Thursday, June 21, 2012

Farewell to an Intimate Cycling Companion

I'm not going to make it through this post without tearing up a bit.

You see, I had to say goodbye to a cycling companion last week. Not just any companion, either, but one with whom I was intimate. And I don't use the word "intimate" lightly here -- this companion and I were as close in many ways as you can be. Maybe too close.

But it was time. She'd lived a long full life, and the years and harsh living were showing badly. We could have done some things to forestall the inevitable, but instead she went out with grace and dignity.

I loved her. She supported me through some rough patches, and I will forever be in her debt.

She was my saddle.

Here she is in better days, when I first got the Lynskey. Do you remember? She was there when I needed her -- rarely squeaking, and chaffing only when I deserved it.

You can't really tell, but that's her here, too. She was on the aluminum Masi that I rode on my first 600K and my only 1200K. Sure, we had some bad times during this -- you can't ride 750 miles in 85 hours and not have problems with every point at which your body is making contact with the bike -- but we survived. A few months later, when my Lynskey came in, I ordered another Terry Liberator Race Ti and put it on the Masi, but she moved over to the Lynskey. She had been tried in battle, and emerged victorious; thus, she must remain with me on all ultracycling endeavors.

She wasn't my first, of course. There was a Selle Italia that I used on many centuries, but couldn't handle anything longer. When I got into randonneuring, I got a Brooks  -- it lasted just over 1,000 miles. A Specialized Body Geometry  survived 300Ks and 400Ks, but a huge fight on our first 600K brought up some things that highlighted our irreconcilable differences. There was even a Selle Anatomica that I had broken in on my Salsa single speed with great success, but it was not up to the rigors of ultra distance.

You gotta kiss a few frogs before you find that princess, you know.

As with all successful relationships, part of it was that she came along at the right place and the right time. I'd matured enough to realize that I couldn't do this alone, and we needed counseling to work through some problems. Lynn Greer at Gran Fondo in Nashville helped us find ways to overcome our issues, with the help of quality time on the fit trainer and accompanying changes to seat post and stem.

It takes a village.

We've ridden over 30,000 miles together, during the past five years. There had been a few minor crashes, but nothing calamitous. I bear more reminders of those mishaps than she does.

But 30,000 miles is a long way. My flesh heals -- hers doesn't. The seams were beginning to pop, and her skin was no longer as smooth as before. Maybe my wrinkles don't bother her, but hers were beginning to bother me ... in places that I don't care to be bothered.

We all have friends that resort to surgery to try to hang onto youthful vigor. Sure, careful application of duct tape might have gotten her another year, but we would both know that the duct tape was there. Better that she retire with class, memories of our grand escapades unsullied by pretense. I plan to build a monument to her, surrounded by the medals for the rides on which she bore me.

Meanwhile, a young ingenue now sits in the place of honor.

She is the newest generation of the Terry Liberator Race Ti line. Sleeker, lighter, a little more high tech, she has done a laudable job nestling my nether regions on a couple of 100+ mile rides in the past week. I think that she will do her grandmother proud, and build upon her legacy.

But I will always been in the debt of that grand old dame. My intimate companion. My saddle.


  1. I teared up a bit myself. How poignant! When I, as your other old girl, go, will you build a monument to me and the medals we have won?

    1. I would say that I plan to place your ashes on the mantle, in a gold urn in which your wedding ring has been embedded, surrounded by pictures of us throughout our many years. But that won't happen, since we all know that I'm going first.

  2. After multiple Super Randonneur efforts and R-12's my Selle Anatomica saddle was retired to the most treasured place of honor I can imagine. There are no medals surrounding it. It has not been "bronzed".

    It is on my wife's bike.

    1. Well played, John. Kind of like putting the old racehorse out for the kids to ride -- a gentle retirement.

    2. BTW: The racehorse is the saddle, of course, and not your wife.