My bike is a sex machine.
I've had Archimedes for almost eight years, and I love that contraption a little more every year. Each time I get on it after a hiatus of any length, I am blown away by how responsive it is. The shifting is smooth, the braking is nuanced, but that's just the beginning. I get the sense that Archie and I know each other's bodies like old lovers. That bikes's body is always exactly where I expect it to be, and mine knows exactly where to go to make it move the way I want. Sometimes we play slalom with sign poles, balancing on just the edge of the pavement on alternate swerves, gliding past slow-motion pedestrians on every other dip, making sure I don't startle them by whooshing too close or too fast. It makes me giddy to be able to dodge the stationary poles and stay on the pavement when there's less than half an inch of clearance between my pedals and adjacent parked cars. I haven't scratched anyone's paint yet.
Having this level of intimacy with my bicycle isn't just recreational. I need to know how far behind me my back wheel hangs when I'm overtaking strollers on the Burke-Gilman. I need to know how close to a stop I can hover while I wait for a light to change. I need to know that this hesitation means my shifter cable needs tightening, while that tension means my chain needs fresh lube. In a very real way, my proprioception has to extend to the bicycle. My muscles and senses control its movement in a way that's as significant to my motion through my environment as my own body's is when I'm walking. When I'm riding, bike's motions are my own.
But the bike isn't me, or an extension of me. It's a separate body, with its own moods and tensions and torques and even preferences. I have to settle into its groove, match its movements, before we can fluidly manoeuvre as one. I need to know exactly where to touch it, and how firmly and how fast, before we can dance without my having to think about the steps.
I own other bikes, and we can get around just fine together. One bike is fast but skittery like a racehorse, and we haven't developed a communion that keeps up with sudden changes of direction and speed. The other is a heavy, burly mountain bike: a suitable spirit companion for my journeys across the Black Rock Desert but wildly inappropriate for trips around town. But Archimedes...Archimedes meets me wherever I need to go. Archie and I move joyfully and with a sort of effort that feels like anything but work. It is definitely more fulfilling to arrive on Archimedes than to get somewhere by bus, or even on foot. We have a groovy thing going, my bicycle and I, and it's pretty hot even after eight years.