02 November 2012

Archival Footage: Old Brown Shoes

The following post was originally published at FlagstaffBiking.org on May 10, 2003.

I've got an old pair of shoes, a set of simple, brown, eight-eyed Docs, that I’ve been wearing regularly, almost daily, for nearly ten years; I’ve never owned more useful footwear. I wear them to work several times a week.

I wear them when I'm working around the house.

I wear them when I ride Pipeline, Elden Spring, and Forces Of Nature home on my awkward Bianchi Incline commuter bike.

They’re scuffed, scratched, and way less shiny then they were when they were new, but even after so many years, they’re still a darn comfortable, darn sturdy, darn useful pair of shoes. I will wear them until the soles run through. And after that, if the toe boxes and heel counters are still holding up, I’ll get them resoled.

They are not my only pair of shoes. I have others, far more than I need really. But the Docs are my alphas, the first-shoes, the only ones I go to when I just need shoes, nothing fancy, simple shoes, ya know.

Perhaps you’ve got a similar pair?

 I’ve got an old mountain bike too, a simple, steel, cruiser-like rig with a rigid fork called a Retrotec.

Just like my Docs, I’ve been using this unusual bicycle for a long time, more than a decade. It is, among all the bikes that hang in my garage, the alpha-bike, my first, original, 'real' mountain bike, the long-ago upgrade from the dinged up, beat up, too-cheap bike I rode in college.

Hand-made by stoners in northern California, it is the bike that taught me how to ride Rocky Ridge. After so many years together, I think I understand it’s unique nuances, it abilities, its propensities quite well. I’d venture to guess that I ride it more proficiently, more effortlessly than any other bike I own.

After many years of selling bikes at Absolute Bikes downtown, writing regularly about bikes, and living on the fringes of Flagstaff’s bike community, I’ve haphazardly collected a few other bikes, more than I need really. But the Retrotec will always be the bike I choose to ride when I just want to ride a bike, ya know.

We upgrade all the time. There’s a compulsion in today’s world to upgrade. Media, retail, our friends, coworkers, even our neighbors all sell us on some version of this philosophy: upgrade or get dropped. And, to be totally honest The Upgrade is often quite good… skis that turn better, speakers that sound better, tires that go faster.

It stands to reason. If The Upgrade disappointed too often we would be far less inclined to be enticed by it. So, almost always, the upgrade delivers as-promised. And yet, along with the promise of The Upgrade comes neglect, uselessness, and often waste. The thing we upgraded from gathers dust, gets forgotten, left behind, or at best, garage-saled… just like Puff the magic dragon.

Where’s your old rigid mountain bike, the one with the splatter-paint paint job? Your old lugged road bike with the suede San Marco saddle and non-aero brake levers?  Seek out such a bike one of these days. Brush it off if it’s gathering dust in the garage. Or call the friend that you loaned it to back in ‘95 and borrow it back for just a day. Look around, ask someone who’s been riding for awhile if you can take a spin on one of her old castaways.

Go ride an old bike!

Make it useful again! Restore it to useful life as a commuter bike that no right-minded thief would ever steal. Ride an old classic and recall simpler, albeit slower times. Lube the chain, pump up the tires and call-up your oldest riding pal. Reminisce about that great old ride, the one that you both used to love, the one that got you hooked on bikes so long ago.

Fill up your fanny pack with sandwiches, put on your favorite old brown shoes, and go ride.

NOTE: I still have the bike. And the shoes. Wanted you to know. 

02 November 2012


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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey