Getting something new is a special joy on its own. Walking into a clothing store, and picking out a fresh, brand new shirt, and feeling the caress of smooth, perfect fabric, with that tantalizingly clean smell, is certainly a hard to beat feeling. A new car, a new stove or home appliance are always an excitement to obtain, though these, like the clothes, tend to go through a “honeymoon” period, where all is bright for a few months or weeks, and then the object ceases to be “new”, in our minds and we begin to see its flaws.
But, yet another joy, and rather on the opposite end of the spectrum, is to take something old and broken, something others might even regard as “trash”, An old, rusty car– a tarnished antique, an aged wooden table, or occasionally a living something like a shelter dog or cat, or sometimes even a person. There is an aspect to a story of change and transformation that never ceases to attract us. In the story of Pygmalion, Linguist Henry Higgins decides to accept a challenge- turning the bedraggled flower-selling and Cockney accented Eliza Doolittle into a lady, by refining her speech and mannerisms. In the play, to our gratification, with much work and coaching, Eliza learns and changes- to the point where, when she attends a grand reception, she is unrecognizable and thought to be a foreign dignitary. It is a beautiful Cinderella story.
But the same story is even more true of bikes. Finding an old bike can be like finding a gem stone in its raw form, and the subsequent sanding, painting, polishing and restoring can be as rewarding a process. It’s true, many maybe the equivalent of finding a common piece of quartz. But some bikes are like finding a rare emerald or carbuncle hiding beneath the rust and grease.
For myself, a few lucky finds lurking amid the junk at garage sales found me a mongoose, and to cap my joy, an old Schwinn. The Schwinn had been rusty, a dull, dirty white color, with decaying grips and battered tires. Over the period of a week I put on new tires, a red coke-crate for a rack, taped shiny black tape on the handles, cleaned the rims, spokes and chain, and then I gave my new bike a paint job… For the paint, I chose a bright, vibrant lime-green, and actually used an acrylic and a simple brush to stroke it on, very meticulously. The result was like a living definition of “cool and sleek”. My beautiful green Schwinn lasted several years, until eventually, it was stolen.
Yesterday, I was inspired to write this, when my friends surprised me with a new “old bike”. It is black, with wide handle bars, on which I have already put new grips, and an unusual, artistically curving frame. As I stood bent over, rubbing the rust off of the rims and handle bars, and making them shine brightly once again, I began to see a new bike rising like a Phoenix, from its former, broken down and abandoned self. With a new chain and tubes, the bike is rolling once more. And this morning I rode it to work, I thought along the way of the Princess that my former ‘Cinderella” bike is becoming.