certain roads because they’re a bit bumpy, and not to minimise punctures.

    There is a local hillclimbing ride here, where the first hill is up a gravel/dirt trail, roughly 8km long and 300m in elevation gain. It’s hard-packed and not too bad as long as you’re not riding it right after a heavy rain. I’ve heard of people using a close-by paved road instead, so they don’t mess up their fancy bikes. Seems stupid to me.

    I actually heard someone complaining about their bike getting dirty on the way up the climb. I broke in with “It’s a tool, it’s supposed to get dirty, it’ll be fine” and they returned with a “oh yeah, I guess…”.

    Then again, I am the idiot that took my road bike down what would better be described as “singletrack” the other week when I was exploring a local hill I’d never been up, which is a nature preserve as well. Going down that on a road bike was a bit dicey to say the least, but I managed to not crash!

    Nipple lube.

  16. @Jeff in PetroMetro I have the turnout of a ballerina.

  17. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    What are you trying to say, son? Cat got your tongue?

  18. @mcsqueak I pedal with my heels turned in, like a ballerina.  So I wore the paint off my chainstay.  Good scar.

  19. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Snap!

    ap!

  20. Great post – my thinking also.  Good scar:  Anything that occurs while bike in motion.  Lame scar:  Anything that occurs otherwise.

    One of my mountain bikes has all the usual good scars: Worn crank arms, various scratches, and other proof of off-road action.  It also has one bad scar: On the seatpost, where another bike rubbed against it while being transported.  Lame.

    Pisses me off every time I look at it…

  21. My name is withnails and I too have a scarred bike.  Prior to a Sunday ride my VMH lovingly got my #1 out the garage in preparation for my ride.  Sadly, she is unaware of Rule #65 and leaned said bike against the edge a brick wall, leaving a small but intensely annoying scar on the side of the top tube.  It was only my love for VMH and her good intentions that prevented me for filing for divorce.  I’ve since said that she doesn’t need to help get my bike ready as the “chain’s too oily”.

  22. @withnails “Chain’s too oily.”  Well played.

  23. Spot on again! Great article. Bikes are for riding and as such gain the scars of use.

     
    Here’s one for you though, I lost a load of the graphics from my anodised S-Works E5 last year as we drove down to the Alps, bike on roof, through some of the worst rain I’ve ever encountered. Could this be described as a good scar? Ok
    I wasn’t technically riding it at the time but it was involved in a pre-epic ride journey. Or am I just being a knob?

  24. Beau-sage.

  25. @snoov

    Yes, yes, yes.  Although we love our bikes, we also love to put as much torsion through the frame, cranks, wheels, chain and bars as our body can exert.  It’s after all what they are built for and I hate hearing of folks avoiding certain roads because they’re a bit bumpy, and not to minimise punctures.  Some scars are worse than others though, the ones caused by careless placement especially, a Rule #65 failure.

    No kidding, the timeless advice imparted by stronger riders than me is to the question, “How do you make it go so fast?” is usually something like,

    Oh, you just try to break your handlebars.

    I see.

    Along the lines of road abuse causing damage to the bikes…wow. Go ride the cobbles for a week (upcoming KT2013 announcement being made imminently) and you’ll learn a thing or two about what kind of beating your bike can take and not assume any actual damage. Amazing how much tougher wheels and frames are than we give them credit for.

  26. @Souleur

    if your not scarred, your not riding!  I look at some peoples rigs and wonder, are you even riding that thing?  Its freakin pristine…too pristine.

    I like seeing the knicks in the tyres, the symmetrical grooves in the braking surface (not the carbon though), the grit that accumulates under the fork between the ‘thorough’ washings , and the crap that is under the fi’zi:k Microtex, thank Merckx its covered!

    I am really mulling the cathedral/tool analogy around, that was insightful Frank

    I wash my bike like I’m paid to do it, and keep #1 spotless, #2 even more so because it gets ridden less (sorry, girl), and #3 the least because it takes the most of a beating, but they are all kept annoyingly clean.

    That said, a close look will slow signs of heavy use; no logos on the shimano cranks, the logos on the saddles worn off or in various states of being worn off, the odd scratch, and worn-smooth hoods. Its a thing of beauty, that.

    @Dan_R

    I always thought Stevie Ray Vaughan’s #1 guitar – First Wife, as he called it – was such a great-looking guitar. Just beat to shit through use. To this day, when I see a guy playing a flawless guitar, I think, “He must not play that very much.”

    I once took a perfectly good Les Paul and sanded down all the areas I thought should be worn out. I shouldn’t have done that – they all wound up being bad scars. But the sentiment was right; I wanted my guitar to look like I love it. But the path was wrong; I should have just played it until it looked that way.

  27. @Duende

    Bad scars include chips in the paint on the top tube acquired when a four-year old’s game of fetch with the dog in the house results in the dog slamming into the bike and bringing it crashing to the ground.

    It quite possibly feels that way when it happens, but that’s a story that tell’s itself! It starts with “four-year-old” and “fetch” along with the scene of “in the house” and builds from there.

    Gold!

    @velocodger

    Thanks for the reminder…I forgot to clean and put a little lube on the fork dropouts…it is a source of creaks….a tip I gleaned from a young but very competent mechanic. A noisy bike drives me crazy.

     
    And the QR-levers as well. My Merckx that’s maddening!
    @versio

    That, all around, is a beautiful bike. How many of those do you have around?

    And, with this subject and that Corsa Extra in your stable somewhere, I’m going to say what I think should have been said a long time ago: That MX Leader of yours is crying to me across the ether for you to pull out the quill adapter and begging for a real stem (Cinelli X/A) worthy of that bike’s heritage to replace it.

  28. @Mike V

    This reminds me of a long ago time when Nelson Vails was building a new road bike (Team Raleigh for the visual image) in the shop I was soon to be working at.  I was visiting the shop at the time he was finishing the build.  Upon completion, he reached over for a ball-peen hammer and gave the top tube a nice little whack resulting in a small dent.  He said, “it’s going to happen eventually, I just like to get it out of the way.”

    Oooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeee. I appreciate the sentiment and it might be rather effective, but that just hurts.

    @mcsqueak

    @snoov

    It’s after all what they are built for and I hate hearing of folks avoiding certain roads because they’re a bit bumpy, and not to minimise punctures.

    There is a local hillclimbing ride here, where the first hill is up a gravel/dirt trail, roughly 8km long and 300m in elevation gain. It’s hard-packed and not too bad as long as you’re not riding it right after a heavy rain. I’ve heard of people using a close-by paved road instead, so they don’t mess up their fancy bikes. Seems stupid to me.

    I actually heard someone complaining about their bike getting dirty on the way up the climb. I broke in with “It’s a tool, it’s supposed to get dirty, it’ll be fine” and they returned with a “oh yeah, I guess…”.

    Then again, I am the idiot that took my road bike down what would better be described as “singletrack” the other week when I was exploring a local hill I’d never been up, which is a nature preserve as well. Going down that on a road bike was a bit dicey to say the least, but I managed to not crash!

    You are coming along nicely, Pedalwan. @Scaler911 is doing will to guide you.

    Speaking of that singletrack, I’ve spent the last three days in Winthrop, Washington – most beautiful place on Earth – reconning what appears to be thousands of miles of perfect mountain gravé. I have the workings in my head to commandeer G’rilla’s Gravé Cogal to Snoqualmie Falls (or supplementing it) and do a Gaveur Cogal up in the hills out there. The identified route involves something like 120km of perfect gravel roads over three of four passes, with a final section of singletrack better suited to hiking or a mountainbike (and with an escape-hatch gravel bypass for all the pussies) which will round out the pain nicely. Nothing like ending an imperial century with a full-on hike-a-bike CX course. Anything less would be wasted.

    And, I’ll plan on buying a keg of Imperial IPA for the campsite from which we’ll start and end. I’m thinking August. I’m thinking I might be riding alone.

  29. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    @mcsqueak I pedal with my heels turned in, like a ballerina.  So I wore the paint off my chainstay.  Good scar.

    Thought I might venture that you pedal with your heels pointed towards the V-Locus, which is more than just turned in.

    Definitely a good scar. Any news on the repair?

  30. @frank

    @Duende

    Bad scars include chips in the paint on the top tube acquired when a four-year old’s game of fetch with the dog in the house results in the dog slamming into the bike and bringing it crashing to the ground.

    It quite possibly feels that way when it happens, but that’s a story that tell’s itself! It starts with “four-year-old” and “fetch” along with the scene of “in the house” and builds from there.

    Gold!

    @velocodger

    Thanks for the reminder…I forgot to clean and put a little lube on the fork dropouts…it is a source of creaks….a tip I gleaned from a young but very competent mechanic. A noisy bike drives me crazy.

    And the QR-levers as well. My Merckx that’s maddening!
    @versio

    That, all around, is a beautiful bike. How many of those do you have around?

    And, with this subject and that Corsa Extra in your stable somewhere, I’m going to say what I think should have been said a long time ago: That MX Leader of yours is crying to me across the ether for you to pull out the quill adapter and begging for a real stem (Cinelli X/A) worthy of that bike’s heritage to replace it.

    Also had a Gazelle Champion Mondial (Team TVM) before the Corsa Extra (Reynolds Competition). I sold the “one’ Corsa Extra at 750.00. And slamming my steerer adaptor with a 130mm and 17 degrees negative and (31.8) carbon bars is a setup that I could almost never change. Although I will go look at the Cinelli. I like the Pazzaz Black Alloy Quill to A-Head Stem adaptor (1-1/8)

  31. @Dan O

    Great post – my thinking also.  Good scar:  Anything that occurs while bike in motion.  Lame scar:  Anything that occurs otherwise.

    One of my mountain bikes has all the usual good scars: Worn crank arms, various scratches, and other proof of off-road action.  It also has one bad scar: On the seatpost, where another bike rubbed against it while being transported.  Lame.

    Pisses me off every time I look at it…

    You know, I labored for ages over this fucking article, and there you go, doing better in one fucking sentence. Can I offer you a job? It involves hours and hours of 24/7 work for no pay. Interested?

    As to your scuff mark, I hear you. The VMH’s EV4 has such a scar from the most recent trip to Europe where we didn’t pack her up as perfectly as we should have. It kills me. On the other hand, it reminds both of us of the trip and I’m glad the bike went with us and it graced the slopes of all the major cols in France. I’m glad the bike came with us, I just should have packed it better. I guess I blame myself a bit, but I also classify it as a good scar.

    The question is, where did the bike go that cause the scar and was it  a good trip? If so, Its a good scar…

  32. @bonesx

    hey Frank, nice piece. but what do you mean by “stopping only just short of pampering it“? i don’t comprehend this theory

    Well-played, Pedalwan. But spoiled children wind up rotten. You don’t want to rub your bike in a diaper, but you do want to wipe the shit off it after riding it through Flanders.

  33. @Beaconjon

    Spot on again! Great article. Bikes are for riding and as such gain the scars of use.

    Here’s one for you though, I lost a load of the graphics from my anodised S-Works E5 last year as we drove down to the Alps, bike on roof, through some of the worst rain I’ve ever encountered. Could this be described as a good scar? Ok
    I wasn’t technically riding it at the time but it was involved in a pre-epic ride journey. Or am I just being a knob?

    I think my guidance to @Dan O serves for this one; would you rather have left her at home? I think not, unless you did a shit ride or wussed out because it was a bit drafty that day, or a bit damp, or you “didn’t feel 100%”. In that case, bad scar.

  34. Gazelle (Reynolds Competition) and Corsa Extra (SLX)

  35. @versio

    And slamming my steerer adaptor with a 130mm and 17 degrees negative and (31.8) carbon bars is a setup that I could almost never change. Although I will go look at the Cinelli. I like the Pazzaz Black Alloy Quill to A-Head Stem adaptor (1-1/8)

    The Cinelli X/A stems won’t slam, but the Cinelli titanium quill stems will, and offer the same -17 setup, which you will know, with that history of bikes, was the only real option until someone decided mountain bike stems belonged on road bikes.

    You need to either switch to an ahead fork/headset assembly or get a suitable quill fork. Even the 31.8 carbon bars you’ve got on there is no excuse as there are various NOS TTT bars with the same bend (within 1mm) available in 26.0 that will work with a conventional stem.

    If you can’t find a set, I have both somewhere in the stockpile and can check model numbers/names for you. The 31.8’s aren’t stiffer, either, as is often assumed, though the ahead stems are. But I believe you’re loosing the glorious stiffness already via that adapter and the frame/fork itself. And don’t tell me you need the carbon bars for ride comfort or weight because that MX Leader kills the first argument and causes irrelevance to the second.

    Do your frame proud, Pedalwan.

  36. @frank

    “I once took a perfectly good Les Paul and sanded down all the areas I thought should be worn out. I shouldn’t have done that – they all wound up being bad scars.”

    You, my friend, are going to hell.

  37. @frank This MXL frame is built up entirely with 2012 components. Everything. I love it.

  38. @Gianni

    @frank

    “I once took a perfectly good Les Paul and sanded down all the areas I thought should be worn out. I shouldn’t have done that – they all wound up being bad scars.”

    You, my friend, are going to hell.

    I also put a Bigsby tremlo on it, so I could play the solo to Keep on Rocking in the Free World without bashing it against my Marshal Half Stack. Which I’ve since also sold.

    The bashing, in the end, had a better effect than my playing, but either way, I wound up running this site with fuckers like you as my partners, so I guess, as the french would say, I’m fucked in hell anyway. (That’s a French saying, right?)

  39. Bad scar: my VMH’s cat ( i take no ownership/responsibility for this animal) knocking over my new bike and scratching up and bending the rear mech.  Stupid cat.   But otherwise I like the scars on a bike, it makes the machine unique and allows it to tell its own story. The scars become part of the machine’s personality.

  40. Bad bike …

  41. He’s got the good scars going for him. His photo really got me. He rides in our local Wednesday Group ride. I need to pinpoint him one week and just converse at whatever pace we choose

    .

  42. @frank

    @Beaconjon

    Spot on again! Great article. Bikes are for riding and as such gain the scars of use.

    Here’s one for you though, I lost a load of the graphics from my anodised S-Works E5 last year as we drove down to the Alps, bike on roof, through some of the worst rain I’ve ever encountered. Could this be described as a good scar? Ok
    I wasn’t technically riding it at the time but it was involved in a pre-epic ride journey. Or am I just being a knob?

    I think my guidance to @Dan O serves for this one; would you rather have left her at home? I think not, unless you did a shit ride or wussed out because it was a bit drafty that day, or a bit damp, or you “didn’t feel 100%”. In that case, bad scar.

    Cheers Frank for helping. That journey culminated in a week of heavy rain. The only day it didn’t rain I rode up the Colombiere. On the other shittily wet and cold days I rode regardless getting the crap beaten out of me on Avoriaz and the Joux Plane. When I get back home and work out how to post picks you’ll see I’m clearly “enjoying the work”.

    With regards the missing decals (just to humour you) they’ll always remind me of my trip to the Alps in 2011, cold set and bloody hard! Good scars.

    ps, it’s been hot this last 2 weeks in the alps, the Grand Colombier was a tester, great atmos though!

  43. Sorry I like to keep my rides as pristine as possible, breaks my heart to see my babies marked.

    OCD?

    Maybe

  44. Ride it like yer stole it.  Wash it down later.

  45. I understand this is an old thread but it reminded me of something that happened more than 25 years ago.

    I was into BMX at the time (Mid-80s) and I had acquired a Takara from a friend that was very beat up.  I spent half the summer fixing up this bike, stripped it to the bare frame, sand-blasted the cro-mo, sprayed multiple coats of primer and finish, rebuilt it with tons of new parts.  Spent all my summer earnings.  The frame was white, with blue rear wheel and red front wheel.  For the time it was pretty cool and I was very proud of it.  Sadly I don’t think there is a photo of it. I was a competitive swimmer, and I used to ride my bicycle to practice all the time.  One day I rode it in when some of the college guys had come back to swim with my age group team.  A guy named Jay Triepel decided that I loved that bike a little too much.  For a joke, he picked it up and stuffed it on top of the lockers.  My paint work was destroyed.  Needless to say I was a bit miffed by this, but he was about 4 years older and 40lbs heavier than me, so I didn’t have much recourse.  Crestfallen is all I can say.  I’m still mad about it now.

    BAD SCAR.

    Tom

  46. BITD I bought a Super Record Guerciotti and had it about three weeks when I got hit by an uninsured car.  Nothing sucks worse than making payments on a pile of twisted aluminum.

  47. @K

    Sorry I like to keep my rides as pristine as possible, breaks my heart to see my babies marked.

    OCD?

    Maybe

    Dude, my new CX bike, with its custom paint job is so far flawless. I almost want to crash it just to get over the pain of the first ding…having a perfect finish on an offroad rig is a dangerous ploy…

    @VbyV

    I’ll bet. Makes me mad just hearing it!

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar