Monday, December 20, 2010

Iconic Metal

My grandfather used to commemorate all of his major landmarks in his lifetime by the car he happened to be driving at the time. He loved his cars. He’d make references like, “I remember when…that was when I had my 52’ Plymouth”.

This past week, I ceremonially built up my 1999 custom painted Titanium Kona Hei Hei. Every year I pull this bike out, I fall in love with it all over again. There is special meaning and emotions connected to this bike.

I have been blessed with great sponsors and help with a sport that I otherwise could never afford to have the latest and greatest. I am very thankful for every new bike I’ve attained each season. However, despite their pretty looks and high performance, these days my bikes have become more of a tool rather than a jewel.

I had worked all summer to purchase the Hei Hei frame. I carefully tallied my hours and calculated the exact day I could get on the phone and order the fine steed. I spent countless hours thumbing through the QBP catalogue reconfiguring my dream build and meticulously piecing together the most finely matched anodized pieces of flare, down to the crimp caps and bolt kits.

Every year I pull this bike out I am reminded of what bikes meant to me back then and how they made me feel. I had never crossed the line before the rest of the field yet, I hadn’t ever ridden a hundo before, I didn’t realize how therapeutic bikes could be, and I certainly had no clear concept of just how far a bike could take a person. The bike simply represented unchartered potential, hope, and aspiration. It was the infancy of my love affair of man and velo machine.

This winter season, I have a few frames in my stable worthy of being relegated to winter riding. However, last week I reached for the Hei Hei once again when it came time to coble together this seasons “winter beater”. The more I think about it, the more I realize there may have been some deeper sub conscious underlying psychology as to why I did this.

The day before I built up the bike, I heard a few dreaded words that had never really crossed my mind before. “Tim is getting old enough, that even he is starting to get a bit outdated in the racing world”.

Since my involvement in the sport I have always been driven by personal progression. Besting previous years has always been something that has been consistently achieved. I must admit, at first I was a bit taken back by this comment. Are my best years behind me? I’ve always thought I still have races to be won that have not yet been won.

I was quickly soothed by the idea that whether or not I am outdated, there will inevitably come a day when I do become outdated. A day when much like my grandfather, I look back and say; “I remember when I won…that was when I was riding my 2005 Trek…”. When this day comes, will that be it for me? Will I hang up my bikes permanently and let them collect dust for the rest of my life, leaving them with nothing more than the stories of adventures had in the past? What soothed me was that I realized I would never let this happen. There will always be a race for me despite whether it’s an elite race or not. You are never “at the top”; there is always someone capable of besting even your greatest form. I have learned to play the game. Even more importantly, I have learned to love the game of bike racing.

So perhaps this is why I built the Hei Hei back up. I wanted once again climb atop the bike that really helped to start it all for me and represented hope and aspiration. After all, this was the first bike I had ever won a race on, raced a 24hr race on, and rode 100miles with. Everyone has that one bike they'll never sell, this is it for me. I've probably had around 20+ bikes since this one, but I'll always come back to it.

Winter riding is a ritualistic time to set new goals. It's a time to be driven by your dreams. Next season I plan to continue to play the game.