Friday Group Ride #120

Nostalgia is a funny thing. On the one hand, it seems natural to remember your past fondly, to want to rekindle or at least remember the good times you’ve had, but by and large I think most nostalgia is for things we’re sorry we missed out on.

I was 13 or 14 when Vision released their first “Gator” skate deck, the signature model of Mark “Gator” Rogowski, who was, at the time, one of skating’s true rock stars. I wanted that deck badly. Actually, I wanted ANY deck badly, because I wasn’t allowed to skate. While all the other kids were busy practicing their ollies and picking scabs off their knees, I was tooling around behind them on a bike.

My mother insisted I would break my arm on a skateboard, and she was probably right, but that never really washed with my teenaged self. The resentment has still, maybe, not entirely subsided. When Vans put out a Christian Hosoi signature edition shoe a few years back, I bought a pair. I don’t know why.

Except I do.

As a cyclist, I feel nostalgia keenly. As many new road bikes as I have floating through my head, it’s normally the throw back rides that catch my eye, the bikes I wanted to own when I was younger and the sport was burrowing its way into my brain. Many of these are bikes that were current before I’d even heard the name Merckx. And now  I’ve wasted not a few evenings trolling eBay for the right old Moser or Merckx steel frame to turn into a labor of love. But a love of what exactly?

This is about rewriting personal history, going back and joining a club you couldn’t get into or didn’t even know existed when it was the place to be or the thing to do. There is something hopeful about it, this revision process, but also something a little pathetic or stunted. Those bikes I lust for are probably not faster than what I’m riding now. And most of them are pretty close to rusted through.

Gator Rogowski went off the rails after his celebrity waned. Christian Hosoi did the same before finding Jesus (and skateboarding again). Time, and reality, can be cruel to our best memories.

This week’s Group Ride looks backwards and wonders which of the bits and pieces of the past do you still dream about bringing into your present. Is there value in this process? Why do you think we burnish the past to such a high sheen, and how does that, maybe, damage the present?

Be careful with your answers. I’d hate to see you break an arm.


  1. nrs5000

    For the life of me I can’t remember if I went from cycling to skating or the other way around, but we must be of the same vintage as one of my friends had a Gator, another had a Hosoi and I had some other Vision deck. As far as nostalgia goes, I just put down a deposit on a handbuilt steel frame in anticipation of a 40th birthday present to myself. When it comes time to paint it I’ll be very tempted to do something inspired by my first real roadbike, which of course was a Bridgestone. My best rides now are the ones that recapture that sense of freedom bikes gave me as a kid.

  2. Adam

    I really yearn for a 10th anniversary Merckx. I have a Telekom edition one from a couple of years later, but its not the same. The fork crowns and paint are different.
    As to why, I think part of it is that we all want the bike from that point in our lives when we were fastest, or riding the most, or having the most fun doing so. It brings you back to that time.

  3. Ransom

    My cycling nostalgia this week has me perusing the usual sites of acquisition for a circa-late-’80s freestyle BMX bike. Preferably with some Peregrine mag wheels, though Tuff IIs would work.

    But it’s nostalgia with updates. I want to modify it for V-brakes, Magura Hydraulics, or better yet with the mags, disc brakes. Those bikes were, and there can be no other word for it, rad. But I do recall all too well that neither BMX sidepulls nor Dia-Compe 990s actually worked very well… My hindsight is not completely rose-tinted.

    Old and new… I wonder whether any of the carbon-rim brake pads happen to work better on those old mags than the pads of the day…

  4. Ransom

    Oh yeah, I had a Gator, but I never liked it as much as my Sims Flagship, and traded it for a Chris King headset for my Wicked Fat Chance. Now *there’s* a flood of memories…

  5. Jesus from Cancun

    Uuuuhhhh… you touched something inside. I used to have this amazing Alva Leopard skateboard with Gullwing trucks and Gyro aluminum hub wheels.

    And I ended up trading it for a set of Suntour Superbe derailleurs and levers about thirtysomething years ago.

    Yes, those were the times. I call them the Cycling Wonder Years.

  6. bryand

    I was a Steve Caballero/Indy 169s/rat bones kid myself… And I could mention that I really really wanted a PK Ripper but I can’t bring myself to buy one of the reissued new ones…

    Peter Weigle still really speaks to me. We always had a couple of his frames/bikes in the shop I worked in as a kid and I always felt privileged to wrench on them. The quality of design, craft and paint finishes left an impression on me. I enjoyed his good natured humor (J.P. Wiggle mountain bikes) too. Maybe someday…

  7. Eto

    A very refreshing and well written piece.

    I must be all messed up because I am going through that process (how I feel) but to aquire something more relevent for today… making the jump from an almost retro ex Motorola Merckx Ti to a carbon Cervelo! I am living the retro thing now and am struggling with justifying the move forward.


  8. Doug Page

    I remember the past fondly, yet I ask myself, would I still go on all those long rides with just an extra sew-up tied to the saddle, and no cell phone?

  9. David

    I still have my 1984 Pinarello, which I bought new a few months before Grewal won the Olympic road race on one. I rebuilt it a few years back with 10 speed Record, but I think every now and then that I should have kept it with the original NR and SR stuff. There’s nothing more beautiful than the 1980’s Campy parts.

  10. MikeG

    I long for my Bridgestone “Zip” that I traded in on a Fisher Joshua Z2 – Stupid, stupid move! I fear I’m a bit older than you though, I skated (and built half-pipes) in the early days of Tony Hawk and Alva. I fondly remember my Logan Earth Ski with Tacker trucks, and Kryptonic wheels!

  11. Jason

    I’m really thinking of picking up a GT Pro Performer. Sure, I’m in my early 40’s. I still wear Vans and a Stussy jacket (I bought in 1991). I wouldn’t go anywhere near a ramp these days, but spend an afternoon doing tailwhips and wheel walks in front of the house while The Clash is spilling out of the boombox (Ok i-pod), yeah, I gotta get me a GT. Craigslist here I come!

  12. Drew

    To Doug-

    Why’d you stop? That’s a part of the past or present that didn’t need to go away.

    I’m too young for all this skateboard talk but love my tubulars.

  13. Dan O

    Cool post and very true. You tend to be drawn into bikes (or whatever) from the era you first became hooked into the sport/hobby/lifestyle.

    For me, even though I think modern carbon bikes ride fantastic, bikes from the ’80s into the early ’90s always catch my eye and “look right”. Steel frame and fork, downtube shifters, frame mount pumps – old school stuff. I hung on to some of my old bikes for just that reason, even though they’re rarely ridden. My ’91 Bridgestone RB-1, my ’86 Fat Chance, and ’91 Yo Eddy for example.

    In the early ’80s I spun wrenches in a bike shop for a few years. From that era, always wanted one of the higher end Miyata models: 912, Pro, or Team. I never bought one, but now cruise eBay occasionally searching. I found a few and posted about it recently:

    On a similar note, as a kid, rode and raced dirt motorcycles quite a bit. Consequently, motocross bikes from ’75 to ’79 also “look right” to me. Over the last two years, been spending time cruising Craigslist and eBay, hit a few vintage MX shows, and attended one AHRMA national. Since being out of motocross since 1980 and dipping my interest back in, like a fun time warp.

    Motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards – similar vibe and history involved. Those crazy seeds implanted into our defective mugs at some point, starting the obsession. We’re a bunch of lucky freaks, normal folks have no idea what they’re missing…

  14. Jeremy

    I cut my cycling teeth on a Torker bmx bike. Bought with money earned by my own hands. At the time, that was my dream bike! I was lucky and enjoyed it like crazy. I took it off some really cool jumps.

    As my tastes and interests developed (and when not chasing some little brunette), I lusted for a steel Italian steed with Campagnolo components. I had to settle for an Asian made Bianchi frame with low level Shimano components instead. However, a bike is a bike, and like all good two wheeled steeds, it helped solidify in my mind a love of all things involving pedaling and speed.

    Last summer, I seized upon a chance that comes along rarely. A cycling buddy who was to become a new daddy soon was beginning to unload some of the flotsam from his garage. One day before the weekly ride, I spied in the back of his new station wagon a Colnago Saronni Super frame and fork I had tried to buy from him before. After a paltry sum passed from my hands to his, I was its new caretaker.

    I’ve put about a thousand miles on it now, and it does take me back. It reminds me of watching Lemond on the minimal television coverage we enjoyed here in the states back in the late 80’s. It puts me in the place of those first guys I aspired to be on the first group road rides I went on in the early 90’s.

    It takes me back!

  15. Souleur

    Robot, you obviously are an optimist, in that your outlook and assumption is we all look back at our history with a ‘sheen’, positively.

    Not to say we all do, or do not, but there are somethings I cherish, somethings I abhorred and am glad to have ‘outgrown’
    -like, my first self-done-bike fit
    -my first helmet
    -my circa 1990 glasses
    -my first pair of shorts

    they were aweful, and burning them was a blessing enabling me to bury my past and no evidence onward to prove it…except a picture or two my buddies pull out now and then

    To the positive, is my first 8spd Ultegra grouppo, the joy of not having to adjust something every ride, the pride in keeping her clean
    The first wheelset I built up, and was able to maintain
    The first corner you pull ahead of the group and look back seeing..only road…you made it!

    These are all things I cherish

    So to the FGR question, I am old enough now and smart enough to not answer directly, knowing comparisons both positively, and negatively affect the future and being brutally honest and sincere with oneself presently, is the way ride with fulfillment

  16. Pete Ehlke

    I got my first road bike in 1974. It was a bike- a Sekai 1000- little known outside Illinois and Wisconsin and a few small pockets of the Pacific Northwest, but I loved it and rode it and nothing else for *years*.

    A couple of years back, one turned up on eBay in basically unridden condition. It still had the Sekai-branded tires, and they had so little wear that the feathery little rubber nubbins were almost all intact.

    It was my size.

    It was the same color as mine.

    And when I looked closely, it had a shop sticker from the same place mine came from: Champaign Cycles, in Champaign, Illinois.

    You better believe I bought it, and that it’s hanging on the wall today.

  17. Michael

    A GREAT post…thanks for bringing back lots of good memories. I had a Gator and a Hosoi. The Hosoi is still in my parents garage, actually, waiting for my son to learn to ride it (he’s only 10 months old, so we’re working on the whole walking thing). Funny, my first bikes don’t bring back nearly as much nostalgia, likely because I didn’t really fall in love with my bikes until later in life. I’m hoping my Moots will survive the test of time and I can pass that along to him as well

  18. Padraig

    I have to join in on this. I did ride skateboards and I DID break my arm. But man, I had a lot of fun.

    And I will confess that I’d love to have my old Ray “Bones” Rodriguez board again. Tracker Extracks (or were they Sixtracks?) and Bones minicubes. The board was stolen years ago at a skatepark.

    I still wear Vans.

    But the first bike I ever lusted for was a Serotta. Later I spent almost a year on an Atlanta. Loved that bike.

  19. Scott

    I started my bike love affair with BMX too. Looking to re-live my BMX “glory” years I came across Who needs sleep! Funny how affordable those bikes seem compared to road bikes!

  20. lawhaas

    I am still on the look out for a 7-Eleven Merckx in my size(54-55). I remember trading my Nintendo for a time trial bike build for the 84 Olympics by Rossin(or at least that was the rumor)…It had Columbus oval sweet! I too had a Haro FSR with Mag wheels. I have gone through a number of bikes and am sentimental about them all. I am at a place in my life now that I have a bike in Steel, Ti, Carbon and Aluminum…..But I still want that classic road bike for the wall

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