This morning I decided to fix up my bike. It needed air in the tires, a mirror, and new lights. I thought of getting different handle bar wraps, but didn’t. The book, Just Ride, a Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Petersen convinced me that my three speed was a good thing, nothing to be sneered at by the men in bicycle pants and streamlined helmets whizzing past me on the bike paths. There is an inspired passage in the book about things that are worn out. I quote it here at length.
In 1992 or so, at the Interbike Trade Show in Las Vegas,there was a 1952 Bianchi that had been ridden by Fausto Coppi, a famous racer from the 40s and 50s. The bar tape was tattered, 20 percent of the paint was worn away, and the leather saddle was well worn and looked like it had been ridden by a guy who didn’t want a new saddle because he hadn’t completely worn out the old one. It was the best-looking bike at the show, and the only one with beausage.
Beausage is kind of like patina, but not exactly. Patina is environmental degradation of metal, or something hard, at least. Nobody has to use the Statue of Liberty for it to acquire patina. Beausage, though, comes only through use. It’s not the same as worn out, though. Willie Nelson’s guitar, Trigger, straddles the fence between beausage and just worn out.
Willie Nelson’s guitar
You probably own a hatchet, chair, knife, guitar, camera, baseball glove, typewriter, or pair of blue jeans that have been well worn and look better for it.
Beausage can’t happen to just anything. The object has to be well made with good durable materials in the first place, so that use makes it beautiful without making it dysfunctional. A plastic storage box that gets sunburnt and brittle won’t acquire beausage.
Bikes should have beausage.
So that’s what my bike has, beausage.
Just saw Premium Rush with Joseph Gordon Levitt. He plays a free spirited messenger in Manhattan who must deliver a package quickly from Columbia University on the upper west side to Chinatown on the lower east side. The package has different meanings to three different people, a compulsive gambling cop, a worried mother, and a Chinese gambling house matron in Chinatown where the package is supposed to end up. The movie is full of chase scenes that take place on bicycle. There is joy in the riding. Once you learn how to ride a bike as a kid, bicycling comes with a liberating spirit. That feeling of childhood delight is what I came home with when the lights went down.
Some of the most amazing stunts were done by Danny Macaskill whose relationship with gravity is nebulous.