I Like My Old Bike
Updated: Jul 1, 2021
It is common for cyclists to be tempted by new cycling technologies and gear. True enthusiasts may be familiar with the "n + 1" theory of bike possession with "n" representing the current number of bikes owned and "n + 1" the number of bikes that one should have. For me, "n" equals a (perfectly reasonable!) five bikes. Even though I enjoy having a "quiver" of bikes to suit different sorts of rides (mountain biking, fast road riding, commuting...), I've recently found myself gravitating towards my oldest bike, reaching for it most often when I want to go for a ride.
The bike is a 2009 Redline Conquest Pro which was designed for cyclocross racing. I purchased it secondhand from an intimidating female rower who I met at the Head of the Charles race in 2011 (she stood almost a foot taller than me and the bike was clearly too small for her!). I had started my cyclocross exploits earlier that fall using my steel touring bike- a heavy rig with a triple chainring that was not designed for the rigors of cyclocross racing. The Redline was a revelation for me. Purpose-built for my new sport, it gave me incredible confidence. I rode almost 50 cyclocross races on the bike. It weathered mud, sand, and stone, surviving countless minor crashes in myriad conditions. As I grew more interested in gravel riding, it carried me on longer rides such as the 75 mile Tour of the Battenkill and the Farmer's Daughter gravel ride. Almost every major component has been replaced or rehabilitated, including wheels, bottom bracket, shifters, cranks, and pedals. I ditched the front derailleur for a single chainring setup years ago and never looked back. I'm on my third rear derailleur (my last one was almost shorn off by my rear wheel after a minor crash at a gravel race bent it out of alignment). Tubeless tires with lots of volume and fast-rolling treads are my most recent and exciting upgrade; they are excellent for dirt roads and impart enormous comfort on longer rides. A cheap suspension seat post does a surprisingly good job of smoothing out rough roads.
Every few years, I catch myself browsing the newest cycling technologies. I have hydraulic disc brakes on my mountain bike and I appreciate their power and ease of use. I covet new gravel bikes with these installed. What added confidence would these give me when descending on rough or wet roads? How much wider tires could I install if I had a more modern frame? Part of my brain contorts itself to justify spending thousands of dollars to acquire these small perks.
But so far, I've resisted. I spend my money instead on maintenance and smaller upgrades. Well beyond its 10th birthday now, my bike is approaching "retro" status when compared to the bikes of my fellow riders. In any group ride or event, it's likely to be the only one with cantilever brakes. At the close of a recent trip to my local bike shop for maintenance, one of the mechanics said something to the effect of "keep it going!" I'm proud to have enjoyed so many miles and experiences with this machine. The maintenance required to keep it running well is almost akin to a meditative practice for me.
I'm sure I'll have a "new bike day" one day in the (maybe distant) future. But until then I'll enjoy my aging steed and give it the care necessary to keep it spinning over the next hill.