Friday Group Ride #346

Friday Group Ride #346

My college girlfriend (now my wife) suffered through hours of standing around in record stores, waiting for me as I thumbed through the badly organized vinyl, seeking treasure. Then there were the used book stores, dusty, smelling of mildew. It’s a miracle she stuck by me, intemperate as I was, self-centered. I have moved on from these behaviors. Mostly.

Bikes still have the capacity to inspire my inner boondoggler, but fortunately searching for used, vintage and obscure bicycles is mainly an internet endeavor.

For a time I was obsessed with the idea of finding a Coventry Eagle produced in a factory in Mochdre, near Newtown, Wales, very near where my father’s family has lived and farmed fora at least the last two centuries. Coventry Eagle produced the Barry Hoban frames, and Barry was their marketing manager, after he retired from racing.

I never did find one in good enough condition to throw money at, and in retrospect I have to believe that any surviving examples will be so heavy and/or rusted that they’d break my heart.

When my kids were not yet walking, I also plowed untold hours into researching BMX bikes, not for them, but for me. Time-crippled as you are when you have young, young children, I believed I could make the process of riding back and forth in front of our house with them more fun for myself by getting a BMX bike that I could teach myself tricks on.

This dream actually did come to pass, and I managed to get in about three rides on my age-inappropriate acquisition before I gave up on the idea. On the very first ride, my older son asked me if I could do a wheelie. Well, of course I can do a wheelie. You can see where this is going, right?

Used to wheelie’ing mountain bikes, I heaved back on the bars of my BMX, stomped down on the right pedal and landed hard on my back in my neighbor’s driveway, my shoulder popping in an audible and slightly sickening way. I lay there for a minute or two, trying not to scare my kid, trying to convince myself that I wasn’t Earth’s greatest moron, and then finally staggered back to a standing position.

“Are you ok, dad?” he asked. “Uh huh. Sure,” I replied. That shoulder hurt for about two years.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what have been your great bike quests, fulfilled or unfulfilled? What is the most ridiculous, aspirational, nostalgic, obscure thing you’ve hunted for? And of those bikes you’ve finally possessed, which have been revelations, and which disappointments?

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  1. Winky

    The most “ridiculous” bike we own is our 1976 Wilier Cromovelato Nuevo Record. It hangs on the wall as a piece of art. But I wouldn’t say it was a quest. I just liked the look of it. Colnagos were too expensive. The timeframe speaks to when I was first interested in cycling as well as the twilight of Merckx’s career. The design – lugged steel, clips and straps, quill stem, downtube friction shifters, exposed cables is timeless. Bikes were exactly like this for decades, before the revolution started around the era of Lemond.

    I was browsing on line and my wife basically insisted we buy it, if only to stop me browsing.

  2. Bruce Mackey

    I saw a Cannondale Black Lighting in a bike store many years ago and subsequently became convinced it was the bike I had to have. Searched for years and finally found a used one advertised. Called the owner, went to his home. It was my size and immaculate! Price was right also. Went for a short ride and HATED it. Far too “twitchy” for the kind of recreational riding I was doing. Appearance isn’t everything, glad I rode before buying.

  3. Quentin

    I was a teenager when I bought my first road bike: a 1986 Raleigh Olympian. It was the most basic entry level bike the shop had that could be called a proper road bike, and it was not particularly light weight (over 25 pounds), but it’s the bike that helped me fall in love with road cycling. Then it was stolen from the high school bike rack a month later and I was heartbroken. A few years ago, my nostalgia about the bike led me to search craigslist occasionally to see if one like it ever showed up for sale. Eventually I found one. I bought it and replaced the 12-speed drivetrain with an Alfine 8-speed internally geared hub and made a few other changes. It’s now my bike for riding around the neighborhood and getting groceries.

  4. Alan

    Waiting for a replacement Campagnolo bearing race for a 1980 Trek 710, and a Campagnolo crankarm or set for a 1998 Bianchi Trofeo. Still rode both often until this year when both wore out…

  5. Michael

    One of my best friends found a 1969 Raleigh Competition at a garage sale about 1976. He put on better brakes (DuraAce side pulls, black) but otherwise kept the original parts (Huret Jubilee derailleurs were great!). He got a job at a good bike shop and bike-part importer and had other bikes, so sold me the Raleigh. I was a college student and it became my love (girls were far too scary). I rode it everywhere, and even took it on a 4000-mile bike tour, even though it was a bit of a noodle with weight on it. Eventually, late in my undergraduate years, I had a race bike (a Ron Cooper) and the Raleigh and needed money for food. I sold the Raleigh to my brother for something like $400. He has refused to sell it back to me for now thirty-five years. He did a number of things to the frame (put on brazeons for cantilever brakes, for instance, which turned out to not work with the flexible seat stays). I complained good-naturedly for years about this, and kept my eyes out for something similar. One day, I walked into a colleague’s office and saw a rather beat-up Comp (1972, I later determined) leaning against the wall, missing a few parts. I asked him about its future (it was clearly too small for him) and he said he was grabbing some parts off it for another bike. I offered to buy it, but he sent me off wheeling the bike back to my office, for free. I set myself the challenge of getting it up and riding for under $20. New cables and housing pretty well took care of that but I had plenty of parts from old bikes and my brother pitched in with others. It has been my commuter bike for ten years now. It just feels so right – the ride of it is so familiar.

  6. Grumbly Oldguy

    Cannondale Crest R500 from late 1980’s. Someone passed me as if I was going in reverse. About 2008 I found one at a garage sale just passing by. It was illuminated in a shaft of golden light. Less than $20. It only needed tires, wires and new grease. All stock. Almost unused. Still ride it on special occasions.

  7. DMH Cycling Guy

    I delivered 83 newspapers per day on a 1965 Schwinn Stingray for 4 years. About ten years ago, well into my 50s, I decided I needed to recreate that experience. Haven’t found the perfect model yet, but I know I will. Blue metallic paint, padded banana seat, sissy bar, knobby whitewalls, chrome fenders. I wonder what would happen if I now tried to pull the wheelie that was formerly just daily fare?

    1. DMo

      I had a Schwinn Stingray, too! But when I started to carry papers (Richmond Times Dispatch, about 80 customers during the week and 120 for those gigantic Sunday papers, I saved up and got a Huffy, army green, and added a heavy wire basket on the handlebars, and rim-riding generator light for those dark winter mornings.

      I rediscovered the Huffy a few years back, deflated and rusting, tucked in a corner of the barn. While my father’s mid-stage Alzheimer’s made most sustained activities impossible, somehow polishing the rust off of the rims, spokes, and frame held his attention. Maybe there were vestiges of memory of his own newspaper bike from the early ’40’s. My Huffy seemed to lack every innovation, and was probably built on an age-old and trusted utility design. Cleaning up the bike became our project for a couple weekends. We would sit in the winter sun, not really talking — I don’t know, maybe just being kids working on our bikes again. There was an easy peace, an unwinding in him that I hadn’t seen in him for long time.

      A new saddle, tires, some oil on the chain, a test of the coaster brakes — and she was ready to go. I went to the house to wash my hands and called my mother to come out and inspect our work. As we came back to the barn, we saw my father throwing a leg over the top tube and pushing off down the long driveway. I was horrified to think that my dropped guard of him was going to result in serious injury, a night in the emergency room, and even more challenges for my mother to navigate. “Dad!” and I ran towards him, but he never looked back and my mother called me back. Let him go, she said. We walked up the drive, my heart in my guts, not breathing, just waiting for the tangle of metal and human noises that is a bicycle crash. (There was no risk of car traffic on this old country road.) But the crash never came and we made it to the road in time to see a shaky but successful u-turn and something like a smile as he rode back to us, a bit wobbly, but a bit more full of himself than we’d seen in a while, and puffing like he’d just rushed the end of his paper route to get back while breakfast was still warm.

    2. DMo

      Sorry about the long-winded and rather off-topic reply. I responded to the nostalgia Robot invoked and lost my way on the quest.

    3. Pat O'Brien

      Dmo, your story just confirms the RKP masthead. Your story is an example of “the soul of cycling.”

  8. Stephen Barner

    If there were a bike I’d like back, it would have to be the California Masi twin-plate crown frameset that I sold in the early 1980s to fund my Marinoni. It’s not that the Canadian frame was a mistake–quite the contrary–it’s one of the nicest riding steel frames I’ve owned (and that’s dozens), but I repainted the Masi myself and only later learned why the workmanship evident in the bare frame was so jaw-droppingly perfect. I should have found the money some other way and kept that beauty.

    But, disappointments? Two come to mind. One was the touring Paramount that I bought in the 1970s without doing the work to determine the frame geometry in those pre-Internet days. Who would think that Schwinn would use the same 22.5″ top tube on every size up to 23″ on one of their top models? The other would be the Trek 810 mountain bike that I bought when I worked for a dealer. Though it was their top model, it wasn’t at all designed for either off-road or even fast dirt road riding, as my wife discovered when it started shimmying violently on a fast descent. I got rid of it and built her up a Fat Chance to match the one I had bought to replace it.

    Other machines haven’t been disappointments because I’ve learned over the years that the bike itself is the least contributing factor in terms of performance and enjoyment of the ride. I’m not saying there are not differences between makes and models, but if you understand what the bike is designed for, and stay away from the ones with obviously poor engineering, they all pretty much do what you expect. You get to the point where you can look at the bike and instantly judge how it’s going to ride. You also have to have the experience to separate out the contributions of different factors. Most riders have only ridden a few bikes far enough to get a real feel for them, and can’t differentiate between what is the result of frame material or geometry and what is due to their tire pressure and stem length. Disappointment is usually the result of lack of experience or not doing your homework.

  9. Spencer

    A Giant ATX 780 chromoly frame. It was my first MTB. I rode it everywhere. Explored the local trails. Road it to school. I gave it to my Brother when I went on a mission. Have had several bikes since, but have never had more fun.

  10. Jeff O.

    I got a 1978 Rampar 10 speed road bike with 24′ wheels for my 10th birthday and rode that bike everywhere. It had a dial speedometer and I would try to go faster down the big hill on my street every time I rode into town. That backfired on me one time as I remember seeing 25mph on the speedometer right as my foot slipped off the pedal when I tried to stand up to pedal up the next hill. I went down hard on my shoulder and slid on the road in a tank top and shorts. Wasn’t wearing a helmet either but luckily didn’t hit my head. Had to walk home a 1/2 mile bleeding and crying. My brother walked our bikes back. I don’t remember what happened to the bike after that. Not sure if my mother thought it was too dangerous for me or I refused to ride it after that.
    Fast forward 35 years and I found myself searching for small road bikes for a kids’ bike loan program I run (Butte County Junior Cycling). I could never find anything close to it online but was able to rescue two similar bikes of from the local landfill. One is a Nishiki that was in decent shape and a Univega that was a rust bucket. Both are roadworthy now with upgraded components and 650c wheels. Those little bikes are rather heavy for their size. Maybe it’s good that my old Rampar didn’t land on my when I wrecked.

  11. Madpaul

    I’m another 50 something with a desire for the beautiful machines from my youth – back then I didn’t (or at least my parents didn’t) have the resources for a quality bike – campagnolo? – you might as well have said get me a gold bar. But it’s different now – I have some spare time and a little cash to invest. I’ve got myself a nice Colnago Super, 1976 and I’ve restored it to something like showroom condition – it’s a thing of beauty and far too nice to risk out on the road – there’s the irony! Latest project is a 1969 Bianchi Record – just finished and I’m just back, literally, from a first test ride out on the road – gearing needs some adjustment but it feels good, and most importantly, looks fantastic.
    I’m planning on having a go at Eroica later this year – just need to decide which one to ride!

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