Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thirty-seven years on Two Wheels

Here is the first installment of my memoir. it is through a single lens, reflections on my life aboard a bike. Over the course of these nearly four decades, many things have shaped my life but none has had the day in day out presence that cycling has had. My cycling life started earlier still, but as typical for children, was unobserved and unreflective, as I discovered things that two wheels could deliver me to, independence, freedom and adventure. As typical of my generation in the US, I cast the bike aside as a child's pastime as I became a teenager. But as strong a draw as car culture was, it also provided a path back to the bike. The Arab Oil Embargo in 1973 came in my last year of college. As I was a commuter student less than ten miles from campus, I started using my younger brothers ten-speed to get to school on occasion and enjoyed the forgotten freedom of two wheels. I was invited to join some others for what became my first group ride, and was hooked. After graduating and getting my first job, getting a bike of my own was paramount. I don't remember how I selected the shop or the bike, but I do remember searching out info in the local library. I discerned how poor the typical parts were on entry level bikes, and had my first bike upgraded to the new Suntour shift systems from Japan. The bike itself was a Jeunet from France, a clone of the popular Peugot U-08. These bikes were crappy by today's standards, but much better than the bikes typical in the US. I put down deeper roots as an up-and-coming bike geek by hanging out in the bike shop daily and reading everything I could find. Within year, I ditched the steel cottered crank for an alloy Stronglight 99 and had some hand built wheels with Campy hubs and the new Rigida narrow clincher rims mounted. Then came good Cinelli bars, stem and a Laprade seat post. This upgradeing was common,people don't do that these days, you just buy a new bike, I am sure some people did then, but bikes didn't change much year to year so we just improved what we had. I was equally intrigued by bike touring and the mysteries of racing, but I see now that racing had a mystique that drew me in, especially the European scene, with all the strange names and places. It's funny, but I don't remember agony on the saddle or learning how to use a pump or manage toe clips not to mention riding in a city of 350,000 people, these things put off beginners now, but I loved my new sport, even though I had never been an athlete before. I also loved the bike and started to learn how to work on it. I never did rely on the LBS (local bike shop) for my service needs.
This will complete the entry, check back for more.
Are you enjoying the Tour of California, and in HD. One thing is sure, we can't get the weather to cooperate out here. The scenery in the first road stage was nothing to brag about, its a shame we didn't get to see Tahoe and Mt. Shasta.
Thanks for reading