Bike amputation

After two days of cycling in the Swiss Alps, I returned my rental mountainbike to its owner. I attached it to a pole with a lock, left the key in the mailbox, and walked away. It did not feel good. The ‘click’ kept reverberating in my brain. What had I done?

2014-10-11 21.08.34

I left a bike behind. So what. There are billions of bikes in the world. It wasn’t even my own bike. But still.

Was it that locking the bike marked the end of two fantastic days of cycling on small roads with cows on them and a handful of nasty climbs? No, it wasn’t. We are not getting sentimental here.

Was it then leaving behind a well working machine, with sturdy looks, that made me feel bad? Again, no. Of course not. You could find such a thing anywhere. Though I must say that this bike was maintained better than any I have ever hired before. But no, I am not getting emotional by leaving behind a collection of metal and rubber parts.

The answer was in the walking away itself. There is just one good reason to walk, and that is when you cannot cycle. With one small exception, maybe, which is when hikers are passing you by on a steep hill. But, then again, they are nowhere in the descent. Even at my nervous snail’s pace they are not.

A bicycle is an efficient and ergonomic enhancement of the human body. When you remove it, it temporarily feels as if you are amputated. That was what I felt when I was walking away.

It reminds me of the following sentence of the Dutch comedian Herman Finkers, speaking about a divorce: “I was so attached to her that I had to be removed by surgery.” That might be more subtle than tearing yourself apart from your bike with the click of a lock. Let’s consider that for the next outing.


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