A note to my Miyata, long overdue
It was the font.
It was that familiar Miyata font—the lower-case, Japanese-styled letters with breathing room between them, and the way the decalled m, i, y, a, t and a leaned slightly forward, and, placed on the down tube, the way they guided the eye up, reminiscent of a bicycle moving slowly up a mountain pass—that took me in, and for a couple of seconds, made me stand there the other day, just stand there, staring at brand sticker on a bicycle locked to a street sign, staring standing still, while old images flickered back to life, and burned.
Back in the 1980s, I had a grey Miyata 1000. It was a touring bike – it had a long wheel base, it featured "triple-butted chromo tubing," which, I think, meant it had a strong and stiff frame made to carry a lot of gear. If it was a bit slow and ponderous to maneuver in the city, with the city's stops and starts and turns, it became what it truly was doing work out in the open on the highway. There, it was a steady and trusted machine that carried panniers front and back, tents, sleeping bag, ground cover, a machine-companion that carried me on trips through the Rockies and up and down the west coast.
My Miyata 1000 taught me about listening. A secret to riding long distances on the highway is to listen carefully to what the conditions are saying. Listen to the grade in the road, listen to where the wind is coming from and with what force, listen to the condition of your muscles. Take all this in and translate it through the teeth of your bicycle's gears into a forward speed that preserves at a sustainable rhythm the spinning of your foot-powered cranks. Pedalling too slowly hurts knees; pedalling too quickly wastes energy; both too slow and too fast are unforgiving. Listen and change gears to keep going, my bike taught me. Keeping going is the prize. On long tree-lined corridors of highway, under sky without limit, along impassive rock faces oblivous to my striving, I learned, on my Miyata 1000, how to listen and keep going.
You don't forget those teachers.
Here is one of few pics that remain outside of my memory of me and my Miyata. (Sorry about the socks.)
How do I best put this? What words do I use right now for the next part of this story? As I write this blog post remembering standing staring the other day at that other Miyata, how do I make sense of the day 20 years ago when I threw my own Miyata into a garbage dumpster, and then covered it over with a clay-coloured tarpaulin?
Life then was moving too fast. I was working in a television newsroom. Seemingly monumental decisions were made every 15 minutes as the clock ticked down toward the 6 pm newscast at which time the existential verdicts were rendered: did we beat the competition? Did we get the scoop? Did we break the story? Did we get it right? Who is threatening to sue us? It was pressure. There were big personalities. People threw things every now and then. Then it got even faster and less forgiving as technology made more news available quicker. I was a young leader without the gears to keep going. And I was a young father and a husband. The adrenalin from the work world wasn't the best fuel for the home world. Needless to say, those were days I didn't ride my bicycle much. From using it as my commuter vehicle, it had become a recreational vehicle on the weekend, and then it had transformed into a geometric sculpture, two circles, two triangles, hanging on the garage wall. The Miyata 1000, its spokes cobwebbed, its tires deflated, its chain rusted, was remarkably easy to throw out during one autumn-cleaning binge that restored some sense of psychological order.
I remember heaving the frame onto the top of the material in the dumpster, and how it landed with a poof of drywall dust that sprinkled back down like ash.
"Do you like the old bikes?" a voice asked, snapping me back from that sad dumpster day years ago. "It's my Miyata 600."
"It's beautiful," I said. I was back in the present, staring at a Miyata right there, right then locked to a sign post.
We talked for a bit. His name was Terry, he was in from Revelstoke to visit his ailing mother. His Miyata 600 was from the mid-80s. He bought it new, still had it, still loved it. It was his favourite bike. I was getting what I deserved, I thought. I said I rode a Miyata 1000 back in the day and said I loved it and said nothing about throwing it out. How could I explain it to a stranger, even if he was a friendly stranger? I had trouble explaining it myself. Instead, I covered a wince with a smile and pointed at the vintage shifters on the down tube and the old, dented Zéfal air pump on the seat tube. I had the same brand of air pump on my Miyata. It ran along the crossbar.
Terry and I talked for five minutes or so about our Miyatas. I steered the conversation to the bike I had with me that evening, my Brompton, because I didn't quite know how to explain the fate of the 1000. I had to get rid of it? I don't have it anymore? Terry was gracious. On Shelagh's suggestion, he took the Brompton for a ride around the block. And then we talked about Bromptons and parents and Revelstoke. It felt good, as it always does, to let bicycles open up conversation with people I have never met. We took a pic, shook hands, shook hands again and said goodbye.
As we rode home, I told myself I will write about my Miyata 1000. I will tell the story. Maybe Terry will see it. For some reason, I wanted him to know. I will say to that beautiful bicycle, and to the people who made it, and to Terry, the words that will allow me, considering the terrible thing I did to my Miyata 1000, to keep going without it: