Does a Bike Have a Soul?

Does a Bike Have a Soul?

by / / 173 posts

Does a bike have a soul? I can’t make that argument, I don’t think I do either, actually. But we do invest a lot of emotion, pride and dare I say love in our bikes. We form emotional bonds to inanimate objects all the time. My favorite old dead car had to sit in the driveway for another year falling further into rusty disrepair before I had it towed away. On an American call-in radio show Car Talk, a caller asked if the engine was a car’s soul and if the car had a new engine put in, did the car lose that soul? This led to a discussion of where else its soul might be and I was more than amused to have them suggest the soul resides in the headliner of the interior.

My Merlin, with its recently discovered hairline crack can’t go into a dumpster when finally put down. It would be like throwing your dog’s corpse into a dumpster. Hopefully there is a market for alloyed titanium and it can be recycled, re-smelted, reborn as a (gasp) golf club. Or does it go over the mantle? Or out to stud? Or a desperate last ditch back alley surgery?*

Do pros bond with their bikes? They can’t, they are on new bikes every other week. There would be a lot of weeping at the service course if they did.

I’m not quite in the market for a replacement but I could be heading in that direction and it brings me to conundrum number two: what are you buying when you buy a new bike? In the old days if you lusted after a steel Colnago Master you ended up with a steel bike made in northern Italy. You were buying into an Italian artisan fantasy aided by the fact that the coolest professional you liked rode a Colnago. Many years ago a American friend did just that and found out the Colnagos shipped to the USA were made in a second Italian factory, more the apprentice shop. My friend’s Colnago’s rear dropouts were misaligned by almost a centimeter, rideable but not the Italian ideal. Ernesto was not working on his bike. Truth be told, all these bikes were made on some sort of assembly line made by underpaid possibly bored workers. What coming out of a factory isn’t?

Now if I want a Colnago, there is a very good chance it will be made in Taiwan on an assembly line by underpaid possibly bored workers. The same factory will also be knocking out Giants and Scotts. The good news is the rear dropouts won’t be out by a centimeter. They will be close to perfect. My point, if I have one, is the euro-fantasy part of this is gone.

If you need your frame to have a soul there is still hope. I’ve been lucky in that my last two bikes were made in shops I actually walked in, looked at the racks of tubes, spent a little time breathing the air in there. My steel bike was built in a one man shop, a standard 60 cm frame but built for me for $350, a sum at the time which was outrageous to the non-velominati. My Merlin was second hand but I went to the factory and spent some time there helping to restore its luster and put on new decals. If bikes had souls they would be imparted by the builders who put a lot of effort and some love into transforming some uncut tubes into something as fantastic as a frame. The soul might still be there in the small shops like Cyfac in France or Moots in the USA where the person who selects the tubing might be the same person as the one who joins the tubes and worries over that frame’s details. But they don’t have souls or spirits, do they? Native Americans believe inanimate objects do. If a rock does, if a stream does, maybe a bike does. Or more likely I’m full of it, a frame is just a hunk of carbon or metal and it’s all a matter of design, execution and price.

If your Colnago EPS is built in Italy it would be in this place. Does this add or subtract to the euro-fantasy?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRt4p7M1QFw[/youtube]

*the little known bottom bracket-ectomy, where the old BB is milled out and a larger BB 30 is neatly welded in, voila, ridable bike!

// The Bikes

  1. Bikes are bikes, but cool bikes are better than non-cool bikes




    0
  2. I confess: I ordered my Seven for at least some of these reasons. I have a card with the signatures of the craftsmen that made my bike. I talked to them on the phone. My local safesperson built my bike up to my specs.

    Priceless.




    0
  3. The guy cutting the tubes at the start of the video doesn’t ride a bike does he?




    0
  4. @brad

    Bikes are bikes, but cool bikes are better than non-cool bikes

    yeah, you might be right there. That would have saved me a lot of writing and thinking. But then there wouldn’t be a beautiful photo of a Colnago to admire.




    0
  5. I don’t know if all bikes have souls; most likely some do and some don’t. This one definitely does; in fact the frame has somehow assimilated more soul since I replaced the crank with a standard double, the rear mech with a short cage, and the handlebar with one having a proper bend. Then again, I’m a sucker/hopeless romantic when it comes to these sorts of things.




    0
  6. We’re in “Third Policeman” territory again aren’t we…




    0
  7. ooh – I’m awaiting moderation – haven’t seen that one before




    0
  8. Not sure about a soul, but the km’s you do with the bike build a relationship with you. Mine is in the LBS and I am missing it bad. Even though it’s only an entry level alu Boardman.

    Listening to this years commentary from the tdf and Vuelta, it seems pro’s ‘prefer’ a certain bike, even if it’s completely rebuit every night. Don’t knoiw if this is superstition or what, but I like the thought of them having a preference.




    0
  9. @the Engine

    ooh – I’m awaiting moderation – haven’t seen that one before

    That usually means the spam filter is going batty again. There were a pile of them in the queue. Don’t be alarmed, you’re not actually being moderated. As we notice this happening, we do our best to keep up with approving them.




    0
  10. Yes. We truly feel frames that come to life and connect with our souls. Whatever the cost, we buy them.




    0
  11. Moots ‘American Soul’ Vamoots.




    0
  12. Absolutely, a bike has a soul. Complete anthropomorphism, but what’s life without a little embellishment? It’s a meaningful relationship, albeit one-sided. The sport is one of beauty and drama…if we couldn’t believe that our noble steeds were more than a hunk of metal or carbon, we wouldn’t be fans of the sport anyway.




    0
  13. Frame builders breath a soul into a bike. We (owners) put the soul (add) to the bike. Bike takes on a soul of it’s own from there.




    0
  14. If you have some small hairline cracks try to braze them. If you do it properly the brazed crack should be almost as strong as the new material.

    http://www.titanium-brazing.com/products.html




    0
  15. My Cinelli may not have a soul but it sure has the heart of a lion. A shame it’s piloted by a hippopotamus.




    0
  16. After years of wrenching on just about everything…I’d say no they don’t, it’s just a machine.

    Karma on the other hand…definitely.

    Treat it properly and it will treat you properly.




    0
  17. Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips) works at the Colnago factory?




    0
  18. Bikes can have a soul but only those made of metal, steel bikes have lots of soul, and so do ti bikes, aluminum bikes can have a little soul but carbon bikes have no soul. When a soul tries to find a home in a carbon bike it slips through the weave never to be seen again.




    0
  19. @kg_c Wouldn’t that be strange if a bike were haunted by it’s dead rider.




    0
  20. Realised that that comment may offend. I apologise.




    0
  21. @kg_c

    Bikes can have a soul but only those made of metal, steel bikes have lots of soul, and so do ti bikes, aluminum bikes can have a little soul but carbon bikes have no soul. When a soul tries to find a home in a carbon bike it slips through the weave never to be seen again.

    Charlene my carbone most certainly has a soul…




    0
  22. @the Engine

    ooh – I’m awaiting moderation – haven’t seen that one before

    We are watching you…in your dank little room.




    0
  23. All bikes have souls. Even mass produced supermarket abominations do if it they are ridden enough. The soul resides in the rider’s relationship with it.




    0

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar