Looks like freedom but it feels like death

Posted by – July 31, 2008

I’ve been actively wanting / thinking about getting a new bicycle for a couple of months or so, ever since I started using my crappy old bike again. It had been in storage for several years after being vandalised by Joensuu youths. I paid for some repairs on it, bringing it to usable but definitely unsatisfactory status (eg. almost all of the pedalling power has to come from the right leg due to a crank problem).

A couple of months is a long time to think about buying something, but it just doesn’t come easily to me. Here are four emotional approaches to spending money I’ve encountered:

1) Marxist approach – you weigh the utility of the product against the labour (or equivalent) you have to do to pay for it
2) Economics approach – paying for products is an opportunity cost: you weigh the product against the universe of other things you could buy
3) Fear of scarcity approach – spending takes you closer to ruin: the fear of running out of money decreases general spending desire
4) Money doesn’t mean anything, man -approach: if you want something, you buy it – the only reason not to buy something is running out of money, which seems to happen a lot

I’ve got a lot of the first three, each taking turns to prevent me from spending: if I think about buying something for more than 15 seconds I very seldom end up getting it just because the frustration of needing to acquire more money has time to sink in, it’s impossible for me to satisfy myself that a particular bicycle is truly a good choice, and the thought of having no money feels like having a knife at my throat. In short: if it isn’t booze of food, I’m going to have a hard time with it.

I thought it might be easier to decide on a cheapo bike (I found some reasonable bikes for ~200 euros) but it wasn’t. I didn’t really want a cheapo bike, I wanted a good one. I always buy cheap crap, but this was going to be different. I was only going to be able to bring myself to buy something I actually liked. And besides, a good bike lasts longer.

So I ended up with a Nishiki Hybrid 427. Seven derailleur-operated sprockets in the back, disc brakes, aluminium or stainless everything, 42 mm tyres, 22-inch frame, quick-adjust handlebar. Japano-Taiwanese quality all round. The second quality purchase of my life (the first was my camera). I even went to a no-nonsense-serious-cyclists-only bike shop instead of Bike Planet.

I actually bought it yesterday, but the act of paying 762 euros for the bike and various parts made me weak with pain and I had to go to bed early. Today I felt better and took it for a proper ride. After a map consultation I decided to go see Silvola reservoir firstly. I’d repose by the water and read my bicycle maintenance book. Lakes and ponds are nice things to visit. I might start a project of visiting all the named lakes in the map of the Helsinki area phone book.

The old bike, decrepit but stylish. It’s served me well. I like the horizontal top tube.

Beautiful, isn’t it? I don’t particularly like the wide down tube, but it houses the cables rather neatly.

Disc brakes, baby! They make me feel dangerous.

National bicycle route #3 takes me through the rather malapropos named central park (according to sources malapropos is really an adverb too, so I had to use it). By the time I get to the Maunula-Pirkkola area there are exercising machines every 500 metres. These guys really care about optimising their workouts! I stop by a meadowy hillside to take a picture:

Very pretty

I try to record the chirping and buzzing insects all around me but the high-pitched sound doesn’t make it to my camera’s memory card. Soon afterwards I come to a rather tempting path up the hill. Could I ride all the way up?

Sadly, no. My front wheel hits a depression and I lose momentum. The new bike is not particularly light; I’ll have to practice climbing with it. The path goes up quite some way – is this Paloheinä peak? It surely is:

View to the west

The way down is a very steep and sandy path, a good test for the brakes and my ability to use them maximally without locking the wheels:

View to the northeast

I arrive at the reservoir. The embankments are so high I can’t see the water, and I can’t get to the embankments because they’re fenced off! What a pity.

If you live in the Helsinki metropolitan area, you probably drink what lies beyond

Terrorists please do not poison this water supply

After that disappointment I decide to go visit some of my dead ancestors. Bonus question for church buffs: which churchyard are they buried in?

The organ looks like this

…and the altar looks like this

Our gravesite is outrageously better looking than any of the others I looked at. The (planted) floral arrangement is big, but very stylish and suitable – you can’t really fault it for anything. Which is perhaps the ultimate tastelesness in graveyards.

The rest of the biking day was spent getting lost a couple of times: always fun.

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