You are gone, beautiful Condor, fallen in the battle with the morning traffic. You were fine and elegant, the best of bikes with your stylish mauve and white paint scheme, your single gear and lean steel frame, with your shades of retro coyly masking your modernity. More fool the would-be racers who thought otherwise. You were lightness beneath my seat; you were joyful spinning through the intervals of the road and the turning of the days. You were alert, responsive, durable and smooth. You were everything a bike should be.
But there was nothing you could do when the black Peugeot leapt like an angry bullock into our path this morning. We braked and swerved, but it was hopeless. We tumbled together for the first time, flicked into the air by the contemptible box. We rolled and clattered on the tarmac and you fell away from my sight as I gazed into the blinding sky, immobile. I turned to look and my heart rose when I thought you merely injured, like me. But then I saw your wound…
We had many fine rides together, Pista. How will I ever forget that wonderful day in Dorset when we rolled along the coastal road at the side of Jayne, entirely forgetful of time in the warm air and the glorious late May sunshine? I remember how we raced breathlessly through Poole and Bournemouth to get to Lisa’s wedding reception on time. You were the perfect bicycle for a perfect day.
It was you who taught me the joy of riding a fixed gear bicycle. You led me in the beginning, until we had earned each other’s confidence at corners and junctions, or when sitting snugly on Jayne’s wheel as she varied the pace. At your pedals I learnt to push for speed at the right point in the turning of the crank and to ease back smoothly as the traffic slowed. Together we learned to weave precisely through the traffic on the morning commute to Wandsworth – and I found that you could be as stealthy as a jaguar or as fluent as water pouring over the nicks and rucks and crevasses of the tarmac. You taught me to hold, to jump, to leap on the wheels of roadies with their click-click-clicking gears we had no need for; and to stay there, no matter how hard they tried to get away. You were fluid, but somehow still; sprightly, but ever certain of your course. You gave me the pure thrill of motion.
I did not cry when I saw your wound, because that would have dishonoured you. You never complained. When I pushed you through the rain – the snow even; when I forced you to strain up hills unsuited to your gearing, you never once groaned or squeaked or gave up the ghost. Like me, you were hungry for the road, the pressure on the pedals, the spinning of the cranks. You came alive then. You were not dead metal, but a spring-wheeled creature with an insatiable spirit coursing through your hand-wrought steel. And the life in your pedals pushed me on, it encouraged me when my legs were tired or my spirit flagging. It was always you I turned to when I needed motion.
But now you are gone. And in the last you protected me. It was you who took the worst of the impact. It was you who received the fatal blow, not me. Your warped wheel was replaceable, but the force that crushed and twisted your frame has struck you to your heart, and mine. Don’t rest in peace, old friend – but turn and jump and spin your steely joy forever.