My love of bicycling goes back to my childhood. I recently discovered some confirmation of this when I was going through papers that my mother had saved. I found a worksheet that I was apparently asked to fill out on the first day of school when I was ten.
|ME... Who am I? Click for big. Credit: Freewheeling Spirit|
I also wrote that I wanted to ride my bike at the velodrome. I grew up about five or six miles from the velodrome that Bob Rodale built. We rode our bikes there once and awhile, so it was natural that I'd want to hop on the track and ride. Eventually, sometime after I filled out that school worksheet, I did ride in the velodrome. I enjoyed the experience, but it was not really my thing.
My kind of cycling was about pure freedom. I enjoyed taking off on my bike with friends, in any direction we desired, to discover new places and people. In the beginning it was just the next neighborhood over, where we found a new group of kids who went to a different school. Eventually we rode miles and miles away, exploring new worlds.
One day when I was in 10th grade, I skipped J.V. football practice after school. The coaches had made it a miserable experience and I was thinking about quitting the team. My father was surprised to see me home early. Instead of an admonishment, however, he mentioned a classified ad for a bike that he had seen in the newspaper. We went out to see the bike. It was one of those bike boom 10-speeds -- I wish I could recall the make and model. The woman selling it said that it had belonged to her son, who had grown up and moved out. I bought the bike. We then took it to a bike shop and my dad paid for a tune-up, which cost more than I had paid for the bike itself.
That 10-speed was the only bike I've ever given a name. I called it "Freedom."
When I went to college, Freedom came with me. It was the perfect college beater bike. The chain would often pop off. Occasionally a link broke, and then I would take it to the town's bike shop where the mechanic repaired the link at no charge. After college I dropped the bike off at my parents' house. My dad either sold or donated it. I hope some other kid enjoyed Freedom as much as I did.
After I got married, my wife and I went to a bike shop and bought new bikes. The salesman asked whether we wanted to ride on road or off road, and we told him both. Naturally, he sold us hybrids.
We only had one car, and we both needed to get to work, so I found myself riding that hybrid everywhere. Eventually, I decided to buy a better bike. I wanted a steel road bike that had braze-ons and eyelets for racks, so I could carry stuff plus go fast. I chose a Bianchi.
I put tens of thousands of miles on the Bianchi over the course of about 10 years. Almost all of it, by the way, was on the same pair of Continental Top Touring tires. The Bianchi was my bike for commuting, century rides, and exploring D.C.'s trails. Along the way, I developed strong opinions about all the things that a bike should be able to do.
The Bianchi was the last bike that I bought new at a bike shop. After that, I only bought "vintage" bikes: an English 3-speed, a touring bike, a mountain bike, a folding bike, a fixed gear, and some all-arounders. I've sold some bikes, too, including the Bianchi. This is my "newest" bike - it's almost 30 years old.