Clockwise from top left: Edwina, Ol’ Bess, Genevieve, Lady Huck.
I loved Edwina so very much. She was an inch or two too small, but she was the product of a response to a twee ad I posted in the window of a rural english village post shop. A lovely elderly man sold her to me as she had been long abandoned by his son - she was a true campus commuter. I took every rack and guard off her and rode her on fine sunny days. She was my first ever drop barred bike and an absolute pleasure to pedal every single day. I broke her… I rode her everywhere, including forest single track and it was too much, I broke her where the seat tube met the bottom bracket. She was Edwina.
Ol’ Bess evolved from Edwina. I bought a £10 frame from a bike wrecker, two inches too big, and all of Edwina ended up on Ol’ Bess. I learnt how to build wheels with Ol’ Bess. The feeling of flying along on tight and humming brand new wheels, the smell of grease fresh on my fingers as perfectly adjusted hubs allowed me to soar silently is an indelible experience etched in my mind. I rode Ol’ Bess to the top of high Northern Ireland hills and I sailed down the other sides. I abandoned her when I exfiltrated from the Northern Hemipshere. I loved her, she was Ol’ Bess, she is missed.
Genevieve is French, don’t you know? She is a 90’s chromoly Peugeot racer, bunched up and tight, with an almost imperceptible difference in cogs on her narrow ranged cassette. She has survived (not really) a winter beasting and now creaks and bangs, she is overdue a rest and rebuild. But, she is Genevieve, she has a name and a personality. She is fickle, fine, fancy, fast, frustrating, French.
Lady Huck lives on, my first true total love. I have touched every single part of that bicycle, rebuilt every single thing (except, of course, the Sturmey Archer AW hub…) and adjusted infinitely every other thing. 50 mile days on a 3-speed in a wooly shirt and jeans are a cycling must. Lady Huck is the most loyal servant one could wish for, and she lives with the Lovely Bicyclist - Velouria/Constance.
A name humanises something. It characterises creaks and personifies pings. A name emotionalises everything and enamours you to faded and flaking enamel. That is why my bicycles all have names.
Tonight I was talking excitedly to a beloved friend, Susan, about my new bike, which is currently away being painted, but in its absence parts amass… A Brooks Swallow Select is brought home from England by my Daddy (side note: I still use Daddy and Mummy, my friends all have affectionate appellations and dearest people get formal salutations and surnames rule. See yesterday’s post about “Ms”! Names mean a lot to me, I use my middle name and my friends’ middle names at every opportunity. I love names, nicknames, pet names, all names…) saddle, Daddy, ferried home from England. Grand Bois Cerf tyres fly from Boston. Pieces come together. I was taking (my oh my I am distractable tonight) to my cherished friend Susan Mary about the bike build and lamented not yet having a name. We talked about how Genevieve is French (don’t you know) and Susan suggested I keep with the French theme for the latest build! A silence fell. Susan exclaimed: “Edith!” And so it will be. I howled! "Yes! How appropriate, Non je ne regrette rien!“ and then warbled and sung in my best Edith Piaf.
So what is in a name? Pour moi? C'est tout! A name is everything, it is a being, a place, a time, a personality, a cherishing of a personalisation. A name is real. Edith is real. Reflecting over my instagram, finding photos of my beloved bicycles for this post’s collage, I find myself emotional and looking forward to dawdling detours and days devoted to slow sequestering in a saddle, side roads and sunny saunters. Pauses for no reason, or for badinage over a handlebar. I long for Edith. I long then for the luxury of two bikes and a chance to strip Genevieve bare and rebuild her in a modern homage to her gallant gallic origins. I long to look down and see tarseal blurring below as I toil and turn the cranks. I long to ride, with a friend who has a name.