As I haven’t yet devised a way of taking blogging full-time, it comes last after a long line of other things I get to do, and things I have to do. Family, friends, work, actually riding bikes…these all take precedence over blogging. Nonetheless, I do like to check in from time to time and drop some thoughts.
Today, we’ll talk about bikes of the past, and for good reason.
My first bike was a hand-me-down. I never had a tiny bike–my first bike was a 20″ Schwinn. It was a dark green, with rusty chrome handlebars and hard, orange plastic grips. It was decades old when I inherited it, and it had previously served as the chariot of my older brothers and sisters, and before them, my aunts and uncles. I distinctly remember my first ride without training wheels…getting a good firm push down the gravel driveway, pedaling pedaling pedaling pedaling, and experiencing the exhilaration of two wheels…until I realized I didn’t know how to stop. The gravel pile that we kept on the farm loomed ahead, and thus I plowed into it full speed, coming to a rather precipitous stop. Helmets? Nah. We didn’t wear helmets. We wore Toughskins.
At the time, my brother and sister had some really sweet bikes. They were Raleigh Rampar R-7s, like this one:
My brother had a black one, with white decals, knobby BMX tires, and these great, soft-rubber black grips. My sister had a blue one–the blue shown in the picture, with fenders, a banana seat, and this crazy slick rear tire that had squared-off shoulders, instead of rounded shoulders. I lusted after those R-7s for years, until my sister outgrew hers, and I inherited a baby-blue bike with a banana seat and a slick rear tire. Those parts gave way to a traditional saddle and knobby tires. Soon thereafter, the bike sprouted a front basket and this PA/Alarm/Siren system on the handlebars. My brother and I would spend countless hours riding all over the farm, chasing each other, being the police, being the bad guys, and generally riding ourselves into the ground. We rode those bikes into the ground, until bikes stopped having as much importance in our lives. We got an ATV, and spent more time riding on four wheels than we did on two. When last I saw the Rampar, it was rusting away in a shed on the farm.
For a period of quite a few years thereafter, I don’t remember really riding bikes, or spending a lot of time on them. We spent a ton of time outside, but not really on bikes. I never had a “10 speed” or anything like that–though I did steal a few rides on my brother’s Raleigh. I’d spend the occasional hour or two bombing around on the Rampar, or riding my parents’ Diamondback hybrids, but it wasn’t for several years that I had a bike of my own again.
That next bike was a Raleigh Eclipse CX…basically a flat bar cross bike. A representative picture is shown below:
The Raleigh was a nice bike. Reasonably fast on pavement or the local limestone paths, and easy to shift and ride, it was my first ‘modern’ bike. And yet, the riding bug really didn’t hit me. I had it for years, and eventually passed it on to my bro, predominantly because I wasn’t riding it. That, and because I replaced it with a full suspension mountain bike.
I have no idea who made the mountain bike. I do remember it was an aluminum Y frame, single-pivot, rim-brake 26″ “mountain bike”. I picked it off the rack at Target, largely because it had a sticker saying, “Shimano Equipped”, and I had a vague recollection that Shimano made bike stuff. It too had a 3×7 drivetrain. The front fork was coil-sprung with no dampening and no adjustment. The rear shock was coil-sprung, again with no apparent dampening. I ended up adjusting the shock’s coil to basically eliminate any travel from it, because otherwise, it would bob incessantly. My very brief ‘in the Target’ test-ride did not reveal that flaw.
This bike was heavy, shifted poorly, would barely stop, bobbed incessantly under pedaling, and was not very comfortable to ride. In retrospect, it was probably built wrong, never properly adjusted, comprised of amazingly cheap components, and the wrong size. (Target offered one size: adult). I then entered another component of my life without a bike, as I couldn’t stand the dang thing, and sold it (on Craigslist, for what I paid for it).
The next time bikes entered my life was a few years ago, starting with a Trek Fuel EX 5.5, then a Trek FX, then a Scattante road bike, then the Ridley, the Vaya and so on. But there’s a part of my riding experience that I’ve always felt was missing…the 10 speed experience. Other than the Big Dummy, I haven’t spent any substantial time on a steel bike…and never on a lugged frame. I haven’t really experienced down tube shifters, or 1″ steerer tubes, or the feeling of an older bike. This–this will change.