"Here's the money". Ha! I have successfully bought happiness and shall, from now on, ride better than everyone else and look down with superiority on you and your kind.

"Enjoy your XTR mech, Sir".

We've all done it, or wanted to do it. You're not racing, you're not going on a six month tour of the Pyranees, but you need it. Life will be considerably less fulfilling without it and you might as well just leave your bike in the shed unless you get it.

And why do you need it? Well, it's light and strong and reliable. Like Deore…

You do need it, but not necessarily for performance. You need it for Bike Gazing.

Don't tell me you've never done it. Just passing through the hall, you linger just a little longer than strictly necessary, taken with the shininess of your cranks? Having a rest on the trail you take a slightly bigger gulp of water than required, admiring your bike's beautifully crafted gear hanger? Come on, you can be honest with me.

It can be the tiniest of things. Ever sat enthralled by a new set of tyres, taking in the myriad ways the logos on the side complement your paintjob and components? Maybe it's just me, but I doubt it. They're black, round and knobbly like every other tyre, but if it doesn't make a difference, why don't they all have the same logo? It's because we all gaze, sometimes.

I've spent more time gazing longingly at the welds on my Cannondale than I care to think about. Sad? Maybe, but it's beautiful and it's mine. If Paul Daniels didn't have Debbie McGee, he'd have to buy a bike.


Don't get me wrong though, it's not always about flash, expensive components and frames. All mountain bikes are beautiful when they're muddy. Haven't you ever noticed how cool you are when you're covered in mud and sweat, looking all rugged and 'outdoor type'?

Possibly the greatest moment of my life was when I unfortunately managed to gouge a particularly nasty cut in the back of my leg with aid of a chainring. Near the start of a ride just a couple of miles from home, I though it best to get back as soon as possible rather than attempt to track down some first aid. So I rode the ten or so minutes it took to get back, covered in mud with my leg pouring blood. Half conquering hero, half wounded gladiator, I was as cool as anyone ever was or has been since.

Stopping at a pub at the end of a ride, that filthy piece of metal takes on a splendour normally reserved for Derby Winners. It's not just a dirty bike, it's a statement of intent, a declaration that I Took on Nature and Won! I am David Beckham, Scott of the Antarctic and The A-Team all rolled into one. Looking at the mud and foliage draped over your bike like rosettes and ribbons really brings it home.

It's the same motivation that drives people to spend all Sunday cleaning their cars and colour co-ordinating bumpers and spark plugs to create their idea of perfection. But we're not the same. Mountain biking is most comparable to rally driving- we push ourselves and our machines to the limit, be it uphill or downhill, and like Colin McRae sliding round a bend at ridiculous speed, there's very little between us and a tangled mess.

However fast someone drives their car, however skilfully they negotiate the traffic calming chicanes, they're still just driving. Signs, lines and red lights tell them where to go and when to go, and even the most reckless of drivers don't test the limits of speed and handling much.

The mud, the danger, the thrill of mountain biking- it's an image, but it's a genuine image. And that's why bike gazing is only natural. To some extent, we're all athletes and we're all adventurers. Bicycles are incredible, non-polluting energy-saving machines that can take us anywhere and over anything, and mountain biking in particular has seen them develop at an amazing pace. They give us freedom, they make us healthier, better people.
So if anyone ever has problem with you gazing at your mountain bike, don't listen to them. You're not sad.
You're just showing it some respect.

>back to top