|image via oldbike.eu|
My delight over this find is disproportional to its collector's value. This bicycle isn’t rare or historically remarkable. It is not in immaculate condition. I do not expect it to ride better than my modern bike. I most certainly do not need it. And yet I do. How strange and unnatural it’s been, without a bunch of old crusty bikes around.
Is it the vintage-ness itself that I miss? Is it the elegant proportions, the matte black paint, the faded golden lettering and the smell of old steel? And is it also the caked dirt, the hard to budge bolts, the parched leather, the stiff springs? Is it, finally, the creaking?
Liking is such an important feeling, because it trumps everything. And with liking comes the impulse to explain. “I like it because…” – and we go on to list the thing’s merits, to present it as a rational decision. Vintage bikes are beautiful. Vintage bikes have a fine ride quality. Vintage bikes have historical value and so we can learn from them.
Liking things does have its root causes. They just aren't always what we think. And their logic may not be obvious or linear. It can come to us in waves - of imagery, or sound, or emotion. Why force it into an explanation, if in so doing we might lose its true substance?
A Triumph. I have not owned, or even ridden one of those before. Founded in Coventry, England in 1884, Triumph later split into separate motorcycle and bicycle manufacturers. The Triumph Cycle company produced a range of tourist and sport roadster models. It was bombed to destruction during World War II, then, after a brief recovery, purchased by BSA in 1951, which was in turn purchased by Raleigh in 1956. It was from this latter period that most of the imported Triumph 3-speeds in the USA came from, and so today they are largely remembered as a Raleigh sub-brand. In view of this history, the Triumph name is charmingly ironic.
The pre-acquisition Triumphs are of course more sought after than the later models. Until I see my bike in person I won't know its age for sure, but I suspect it to be post-Raleigh. Which is all right. A lovely, run of the mill bicycle. What it is about these old roadsters that makes me unable to leave them be, I cannot tell you. But I can already hear the swoosh of the worn tires and the noise of the hub, and it fills me with anticipation.
Is it the tick-tick-tick, like an amplified pulse of a living thing?