Of rust, errands and love: An ode to the beater bike

November 24, 2014

by Kristin Butcher

It’s your ugliest bike. It’s your heaviest bike. It might be your only bike. It sits in the rain and the snow and the sun, leaning against the side of the garage when not in use. You don’t even bother locking it up as the chipped paint and rusted exterior act as a built-in theft deterrent. It’s your worst bike.

It’s also your favorite bike.

It may be unattractive with the aerodynamic prowess of a VW Thing, but this is the bike that will always get you there, no matter where ?there? is.

It’s the bike that gets you to work on time, still smiling after weaving beautiful lines around stagnant rows of cars during the morning’s rush hour traffic. It’s on this high-tensile steel medium where the stresses of work are shed at the end of the day. With each pedal stroke, you forget about the irony of that conference call where the CEO implored everyone to think outside of the box as you listened from the comfort of your fluorescent-lit cubicle.

Each pedal stroke means something, something real, something tangible. Each turn of the pedals gets you somewhere, both physically and mentally. You spend the entire day clicking and clacking into a computer screen, the results of which happen somewhere else, or at least, that’s what the spreadsheet tells you. But here, on your dutiful steed, the results are immediate. Pedal, go forward. Pedal harder, go faster. Look around, breathe in, experience everything.


Kristin’s own bike that has lasted her through the years.

You?re not waiting for life to start happening once you finally get to where you?re going. The truth is, it doesn’t matter where you?re going, not when you?re on a bike like this. The grocery store run isn’t an errand you cram between coffee and kids. Now, it’s an escape coupled with a little game you like to call, ?How much food can I carry this time?? With a backpack and a pair of ratty panniers you?ve had for ages, you play produce Tetris until your packs are hemorrhaging bananas, lettuce and the watermelon you got just to see if you could. With the last bungee cord strapped into place, you smile. Everything holds. You won the game. You always win the game.

Going to the doctor. Going for a drink after work. Going just for the sake of going. It’s all more fun on this bike?a bike most folks wouldn?t even bother retrieving from the dump. The frame may be old, but the parts are solid and sometimes even quiet. The big bell reminds you to have more fun and take more detours than you do on that fancy road bike, if you are fortunate enough to have one. The basket on the front reminds you to take more with you than you do on that mountain bike, maybe some lunch and a good book. The beautiful sound of the chain whirring against the cog reminds you why you love this bike so much.

It’s a rainy Wednesday. The type of day when everyone would rather be inside. And here you are, stuck at a light behind another rider. You can’t help but ogle their clapped-out bicycle and the makeshift fenders made from plastic water bottle halves zip-tied to the frame.

You might just have to do some upgrading of your own when you get home.

Kristin Butcher is a freelance writer based out of Boulder, Colorado, she spends her time writing about people, the outdoors and, of course, bikes. You can read her column, Butcher Paper, in BIKE Magazine.

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