I grew up with a love for bicycles. As a child of the 70’s, this should come as no surprise as I was born in the midst of a bike boom, with 10 speed road bikes being used by teenagers leaving an impression on my young self. My first bike was a little red single speed banana seat with handle bars that had a slight drop. It had training wheels, but I quickly graduated from those and also quickly outgrew that bike. It was of the sort that the top bar could be removed so it could be turned into a “Girl’s” bike, and so it became my sister’s bike as I received a larger blue bike which featured a black banana seat, chrome chain guard and fenders, one speed with pedal back for brakes, and drop handle bars. I learned how to do routine maintenance, flipping it upside down to oil the chain. I delivered newspapers and discovered every trail in my community using that bike.
My first “Big” bike was a brandless 3 speed golden road bike with a fairly large frame which was a hand-me-down from my aunt Sharon. Definitely a relic of the late 60’s, it needed some work and rust removal by the time I was using it in the 1980’s. I was getting really good at riding it, and taught myself how to lean into corners to take them very sharp at impressive speeds; however, this turned out to be too much for the old forks as they eventually gave out. That bike was replaced with a $100 Zeller’s special, a black 10 speed road bike which gave me no end of problems.
Up until high school, I had no clue about bikes outside of basic routine maintenance which I learned from books from the library; I didn’t know why one bike that cost $100 should be any worse than one that cost $500. A bike was a bike, and they were all pretty much the same for all I knew. Then one fateful day I met a hardcore cyclist. I was helping my father with wedding photography, and during the reception we were invited to stay for dinner. At our table was a gentleman who was preparing for a big bike ride the next day. I was excited to meet an adult who owned a car but was into bikes, and I told him about the problems I was having with mine. He was very open and friendly, and while he couldn’t stay very long for the reception, he provided me with just enough information that I set out to buy magazines about bicycles and started learning about things like ChroMoly and aluminum frames, toe clips, crank sets, and the rest. I also learned about the incredible health benefits that came from cycling, along with how bicycles are the most efficient mode of transportation ever invented. Hybrid bikes were the ultimate bikes, but road bikes were more affordable. I signed up for cycling in gym class, and my mother bought me a very nice and very fast green 12 speed Miele Uno road bike, which cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $600-$700. It had skinny high pressure tires, a ChroMoly double butted frame, drop handlebars, toe clips, and by gosh was it ever fast.
That Miele completely transformed who I was. Suddenly, I was Mr. Cyclist. I would bike everywhere so effortlessly and fast, almost floating over the road. Then one day, I went to visit my friend who lived down a side road. I parked my bike in front of the garage, and when I came back about an hour later, it had been stolen. I was gutted. All the joy bled out from my life in a moment. I went from being a happy-go-lucky cyclist one moment to a miserable self-loathing asshole the next. I actually had homicidal tendencies, looking for my bike everywhere I went, thinking about the gruesome things I would do to whoever stole it from me. When I saw Nick take his hammer to the head of that poor kid in episode 6 of season 6 of Shameless, I sympathized with the character Nick. I knew what he was going through.
I was bikeless for a couple of years, taking the bus, walking, and driving a car during brief periods when I could divert a rust bucket from the scrap yard for a few months. I did the math and realized that, for the cost of a bus pass for four months, I could probably buy another decent bike. That bike was a Miele Astro. It too was a road bike, and while not quite as fast as the Uno, it was cheaper and didn’t stick out as much. I also kept it locked every time I parked it.
The Astro was my main mode of transportation even in the rain and snow. I installed a carrier on it and used it to carry my groceries home, books from the library, and laundry to the laundry mat. It got me to my job and back. When I decided to go back to school and start college, it took me to college and back as it continued its duties of carrying groceries, laundry, and books. It wasn’t until well after the end of my second year and starting my career as a Y2k programmer did I finally buy a decent car after recognizing the benefits that owning a car would have for my career. I did continue to ride the Astro for leisure until the part of the frame that held the back wheel on broke. around 1995. I eventually rebuilt it 10 years later, but the problem returned.
Getting married in the mid 90’s brought a lot of joy to my life, and I wanted to share all of my joy with my new bride, so we bought matching bikes. She decided she preferred trails to the road, so we used some of the money we got from our wedding and bought matching mountain bikes; two Raleigh Tarantula’s. Riding a bicycle was how my wife managed to lose her weight after the birth of our son.
Fast forward to the year 2019. I had slipped into a lifestyle of long commutes in pursuit of career objectives, then coming home every day to a beer or two (or perhaps a couple glasses of wine) to take the edge off the day and the commute. It was an unhealthy lifestyle that started to take its toll as my weight went up and my energy levels went down. I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered if the man looking back at me in that reflection would live long enough to enjoy the wonderful pension I was accumulating. That’s when I decided I would quit my job, take a cut in pay and benefits, and work close to home. I would joke that I lived close enough to my job, I could ride my bike there. The more times I said that, the less funny it sounded. 10 kilometers is not that long of a bike ride, and most of the route is by way of a paved bicycle trail.
I had rebuilt the Tarantula a couple of times, but it’s a 23 year old bike. In spite of that, I pumped up the tires, oiled the chain, and tried that ride to work. It took me half an hour to ride to work, and forty minutes to ride back. I did it once again last week. It was a good ride, but this bike needed to be overhauled. I decided it was time for a new bike with modern tech like hydraulic disc brakes, carbon fiber forks, low rolling resistance high pressure tires, and a lightweight aluminum frame. Something that would be a pleasure to ride. I was long overdue for that really good hybrid bike I always wanted, so I pulled the trigger.
My new bicycle is a Trek FX 3 with hydraulic disc brakes, and an XXL frame. The large frame makes me feel like a kid again, and puts me in a very comfortable riding position. This will be my commuter for the next little while as I continue on my path to well-being.