Returning to your roots can be both a rewarding and sobering experience. The nostalgia one feels for the halcyon days of youth, the memories of carefree times in the sun with the only concern to make it home in time for dinner, the hidden alleyways and secret spots where the bike would take you and not another soul in the world would know your whereabouts. To return to those very places only to find that they are gone, buried, replaced or neglected beyond redemption is a slap in the face, as if to say, times change, the past is gone, move on.
These past few weeks spent back in the stomping grounds of my childhood, youth and most of my adult life have reinforced a few things: some memories last forever, others are wiped fairly quickly, and sometimes the grass really is greener etc. Other times, the grass is burnt brown and crisp, but it’s still grass. Even with the ‘better’ choices we have in all aspects of our lives, there remains a certain romanticism and sense of ‘doing it right’ that comes with utilising the very things that were once themselves new and exciting. Like driving a Triumph Stag, or pedalling trails that you last rode under power of internal combustion in the 80s, or drinking a coffee in a building that was last used to vend goods in the 70s…
And shifting your Bicycle’s gears by taking your hand off the bars, reaching down and moving a lever.
Although it may be easier to push a button on an electronic device to play a song or shift gears, the ritualistic quality of placing a vinyl disc on a turntable or manipulating a lever and cable to achieve the same result still seems that much more… cool. We strive to Look Pro, but feeling Pro is so much harder to accomplish, even with the same equipment available to us. Jump on an 80s steel frame with 8 speeds controlled by down tube shifters, and immediately the Pro-ness quotient is doubled or tripled. Sure, you may need to employ a bit more coaxing to perfectly mesh chain and cog; granted you’ll be looking for an even lower gear that just doesn’t exist; fair enough you’ll struggle to keep up with the electronic carbon freaks as they beep and blip away up the road.
But they’ll never be cool. Not proper cool. Not Greg Lemond-playing-The Cure-on-a-Walkman-while-climbing-l’Alpe-in-the-19t cool. While those days may appear to be well behind us, we can still honour them and transport ourselves back in time by simply reaching down, not only into our memories but to a pair of small articulated levers, and shifting consciousness.