March 18, 2010 by Natalie
The soul of a bike is a hard thing to locate. Among the bikes of my lifetime, I have traded wheels, swapped parts and repainted. Is it still the same bike when you turn it into a fixie? Is it a different bike if I paint it green and put cruiser bars on it? I don’t know.
But the bigger mystery goes like this, and happens in reverse: I work on a bike for months, from the conception to the fitting, design, fabrication, paint and assembly; and at some point it comes to life in a way that is bigger than I could have designed.
This bike was commissioned to do more than simply replace my customer’s ill-fitting and ancient road bike. It is designed to be her primary means of transportation and to fit like a glove. From the 650B wheels to the Brooks saddle, the Nitto bars to the purple paint, we were crafting a bicycle that was at once a vehicle and an intimate personal artifact. You can see in the details that this bike is meant to be used rigorously and loved tenderly.
But the soul of bike wasn’t made piece by piece. It has an old soul that is inherited from a tradition of city bikes. Visible in this bike are the same inspirations and considerations that you can see the work of Ant Bike Mike or the design of Grant Peterson. Their bikes respond elegantly to the question of how you ride comfortably, in all weather, along whatever route your day requires, with your cargo on board. It is this question that informs the tradition, conjures the soul, and if you look closely, you can see it reborn for a new body.