Last week I went to a local shop and bought new tires for the mountain bike I ride around town almost every day. The angst I felt while deciding exactly what to buy took me by surprise. Part of me wanted something cheap and durable that would roll smoothly and efficiently on pavement. But another part of me wanted to replace my worn out racing tires with something aggressive, knobby and impractical for city streets.
When I was in my twenties and thirties the bike I rode defined me more than my sunglasses, my haircut, or my car. It was more than my style—it was a major part of my identity. I know that sounds ridiculous, but imagine what a truck guy’s truck means to him or what an Apple nerd’s Mac means to him (or her). A good friend of mine would call me regularly and say “Got time for some tire talk?” We would spend the next half hour dissecting the pros and cons of different treads; analyzing the tracks we saw out on the trails; debating whether Kevlar worth the price premium; discussing trends like “thin on the bottom, knobby on the sides”, and arguing about what tire shed mud or carved corners best. At the end though, the most important question was: “What are you riding right now?”
Since I hit my forties my life has changed a lot. I spend the vast majority of my time working, parenting, or doing house stuff. Trail riding (and even trail-running) is mostly on hiatus. My daylight leisure time is almost always having fun with the girls and when they’re sleeping at night I’d rather blog than ride. In a few years (when the girls are older) I’m sure I’ll be back, but until then, my riding will be limited to the streets between my offices and classrooms. This is far far better than nothing–I actually love battling traffic and the elements.
So it’s been years since my bike’s gotten dirty, but up until last week, I still had the option of veering onto any trail and cutting through East Rock Park at a moment’s notice. And I liked projecting the image of an MTB guy on his way to a trailhead (even if I was wearing a corduroy jacket). Those days are over. I chose a pair of cheap tires that ride way better than my old knobbies on the road. They even have a little bit of a tread that could handle some of the East Rock trails. But now I’m honest with myself and world. I’m a bike commuter. It’s not permanent, but it’s true. And I’m good with that.