For some reason I’ve been following this housing trend around small houses. Only have what you need and everything else is noise. I like this. My house now isn’t big––about 100 square metres. For a family with two growing boys in this day and age this could be considered small. Nothing like the 25–30m² houses that are being touted for small houses, but small all the same. I moved to Wellington after living in a new suburb of 200m² houses on 300m² sections. To me, that was a place where youthful desire went to die in middle-aged complacency. When I consider my current house, every time the conversation turns to more space, I argue we don’t need more space; we need less stuff.
So, six months in, what does my hardtail have to do with the footprint of 21st century houses? Physically, nothing. Philosophically, everything.
I often recall my favourite bike of all time. It wasn’t the best, the fastest, the nicest or the most expensive––quite the opposite. It was a simple Marin Pine Mountain. It gave me the same freedom as a Morrison Comet BMX had 20 years earlier. When I moved to London I sold everything. For the next three and a half years I was going to be living in the centre of one of the world’s largest cities—hardly a mountain biker’s paradise. But after a few months a bike was unavoidable. I had little money and less space. I had no tools and didn’t want to do maintenance. So singlespeed it was. This bike, or minor variants of it, was my bike of choice for the following three years. I rode to and from work every day. I hit up Epping Forest in the weekend and rode events whenever I could—the famous London Beastway series, 24 hour races, 100km events. I travelled near and far. I had to carry it four flights of stairs to my flat every day. There was no garden hose and we had cream-coloured carpet. I had to stand it upright on a landing with the front wheel off; there was simply nowhere else to put it. I loved that bike. It was everything to me. Space and money had dictated our union, but it was a happy marriage.
On my return to New Zealand there have been more bikes through my shed than I care to count. The choices endless. Satisfaction only temporary. Again it’s taken an external factor for me to focus. My public announcement to ride a hardtail for a year forced my hand. When everyone else sees a stupid decision, I see a simple love affair. The Yelli Screamy and I have bonded. I ride her for everything; there is no indecision, no rued choices. She’s not without her faults. An unusual chainline means I can’t run the largest cog in the rear cassette without the chain rolling off the front chainring. A limiter screw solves the problem, but it’s still stupid. I’m forgiving though; it’s a perfect imperfection. In fact, I’ve become so accustomed to the virtues of a well-handling hardtail that the thought of a full suspension bike is making me nervous. Look at all those linkages. All that wear. That energy-sapping travel. Surely it’s not efficient. I’m even turning my nose up at test bikes. I don’t want to pollute the experience. I’m talking in short sentences. I must be going mad.
As for the Pine Mountain, she was cast aside not long after my return home when choices were so abundant. I had some money and space—full suss was calling me again. She did however still hold a special place in my heart. Her odd-shaped tubes, triple butted Columbus goodness was too good to go to the highest bidder. Surely no one could love her like I do, and now (after seven years) she lives again as my daily commuter. We’re right back where we started: riding into the sunset.
And back to small houses. I have a small shed and no longer is it clogged to the gills with bikes. I always wanted a bigger shed, but instead I now have less stuff. And you’d never guess that in simplicity you can find satisfaction. So six months in, I guess that’s what I am. Oddly satisfied.
Here is an oldie (2009) but still a great lesson on how to ride smooth. Hardtail at Whistler.
So what’s the bike you’ll always remember and the one you can’t wait to forget?