Welcome back. So I got a bike and gradually got it spiffed up. I was slow to progress as a cyclist, I spent a couple years riding mostly on my own. Never having been an athlete before I suppose I had trouble seeing myself becoming one. I was enjoying the bike and just riding.By that second autumn I entered an organized ride and completed a half century. This distance isn't popular now but the combo of full and half century rides was common then. I don't remember anything about the build up to or even the event itself, but I still have the finishers patch - LAW Half Century 1976. League of American Wheelmen as it was called then. I lived in Charlotte, the Blue Ridge Mountains are a little more than an hours drive. A friend and I were of similar cycling experience and decided to go on a weekend camping trip and ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We thought we would ride up aways toward the Virginia line. Ha, The Parkway is a succesion of small to big rolling hills along the ridge crest, but I had never done anything like that before. I had a handlebar bag on the bike and still I remember we got worn out, turned back and bonked bad,which was a new experience. We started to realize it was getting late too and colder as it does in the mountains in late afternoon. We finally crawled back to the town of Blowing Rock, wolfed down some food, and still had a tough ride back to Price Park at twilight. Now I look back at what a short trip that was. But a first none the less.
The French bike was not keepimg up with my cycling self image. One day I stopped in a little bike shop that I frequented. They shared space in a running store. This was the predicesor of Charlotte Bike Sport. They had a slightly used,nice frame set, in my size. It was a English handbuilt that had belonged to a racer, but not much used. A Falcon , Reynolds 531 frame I could be proud to own. So I did. Light Blue with chrome lugs and fork. Typical English frame, clean, no braze-ons for bottles or cable stops. I built it up with parts I already had. I wish I could remember more about the ride, but I don't.
More time passed and I had never been on a real mountain. and found myself at a new job, with a fellow cyclist working there. He lived more in the foothills. I got an invite to join a couple guys going to Mt. Mitchell. It is only the highest point East of the Rockies. Six thousand plus feet up. I made it a ways up the Blue Ridge Parkway, I remember a tunnel or two, but along there my legs gave out and I pulled to the side and waited for them to come down. I had no concept of a big climb. I know now it's a thirty mile climb! I have done it many times since then. It is the final part of The Assault on Mt. Mitchell a famous century in
western North Carolina.
So I was reading everything cycling that I could get my hands on. Now I knew about about time trailing and that the area cycling club held a regular 10 miler. I asked a casual acquaintance what a good first timer might expect time-wise. I wad told 30 minutes. well it was an experience I still can recall and turned in a 29:59 Somewhere about that time in the eighties I entered my first real race at the Dilworth Criterium in Charlotte. then beginners did what was called citizens class. It wasn't a big field if I remember right, and I did OK, but still didn't see myself as a real cyclist. my life at that time just seemed to crowded for that kind of dream. But I enjoyed the bike. I commuted to work fairly regularly. and rode as often for fun, dare I say training, as I could.
I have looked back at mileage logs I kept, I wasn't really riding near as much as I do now. But I got out early to ride to work and took a long route, that left me in a strange mix of exhaustion and elation. A longer ride came along most weekends. I reaquainted a couple friends I had known earlier and now were cyclists, more accomplished than myself. They provided a big push forward for me. The coldest time on a bike was a dark early trip to work, about three miles. It was well below freezing and howling wind. it was hard to inhale for a while it was a shock to the system but I got there.the gear was so primitive compared to today. A crumby battery powered light, Wonder light brand I don't think there was much wonderful about it. and a Belt Beacon rear light that was hi-tech at the time. Basically a DOT style flasher you would find in a construction zone, just a bit smaller. the clothing I started with was wool, chamois were actually chamois, it's an animal skin. and had to be lubed to soften them before a ride. shoes had cleats that were nailed in place. There was so much to be learned to be a real cyclist, now it is so easy to learn things. but the same hurdle exists, I am amazed how little many people want to know about our beloved sport. The internet, magazines, You-Tube all deliver a tidal wave of info if you care to search a little. As I mentioned earlier, I work in a bike shop and find people can't use a pump or even figure out a valve stem. how did I learn? I even had to mount my own cleats with tiny little nails. there is something to be said for paying your dues, I think. it's more than just buying stuff it's a right of passage, a dedication, a "religious" orders vows. Don't get me wrong I don't see myself as something special, I think all cyclists had pretty similar experiences. I treasure the recollections of these first experiences, initiations into life as a cyclist. I remember the first hard shell helmets, the first cyclometers (even before electronics, anyone remember the Huret Multito?) how about roof racks - La Prealpina!, Yakima and Thule were years away yet.
Following the Tour de France was a challenge then, at best the newspaper got us coverage that amounted to a list in the box scores section that might be omitted if space was limited. ABC Wide World of Sports gave us a spare, disjointed coverage of the Tour about 1984 when Jonathan Boyer was the first American in over fifty years. Which leads up to 1985 and Greg Lemond and the modern era, stay tuned.
Thanks for reading.