One day I met my neighbour downstairs. Stepped in the elevator and, well, you know, he was very surprised to see the before and the five minutes after, when he found the bike folded at my doorstep.
Inês was the third to complete our Brompton Week. This week was not just her first time riding a Brompton, but also the first time she hopped on a bike of any kind in Porto.
If you are a regular at the Matosinhos Market (where we have one of our stores), probably you will recognize Inês from Manifesto, where she keeps the coffee lab and kiosk running. Besides spending the day around specialty coffee and all sort of independent magazines, Inês is one of the editors of the bilingual magazine NEVOAZUL, which reads “Névoa Azul” and translates to “Blue Mist”. NEVOAZUL is “about less and more. An invitation to balance”. Inês is 27 and arrived in Porto few years ago, after completing a degree in journalism.
Our conversation about her Brompton Week was always around Minimalism and her way of life (and attitude towards consumption).
About Tati, Inês writes in the magazine that technology is “an old fallacy that makes us buy more, preserve less and replace human relationships with machines in a flash”
In our industry, this is the eternal paradox. A bicycle is the simple vehicle by nature, but this is a market of hard innovation, where millions and millions are invested to foster more and more consumption. What we like in a bike is the opposite, though. Everything genius was invented more than 100 years ago. The double-diamond shape of the frame, the free-wheel, the inner-tube and the no-nonsense solutions that persist season after season. This is the reason for preferring our annual pilgrimage to Bespoked to wasting time and money in the big international trade shows.
Brompton is also a paradox. Many look at this simple bike as a gadget. 100% analogue, but a gadget. Something that, in one hand, can be the object of a materialist, superficial desire, and in the other hand can be an absolute necessity, something not replaceable in the daily routine of the city dweller.
Brompton is doing the same thing for the last 40 years and the notion of “season” doesn’t make much sense to the brand. The philosophy of “doing one thing right”, the obsession of improving day after day, year after year and being the best in one’s field. Brompton spent the last 40 years inventing a bike, and this bike is the only that most of urban folks need.
Our conversation with Inês starts at this point.
“In another Tati movie, Drive, they are driving this car to be exhibited in a show. If I remember correctly, it’s a sort of motorhome with plenty of gadgets, but very complicated ones. Everything is almost right. They didn’t reach perfection yet.
When I first saw a Brompton, this movie came to my mind, because with this object they managed to finally get the result just right. There are lots of people trying to (re)invent the wheel, but it requires a enormous load of hard labour. Only a few, normally very persistent people, get to invent something perfect. You know, complexity is central in Minimalism. You need years and years of design and work to get to a point where you have a fundamentally simple result.
My grandpa is a very curious chap. He likes everything intelligently made. When he first sees the Brompton in a picture, he calls it a spectacular invention. “Are you serious? There’s no need of any tool to fold the bike?”
In my first day with the Brompton, when getting on the bus, the driver asks if this weird thing is a bicycle. Some few minutes later, he’s saying that he needs one to carry with him on the bus. His eyes follow me in the mirror on my way to find a seat. I choose a regular seat and lean the bicycle against my legs. He spends the rest of the trip staring at the bike.”
Inês has a driving licence, but doesn’t drive. The day we handed her a Brompton, was her first day facing Porto streets. Before having a bike in her life, she was a bus person, because she doesn’t like the idea of being stuck somewhere or having to own a sort of parking space. The bus, as the Metro, is not a perfect solution, though.
“The bus is like being still sleeping. Being in a void and wasting time. The day only starts upon arrival. With the bicycle I feel something different. The day starts the minute I step out from the house. The bus is door-to-door, but with the bike I see and feel the city. I smell things.”
We agree, of course. Travelling in a passive manner, limited in space and time, paced by the rhythm of other drivers and fellow passengers, is like staring at a screen. With the bike the connection is real and we have an active relation with our surroundings. Being more vulnerable, our choices to ride safely turn the commuting experience into something very very real. We are alert, absorbing everything happening around.
Back to NEVOAZUL and a text about Kintsugi, the Japanese art of transforming broken pottery into something much more valuable by gluing the broken parts with powdered gold. A bicycle, especially one so present in our urban routine such as a Brompton, can have this sort of healing power. Gluing the broken parts of the day with something of value. In praise of calm and the little pleasures of life. Remember Mike?
At a certain point in the reading, we were amazed by Katte Geneta’s 24 hours, 24 waves. Everybody in our team was raised in Porto and we spent all our lives riding bikes with the Atlantic as a backdrop. We felt immediately connected. Inês wasn’t born close to the ocean. She was raised in the mountains and this also is something that one carries all life.
“Arriving from Guarda, my days in Porto are marked with the presence of the Atlantic. It’s always there, but became much more intense when I started commuting to Matosinhos.
Being here and in Guarda is very different. Each of the three hours trip back home is a transition. I get ready for the mountains, for a different way of breathing, to a completely different rhythm.
Back in Porto, when pedaling along the Parque da Cidade (a big park by the ocean), I feel a bit like being in Guarda, but with a much more salty atmosphere.”