I once bought a white bicycle. I hadn’t specifically gone for white – I just liked the bike. What’s more, it was a cyclo-cross bike – I wasn’t looking for a cycle-cross bike either!
A friend just happened to be selling it and it was a bargain, so I parted with my cash and took it home.
Such is the way of buying bikes. In my life it is, anyway. Looking at it as it stood in my garden I noticed the white had an almost pearlescent sheen to it and it turned out to be a very fine bike indeed.
Using it I have discovered the joy of riding what is essentially a road bike with drop-handlebars, but has tyres capable of dealing with some rough stuff too.
There is a delight to be found in riding along the road and then suddenly veering off onto a little dirt path that leads into a forest from which you emerge on the other side.
It opens up a new web of routes and keeps you guessing as to where your steed will take you that day. I often like to ride without a plan in mind, and my cyclo-cross bike adds to those possibilities.
There is a problem however, and it comes back to the bike’s colour. It is white, which, when clean, allows that pearlescent sparkle to shine. I am a stickler for cleanliness on my bike.
My car is a midden, but I like to keep my bikes one pedal stroke away from godliness. For such a compulsion a white bike, I now realise, is not a wise choice. All it takes is one short ride for that bike to look neglected.
So staying on top of the cleaning of said bike is a necessity. Now, I am someone who enjoys cleaning his bike, but when that routine becomes an occurrence that needs to happen after every ride, then my patience runs thin.
There is also the fact that no matter how much I wash, de-grease, polish and clean that white bike, there is always a smudge of dirt somewhere that I just can’t get rid of. All that the cleaning seems to do is smear the dirty mark somewhere else on the bike.
Even those times where I am convinced I have succeeded in a purity of pedalling machine as soon as I mount my steed I invariably notice a greasy mark that will annoy me for the rest of the ride.
Perhaps the popularity of sleek, black carbon frames is in part because of the dirt cloaking properties of black. Like a black hole a black frame seems to suck dirt into its depths never to be seen again – unless you look closely that is.
Often in my work I am required to assist clients to build their bikes from the disassembled parts that lie in a box that they have just flown from the UK to France with. It always amazes me how many of those ultra-expensive carbon, super-bikes are super-filthy.
I wonder if the problem is that the owner can’t see the dirt, or just can’t be bothered cleaning it off – I suspect a bit of both. For me it is the cycling equivalent of someone dragging their fingernails down a blackboard. On one occasion, a client told me that his gears weren’t indexing properly. He had tried adjusting them, and the chain still kept skipping.
I took one look at the bike and told him to come back in 30 minutes. When he returned, he was amazed that I had the gears running smoothly and he asked what the miracle fix had been. “I cleaned it,” I said as I walked away with a smile on my face.