Get thee behind me, shiny new bike

Here is Mrs Mabbsonsea’s shiny new bike.

Her bike


It was fair enough. Her old one, which had carried each of our 3 children and all sorts of baggage as well as Mrs M herself over its 18 years, had stopped co-operating.

Here, by way of contrast, is my bike:

My bike


It’s just over a year old and it’s proving to be a trusty, reasonably fast workhorse and I like it very much.  But it’s no longer very shiny and the problem with spending time in bike shops is that they are full of shiny new bikes.  I liked the look of a smart single-speed city bike with drop handlebars.  I like the idea of the simplicity of not having gears, and a fixie would take that simplicity even further.  On the other hand, it might be fun to have an off-road bike and get out into the countryside.  The temptation was all too much and I had to retreat to a cafe to read my book about the non-growth economics of ‘Enough’ over a coffee and chocolate croissant while Mrs M took a couple of bikes for test rides.

How many bikes is enough?  (There’s a similar question to be asked about guitars, in my opinion).  The reality is that I don’t need more than one bike.  It won’t thank me for being taken off-road, but it’s fine – it’s enough – for what I want to do, really.  But I am a sucker for shiny new.  It alarms me how strong is my urge to acquire stuff – and I’m someone who doesn’t spend much time in shops and doesn’t look at much advertising and doesn’t worry much about my image.  If I find it so tempting, it’s no wonder that, as a society, we are consuming our way into oblivion.

The concept of ‘Enough’ is a good one, but I suspect it needs quantifying at a much lower level than most of us would like if we are to achieve a world in which all people and nature can thrive together.

An hour with some soapy water and a rag might restore shiny-ness to my bike, after all.


7 thoughts on “Get thee behind me, shiny new bike

  1. What a lovely, shiny new bike for your wife! 18 years seems a very honorable amount of time to have used her previous one. My beloved and very reliable workhorse/bike has become rusty with age and certainly deserves a bath having carried me all winter long through sand and salt and snow. I sometimes wonder what whales and dolphins, who lack opposable thumbs, would make of our desire to grasp, to have, to carry, to manipulate. They appear to have at least as significant brain structures as we do — yet their culture and relationships with other beings have been built on very different skill sets…

    1. I would pay good money to see a dolphin ride a bike … although only if it were doing so of its own free will, of course. Humans aren’t the only animals to hoarde stuff, but we do seem to have made an art form of it – way beyond our basic needs. I gave my bike a clean today till the spokes shone in the sunshine, then had a lovely ride along the seafront.

      1. You are an inspiration! Temperatures are still in the teens and twenties here. Once warmer weather returns, I will follow your lead…

  2. Alex, my daughter Lizzy read your post and she very much identifies with the cooing over shiny new bikes… her top tip is to use wet tin foil on the spokes and rims to remove rust, and it comes up a treat!

    1. Sounds like a good tip – thanks. Thankfully, mine aren’t rusty yet, they were just covered in grey dust which, I think, mostly came from the worn out brake pads.

    1. I’m currently reading ‘Enough is Enough’ by Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill, published (in UK, anyway) by Routledge. So far so stimulating. I am coming across the basic idea all over the place at the moment – that we need a new economics that’s not predicated on growth. Here’s a good quote from Kenneth Boulding: “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”

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