New Bike Day is like a birthday that falls on Christmas, but in a leap year during a full moon when your tax refund arrives in the mail and your grandmother drops off a fresh batch of cookies. I can tell you what I was wearing on my first real new bike day (hand-me-down older brother bikes are great but don’t count), when I was nine years-old. It was a forest green and black track suit from Oshman’s. I looked like someone’s grandpa on a cold day in South Florida.
The bike, though, was a bright red BMX and the sun and stars shone from it, the angels trumpeted its arrival as from heaven. I leaned hard into the pedals, sprinting away from the house, the faster to get that lightning chariot of dirt-chewing glee in front of my soon-to-be cripplingly jealous friends. It was one of the top five days of my life. I’m married and have two kids, so you do the math. It was revelatory. It was life changing. Forty years later I’m in the bike business. You can draw a straight line.
Yesterday I had another new bike day.
I absolutely shit you not when I tell you I’m not worthy of this bike. That I now own it can only be explained by the fact that I spent most of a decade working at a custom bike builder AND the fine people who work there somehow managed to maintain a favorable view of me as a human being. What it all adds up to is a bike at the absolute zenith of custom bike craft that also happens to be fitted to my exact proportions and built out with parts that I selected one-by-one from a bucket that includes more or less the entire inventory of the bike-industrial complex.
I have a new bike, and there is no other bike that I would have chosen, no matter how much money I had to spend.
And today I took it (and my dodgy shoulder) out into the New England countryside for a good thrashing (me, not the bike). It is so fine, so clean, so tight, so stable and yet aggressive, so handsome and yet unassuming, so comfortable and also seething with speed, that I can hardly stand it.
I’m rolling along, crunching through the kaleidoscope of fallen leaves, with a stupid smile on my face, and I’m thinking of my friends at the factory. I can hear the lathes turning and the mills spinning and see their hands coaxing form from a pile of tubing. I can hear the hiss of the welding rigs and smell the oil and coolant smell of the CNC machine, and I feel deeply, deeply grateful to be allowed into whatever club those people belong to.
That my shoulder cramped about three-quarters of the way through the ride was not important. That nothing about my riding justifies this fine a thing does not matter. When I was nine, and my parents gifted me that red BMX, I felt loved and seen in a way that every kid deserves to feel. Today was a lot the same, the alchemy of friendships and great bikes and perfect weather leaving me feeling like I’d done something right in my life, and that magic was still possible.