Whenever the topic arises between himself and a friend of his, the friend jokes that Peter has three bikes too many, to which he retorts that he has one bike too few.
In my circle of dearly held friends, Peter Rogers is among the most creative, the most engaging and certainly the most amusing. At our software company, he is employed as an interface designer: if you want to know anything about layout, colour, form or the user experience, Peter is your man. How things are perceived matters to him, and how he comports himself reflects this. He often wears a t-shirt with some eye-catching pattern that he himself designed. His glasses always reflect the latest trend. His choices are purposefully shrewd. Peter’s taste transcends hip: he has his own unique and inviting style. His bicycles reflect this love of beauty and form.
“What do you ride into work?” I ask him.
“I ride a Raleigh beater,” Peter tells me. This particular model was imported in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s from England. “I thought it’d be a practical commuter bike, but it’s not in good shape and it’s clunky to ride,” he admits. Worse, the Raleigh company’s done itself the common disservice by making even the nuts proprietary, so they must be ordered from the U.K. Worse still, he can’t adjust the nut on the seat so his knees are beginning to ache from the seat settling with use.
Still, this model of bike appeals to Peter. For one thing, it’s upright, so he can see traffic. Beaters don’t go super fast, which Peter considers a safety advantage when commuting. He likes that the kickstand, the big bell, the basket, the internal hub and three-speed action all contribute to a perception.
“This is a bike of the gentry,” he explains. Peter knows he can wear a suit and not worry that he might arrive at his destination with grease stains.
“Okay,” I say. “That’s one bike. What else do you own?”
For city errands, Peter uses a Bianchi 10-speed, which he describes as a “hot bike.” This bike was produced in the early ‘80s. Compared to the Raleigh’s wheels, the wheels on the Bianchi are thin, which translates to a faster ride. This is the bike for wearing shorts in the summer. It was his commuter bike until it was replaced by the Raleigh, which doesn’t invite theft and is more aesthetic.
In case I get the idea Peter considers his Bianchi remarkable for speed, he describes being out there zipping along and suddenly being passed by “fat people on a better bike,” which brings us to his third and most expensive bike. A couple of years ago, he decided to invest in something exceptional, a Specialized Tri-Cross Comp.
“This bike is a low-end fancy schmancy bike,” he declares, poking fun at our office use of technical terminology. It’s lightweight, has clip-on pedals, handle-grip brakes, and it delivers a fantastic ride. You only have to turn the pedals once or twice on this bike to realize its quality. He travels in everyday attire on the other two bikes; on this bike he rides in the full lycra gear and a special helmet.
Self-effacing as ever, Peter recounts how he discovered the British have coined a term to describe amateur tri-athletes (whose average age of forty-one is close to his own).
“They’re called MAMILs: Middle Aged Men in Lycra,” he tells me. We both gulp, and then laugh. Embarrassed by this, Peter typically avoids technical gear.
Being competitive, he calls a memorable 90KM ride “pretty sweet” going down hills at over 50 KPH and feeling both terrified and exhilarated.
“I am the engine!” he declares with triumph. “I like swallowing up the road, riding to exhaustion so I can overtake the feeling, not of moving the bike, but of moving the landscape.”
Maybe it’s because his friend teases him about the number of bikes he feels obliged to keep, or maybe it’s his humble Newfoundland upbringing that makes for this embarrassment of riches, but Peter launches next into a charming apologia. A few years ago, Peter was not riding at all, being overwhelmed by the effort necessary to prepare the bike for even a short ride. When he got back into it, he realized he was taking along his “last will and testament” each time and needed to channel his energy more efficiently, which is why he feels three bikes are necessary. For a simple errand, you just put on a helmet and go. You only need all the bells and whistles if you’re hoping to sweat.
The Raleigh is his most cherished bike of the three, and yet, it’s slated for replacement. Last year, he was salvaging parts for it, and realized it was only a mass-produced bike that didn’t warrant the effort required. His excuse for not getting rid of the Bianchi is that he can’t imagine the next person taking good enough care of it.
Further, these two bikes combined cost him less than $350, but as any cyclist knows, it’s not about the cost. Each of his bikes has a specific purpose; both the Raleigh and the Bianchi are being used regularly and are not, in his mind anyway, considered an extravagance.
He then stops because he has one more justification for me. The Bianchi—the bike he obviously feels the most guilt over—is featured in Google Street View, because it was locked up on the street when the Google mapping occurred.
“I can’t get rid of the Bianchi,” he gasps. “It’s famous!”