I have owned a lot of bicycles in my time. How many? Well, enough that I intended to actually start today’s post with “I have owned XX bicycles in my time,” but every time I try to count, I get lost somewhere along the way.
So we’ll stick with: I have owned a lot of bikes.
Each of these bikes has had one thing in common: they were good, workman-like bikes. Bikes I could and did (and do) treat roughly, without much in the way of regard for the paint job.
Take for example that sexy new Waltworks / Twin Six Custom Stock I talked about earlier this week. Well, currently that bike is in the back of my truck with three rides worth of dried mud on it. Drivetrain’s still good, though, so I have no intention of cleaning it anytime soon.
The Ibis Silk Carbon road bike I have? Drivetrain’s clean. Definitely some grime on the underside of the downtube.
Hey, they’re bikes. Whether I’m riding on the road or dirt, I fully expect the bike to get dirty, and for the paint to get chipped.
And that is why I will not allow myself to get a Vanilla Bicycle.
I found out about Vanilla Bicycles via a comment on this blog, actually, just a few days ago. One of you were talking about how you just got one. So of course I went to take a look at what this bike manufacturer I had never heard of has to offer.
And then I spent ninety minutes, just looking at the photographs.
I mean, I’ve always thought lugs were kind of cool, but I have never — until now — spent ten minutes just drooling over a photograph of them.
And apparently, I’m not the only one who’s doing some serious drooling over Vanilla Bicycles. The website mentions there’s currently a four-year wait list.
You know what, though? Four years isn’t that long. I could wait four years for a bike this beautiful.
Excuse me, I need a moment to myself while I look at this dropout.
Okay, I’m back.
So, while I was looking at this website, poring over the works of art Sacha White — the sole builder for Vanilla Bicycles — creates, Dug IM’d me. “Have you been over to the Vanilla site?” he asked.
“I’m there right now,” I replied. We then IM’d for the next twenty minutes over what kind of bike we’d have built — we both gravitated toward a SS road bike to keep the look as pure as possible — and what kind of color schemes we liked best and what kind of upgrades we’d want.
The consensus was that if you’re going to wait 4+ years for a bike, you may as well get your ultimate dream frame. And since you’re going to spend a whole lot of money on it no matter what, you may as well not pinch pennies anywhere: get the polished dropouts. Get the polished, hand-carved lugs. Get the polished “Vanilla” script.
Hey, why not? You’ve got four years to save up for it.
Here’s the thing, though. I couldn’t have a bike like this. If I bought it, I wouldn’t ride it. I’d be afraid to. What if I crashed it? What if it got stolen? What if the bike had ordinary wear and tear?
I couldn’t bear it.
I’d leave my ultimate dream bike at home, safe. Probably hanging on a wall, with track lighting pointing toward it. I would then ride one of my other bikes, one that could be replaced (and which are in fact quite regularly replaced, which I’ll talk about next week) without my feeling sad or bad about it.
I expect that some of you readers do in fact have bikes that are works of art — whether they are Vanilla Bicycles or some other gifted bicycle maker. I’d like to ask you the following questions: Do you ride it? And if so, how? Are you able to somehow put aside the worry that you could lose, damage or destroy your bike?
I’m not being facetious. I really want to know how you do it.
And, for the rest of us, I have another question: What other small bike manufacturers are out there making mind-blowingly beautiful bikes? Let’s see some links.
I may never own one, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to look.
PS: As a couple commenters have noted, Bike Snob NYC and I have some weird synergy going on between our posts today. Be sure to take a look at what he has to say.