It was Grant Petersen that first coined the term beausage in reference to bicycles (some say he invented the term, but I swear I heard it elsewhere back in the 70′s). According to the Urban Dictionary, beausage is, “a synthetic combination of the words beauty and usage, and describes the beauty that comes with using something.” Good examples of beausage are Yo-Yo Ma’s cello and this cockpit of a vintage Mercedes. Beausage comes from consistently using something, while taking great care of that thing, over a long period of time. Beausage is not the result of carelessly abusing something and prematurely wearing it out.
Many of the bikes I’ve seen described as having beausage are pretty beat up. I’ve seen bikes with badly scratched and chipped paint, dangling bar tape, and even rusting frames, all described as having beausage. I don’t get that. Maybe a better word to describe these bikes would be abuseage. When I think of beausage, I think of a Brooks saddle polished to a high sheen from long use, or shellaced cork grips wearing through to the raw cork, or primer showing through at the top tube from being lightly brushed by knee warmers for 10 years.
There are tangible rewards for using a high quality tool or instrument on a daily basis over a long period of time; with familiarity comes understanding and fluency. Taking great care of that tool only adds to the rewards. A chef has his treasured knife, a musician his treasured instrument, and yes, even a bike rider can have a treasured bicycle. The great beauty in beausage is that it cannot be bought; no amount of money, no amount of buying and selling bikes will produce that deep patina that can only be acquired through long use and mindful care.