Posts Tagged ‘bike’

Bike to Work Day 2012

June 20th, 2012 No comments

Next week on June 27th I will be participating in Bike to Work Day 2012. If you live elsewhere you may have already done this back in May, but in Colorado we have it in June due to the fact that it is less likely to snow. I have a special fondness for BTWD (as us old timers like to call it) due to the fact that it kicked off my attempt to commute to work via alternative transportation. The first year I participated I had no bike, so I ran the 14 miles to work. I vowed to get a bike for the next year, and that May my dream was realized. By the time my second BTWD rolled around my butt had almost healed from my first attempt at riding to work without bike shorts. Now a few years later, BTWD is just another day on the calendar that I ride to work but I love to remember how it got me started!

If you talk to many hardcore bike commuters you will find that many of them hate BTWD. It’s the one day of the year that you are guaranteed to see someone on a bike do something crazy, putting themselves in harm’s way. It’s inevitable when people are trying something for the first time to have problems getting started. And I know it is tough to ask for help when you are doing something that most of us have been doing since we were 5!

So for BTWD 2012 I thought I would write a few tips that I have picked up over the years of riding my bike to work (and I’m still learning). You probably know all of these things already, but you’d be surprised at the things I’ve seen and done.

Choose your route carefully! You are not going to want to ride the same roads that you drive to work on your bike. You are not going to be able to pedal 40mph, so it’s not going to take you any longer than it would otherwise by taking side streets. And if you can avoid streets completely to ride on bike paths, do so even if it’s out of your way! It is SO much less stressful traveling on a bike path than it is on a street with cars. Bike lanes do improve that comfort somewhat, but even with them there is the feeling that you are going ridiculously slowly compared to traffic. Google maps has a great feature that will let you search for directions to travel by bike. It’s not perfect, but I’ve found lots of potential routes by that tool that avoid many of the main traffic problems. Don’t be tempted to ride on the sidewalk, or ride on the road against traffic. Cars are expecting other cars on the road, so if you act like other cars they won’t be surprised. I’ve run into a few “bike lane salmon” in my time, you do not want to be that cyclist!

Be prepared! Make sure you have an extra tube, tire levers and a pump with you. If I meet you stranded on the trail I can probably help you change a tire, or make adjustments to your bike with my tool set, but I don’t carry tubes and pumps for all sizes of tires and chances are you don’t have the same size I do. If you have the things you need most cyclists will be happy to help you deal with the problem if you are in over your head. Ask for help if you need it. There are not “born cyclists” who are good at everything from day 1, everyone has had to start at some point. If you do know how to change your own flat tire, great! Just make sure you don’t leave any trash behind. Abandoning your blown-out tube on the side of the road will not give it time to think about what it has done.

Be comfortable! I know you hate spandex, everyone does. But there’s a very good reason that bike shorts exist, if there wasn’t no one would wear them. It’s not to make you more aerodynamic. Apart from providing some much needed padding for your sit-bones, the chamois ensures that there are no seams rubbing against any part of your body that touches the saddle. The chamois is your first line of defense against discomfort, and it’s not a thing you want to go without. If you are concerned about the spandex issue wear bike shorts under your regular shorts. Once you get to work, change as soon as possible, a sweaty chamois is not your friend.

Ride your bike like you drive your car!  Stop at the stop lights and stop signs and wait until it is your turn to cross. Take your place in line at intersections, just because you can fit by on the right side doesn’t mean you should. Cars are not expecting you to come flying by on the right and that’s an invitation to getting cut off. Signal your intentions with hand signals, and thank drivers that give you extra space with a wave. Don’t react negatively to cars that cut it too close. If they are dumb enough to be trying to “teach you a lesson” with a 2000lb hunk of metal, they are probably not going to park their car to politely debate the merits of bike travel with you.

Relax! Riding your bike to work is fun. Give yourself extra time to enjoy the slower pace. If you wanted to be at work “right away” you would have taken your car. On BTWD, find a couple of breakfast stations and stop to chat. In the morning it is cool, and if you are doing it right you probably won’t even need the shower when you get to work! If you really do need that shower, just take it as an opportunity to brag to coworkers about how you just rode to work.

Categories: bike, commute, fitness Tags: ,

Project Bike

May 11th, 2012 1 comment

Commute BikeThe conversion of road bike to commute bike is complete! With this I forgo any aspirations of ever racing this bike, and instead dedicate its use to meeting my transportation needs. I began this journey a few months ago with some investigation of how to attach a rack to a road bike. As my bike has no attachment points for accessories I was clueless as to how to begin. The search revealed two possible solutions. The first “P-clamps” which are readily available at hardware stores, and the second, a quick-release adapter to mount a rack directly to the axle.

The QR adapter was favored by touring enthusiasts and I wasn’t sure I needed to go that route for my 20 lbs of gear (I weighed my usual full commute bag). But I did know that I needed to go with something more robust than a seat mount rack, which are generally rated to only 15 lbs. It turned out that a particular brand of rack (Racktime) could be adapted to work with a QR-adapter specific for Tubus racks. Tubus racks are much more robust, and designed specifically for touring, but Racktime offer a similar design with slightly weaker aluminum construction. I ordered a Racktime rack and figured I would try with P-clamps first.

My first attempt at mounting the rack with P-clamps resulted in a functional rack system, but it did not feel very robust. With my loaded panniers (a sweet set from KoKi), my heels would occasionally catch on the bags, even in their farthest back adjustment. Also, the P-clamps that attach near the axle were carrying a lot of load on just a thin, sheet metal mounting point. My fear was I would be riding home and the clip would snap, leaving me stranded without any way to fix it.

Rack and Fenders

Rack and fenders attached with QR adapter kit from Tubus

I ordered the QR-adapter, and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to mount the rack on the supplied brackets (just two holes needed to be drilled). Mounting the rack on the bike with the wheel and attaching the rack to the seat stays was another issue entirely! Eventually, after several failed attempts, and a couple of trips to the hardware store, I am finally happy with the way the rack is mounted. The QR-mount is a solid attachment point, and I would have no problem loading the rack to its full 66 lb rating with the current configuration. Heel strike is a thing of the past as well.

Buoyed up by my success with the rack, I went about adding fenders to the mix. I was convinced that fenders were essential to allowing me to ride my bike on inclement weather days. Usually, the only times I ride in the rain are when I get caught in an evening thunderstorm. The result of this is that I arrive at my destination drenched, having to completely disassemble my bike, and needing to stand in the shower for half an hour to warm up. None of these things are possible at work, so I couldn’t ride my bike to work on days when it was raining in the morning.

I bought a set of fenders that were specific for a road bike. They are 35 mm wide so that they can (potentially) fit through the brake calipers without touching the wheel. I managed to get the rear fender mounted, but it turned out it was rubbing along the whole left hand side of the fender. In other words, my rear wheel had moved over in the frame a few millimeters, and while not enough to notice without a fender, with a fender it was a big deal! I went about tightening up the spokes on the right hand side of the wheel to move it over, and in a few short minutes had completely destroyed the wheel. Not only was the dish still off, the rim was completely bent and un-true.

Front Fender

Front fender attached with P-clamps

It was then that I tapped out and took the wheel to my local bike shop to fix. They returned a true wheel, that fit properly in the frame. With that the job of attaching the fenders became much easier, and it was only 2 or 3 hours of minute adjustments before I had two fenders mounted and clear of the tires.

This week I got to reap the full benefit of my labors as I rode to work in the rain on Monday. Fenders make a massive difference, and I arrived at work almost completely dry. In addition, all of the water had been directed away from the sensitive parts of the bike so no disassembly was required, just a re-lubrication of the chain. My work clothes emerged from my water-tight panniers dry, and by the time the ride home began my bike clothes had dried out too!

Making the switch from road bike to commuter was a lot more difficult than I had imagined, but the payoff is huge. I have added so many days that I can potentially ride to work to my calendar, helping to keep me healthy, and keeping me off the bus!



Categories: bike, commute Tags: , , , ,

Beside the Côte d’Azur

April 23rd, 2012 1 comment

Riding the track at Boulder Indoor CyclingOn the weekend Melissa surprised me with a trip to Boulder Indoor Cycling as a birthday present. The facility has an indoor velodrome as well as several indoor mountain bike circuits. It’s a fairly small track, coming in at 142m, so the banking in the turns is a whopping 45 degrees! Looking up at the underside of the track while in the waiting area is not recommended.

Despite my many fears, I decided to trust the physics just as I had done when I first tried rollers. My instructor, Tim, assured me that as long as I maintained a 14mph minimum speed, centrifugal force would take care of sticking me to the track. But without any speedometer, the only way to gauge speed is by feel!

After some orientation, we ventured out onto the concrete apron to begin some slow turns. Gradually we picked up speed until it felt like we would no longer be able to hold the turns on the flat, smooth surface, then we popped up onto the track and all feelings of discomfort were dispelled!

To some extent, riding on the track feels just like riding on the road. You are essentially following an infinitely straight line, the track reaches up to push you around the corners. Just like on the road, watching the line in front of you around the curves causes your bike to follow suit. The biggest difference is the force on your body in the turns. In his book, Flying Scotsman, Graeme Obree talked about the beating that his body would take when forced to ride on a slightly smaller track; the forces are greater, and the turns come more often. I can’t even imagine the feeling of hitting the turns going as fast as he was!

After getting a feel for getting on and off the track safely, Tim took me through a drill where I was required to follow his line around the track exactly. He gradually moved his line further and further out on the track until we were riding right next to the rail. Then he began riding out to the rail on the straights and diving down into the curves, effectively riding down a 45 degree hill into the turn. Each time around we seemed to go faster until I was convinced he must be crazy. But somehow we stuck to the track like glue, and each acceleration worked its way down into my soul. By the time he gave me the go-ahead to go it alone for a few laps I was hooked. I kept pushing faster and faster, trying to hold my line around the sprinter’s lane, the smile on my face getting bigger and bigger each time around.

When the lesson time was up I was tired, sweaty, and sore, but I was so happy to have had such a unique experience! The center offers its “Try the Track” class every Sunday at 2, and it costs $30. They provide the bike, although you will have to bring in your own pedals and shoes.

Update: This last weekend (4/29) Boulder Indoor Cycling announced that they are closing. I spoke with the president, Bruce McPherson, yesterday and he is clearly upset that he had to make the tough call to close. There is still a chance an investor could step in to save the facility, but it would have to happen quickly. There will be a final “first Friday” event on May 4th to say goodbye, if you have questions or are interested in showing support you can contact the owners at 303-CYCLING.

Categories: bike Tags: , , ,

Project Bike

March 22nd, 2012 4 comments

My life is all about change and adaptation. So why am I obsessed with stock when it comes to my bike? My little road bike is my pride and joy. Purchased on Craigslist used a few years ago I delved into its history: Marin “Limited Edition” road bike in blaring neon green (all the rage in its 1993 vintage). Full Shimano 105 components, 7-speed, shifters on the downs. They don’t make them like this anymore.

Literally, they don’t make them. If I want to buy a new wheel set I have to spread the frame. It’s not wide enough to accept today’s 8-10 speed cog sets. If I want to buy new shifters they are not made for 7-speeds either. The stem is a quill stem, if I want to go threadless I have to buy a whole new fork.

But all is not lost, the frame is beautiful steel, light and strong and infinitely adaptable. The shifters and brakes are simple, cheap and easy to fix. The bearings in the hubs are smooth as the day is long. It’s a hobbyist’s dream, just as long as you are willing to let go of the past.

I have spent 2 years on my bike preserving its integrity. Riding in an uncomfortable position because I did not want to swap my neon green stem with a longer one. Lugging my commuter bag on my back and getting soaked because I didn’t want to mount a frame or fenders. It was my race bike, even though I never raced it.

That’s about to change. If I am for adaptability, then I need to adapt my machine to my needs. I use this bike for commuting 99% of the time, it should be set up for that purpose. If that means changing parts, adding after market items, or even…gasp…bending and welding, then I should be open to that. Face it, this is not a $5000 race bike, it’s a $100 Craigslist special. If I can screw anything up without feeling like I’m out a ton of money, it’s this. I’m officially declaring it a “project bike.” If something is not working for my purposes, I’m changing it. Because I should love my bike, not just put up with it.

Categories: bike, commute Tags: , ,

Finding Confidence

June 22nd, 2011 3 comments

I am not a confident cyclist. I have been riding my road bike now for 2 years, and I still feel like everything is a new experience. I read about cycling and listen to podcasts about cycling. I read books about bike maintenance, and practice the techniques on my bike. And above all, I just keep riding. The more I ride, the more in control of my bike I feel. But generally I am riding to and from work, and I am riding alone, so I have no way of knowing what I am really capable of.

Last week I brought my bike to Boulder, planning to ride at lunch. Boulder is home to some great routes for both running and cycling, but I have always been drawn to Mt. Flagstaff as a challenge. Perhaps it is the fact that it seems so mysterious, so close to Boulder, yet so much effort separates you from the top. It was two years ago that I first tackled it on foot, running to the top and back down in a soaking downpour. I was amazed by the number of times the switchbacking road crossed the trail as I went up. “This,” I thought, “must be a blast on a bike!”

Panorama Point

View of Boulder from partway up Mt. Flagstaff

I have indicated to a few of the cyclists that I know that I wanted to try to ride Flagstaff, but in the back of my mind there was always the nagging thought, “Are you sure you are going to be able to do it?” I did not want to be holding anyone up on the mountain as they waited for me to drag my frame up the slope. If I was going to ride Flagstaff I knew I would first have to do it alone. It was with that goal in mind that I departed, unprepared and unsure, for my ride last week.

With the effort of the previous day’s ride still in my legs, I was not even half-way up Baseline before I felt out-gunned. Each pedal stroke felt like I was pulling through molasses. But when I hit Flagstaff road and the grade kicked up I stood up and started to find a rhythm. Standing on the pedals, my legs still felt fresh, and I was able to keep moving despite the steepness of the road. I made it to the first lookout point drenched in sweat and unsure if I could keep going. I had forgotten my water bottle at home, and I was starting to get thirsty. I made the decision that I would keep going, and that I could turn around if I didn’t think I could go any further, at least it was all downhill on the way back.

But after the lookout point it seemed that the grade of the road was not quite as extreme. I found I was able to grind away across the slopes and only really had to stand up when I hit the switchbacks. I reached some point of equilibrium where I knew I could continue for a long time at that effort level. Each switchback brought me closer to the top, and I became more confident that I was going to make it. It was slow going, I was in my lowest gear and each pedal stroke seemed to only move me a few feet up the road, but it was forward progress. At one point a car coming down the mountain was making a weird sound that I thought was my tire, so I stopped to check on it. When I found that the tire was fine (at least the back one was) I was cursing myself for having stopped, knowing what a pain it would be to try to get clipped back in on the upward slope. I managed that without too much difficulty though and it was not too far up the road from there that I saw the sign to Flagstaff Summit. From there it was only a quarter mile of road and I knew it was in the bag.

At the Summit

I made it to the top!

I made it to the top, under my own power, and I found some confidence along the way. If you never get in over your head, then you never really know how tall you actually stand! Little did I know the adventure that awaited me on the descent…

[UPDATE] Apparently I did not ride the “full” version of Flagstaff, as Flagstaff Road continues for several miles past the “Flagstaff Summit.” I’ll be back to try it again!

Categories: bike, Training Tags: , , ,

Book Review: It’s All About the Bike

April 19th, 2011 2 comments

I just finished reading “It’s All About the Bike” by Robert Penn (here is the Amazon link if you are interested, but I don’t get any money from them so feel free to buy it in a bookstore). The book is a story of the author’s quest to build his own “dream bike” and describes his visits to the manufacturers of each selected component along with significant historical background of the bicycle. I came away from it with my own strong desire to build a dream bike, but also a greater appreciation of the technological developments that went into producing the bicycle as we know it.

I found it to be a highly entertaining read as the author’s descriptions of the characters involved in the production of high-end bicycle components brought life to the historical context in which they were presented. From the highly secretive Campagnolo factory to the laid back attitude of Steve ‘Gravy’ Gravenites, the artisanship and attention to detail that each of these manufactures exhibit truly comes across. These stories add to the significance of each technological development in the history of the bicycle, from the lowly ball-bearing to the intricate derailleur. I began appreciating aspects of my bike which I had previously taken for granted.

If you are remotely interested in bicycle building you will throughly enjoy this book. Hopefully, even if you are purely a cyclist you will come away with a deeper understanding of the history and hard work that went into each aspect of your ride, because truly we can all agree that it’s all about the bike!

Disclaimer: I received this book as a birthday present, so I did not pay for it myself, but it was not provided by the publisher. Thanks KJT!

Categories: bike Tags: , ,

A Grownups’ Playground

April 5th, 2011 1 comment

PlaygroundSaturday in Colorado we were treated to temperatures in the lower 80’s, our first taste of summer. I figured if I didn’t get outside and take advantage of it I would regret it, so I donned my cycling kit and was out the door. Usually when I go for a bike ride I have a specific route in mind, but this time all I knew is what roads I wanted to ride. Near my place there is a neighborhood of urban ranches, with a network of roads that run through the rolling hills that the homes occupy. The roads are pretty meandering and don’t really lead anywhere unless you know where you’re going, so they are pretty low traffic.  Some of the climbs through these hills are somewhat steep, but short. It’s like a playground for a road cyclist. I decided to take full advantage of the hills and made it a mission to choose the roads that climbed all of them, even if it meant turning around at the top and heading back down for more.

I don’t know whether it was the weather or the route, but this ended up being one of the most enjoyable rides I have been on. It felt great to get my heart racing as I powered up the short climbs, and even better to cut through the wind on descents. Turning onto unfamiliar roads just because there was a hill to climb was satisfying, like I was looking for and meeting the challenges head on. The mix of being up out of the saddle for steep portions and pulling away in the saddle made it a great workout, but not overwhelming. At the end of the ride I realized I hadn’t really gone anywhere, but I had had a whole lot of fun! My own grown-up playground, right outside my door!

Categories: bike Tags: ,

Take the Lane

March 24th, 2011 4 comments

Bikes Use Full LaneI thought it would be good to share about one of the most helpful things I have learned as a bicycle commuter. Hopefully this will inspire other new cyclists to try it, and keep everyone a little safer on the roads. The concept is called “taking the lane” and from a beginner’s perspective it is counterintuitive. Bikes are supposed to stay as far to the right as possible, correct? The answer is no, bikes should be as far to the right as is safe for the cyclist, however there are many instances when the safest place for a bike to be is occupying the entire lane. In the city of Denver the law is clear on how bicycles shall be operated on public roadways.

In particular, section 54-565:

Every person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subjected to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by the traffic rules and regulations of this city applicable to the driver of a vehicle,

and section 54-572 (a):

Every person operating a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right-hand side of the roadway as judged safe by the bicyclist to facilitate the movement of such overtaking vehicles unless other conditions make it unsafe to do so.

My take on the concept is that if, as a cyclist, you want to be regarded as a vehicle with rights to the road, then you should be acting as if you are a vehicle. If you ride your bike the way you would be expected to act as a car, motorists will be anticipating your actions and will respond in a predictable way. This way, not only are the motorists anticipating your actions, but you can also to some extent anticipate their actions. This means safer riding.

My favorite example of this is when approaching a stoplight. I always take my lane at a stoplight, regardless of whether there are cars there or not. First, if there are no cars there the sensors generally won’t see you if you aren’t in the middle of the lane. If you are too far to the right, cars will try to turn right in front of you, cutting you off or even knocking you over. If you are too far to the left in the lane cars will try to squeeze by you on the right to turn right, or even to pass you on the right in the intersection when the light turns green. In both these cases it is safer to be in the middle, as if you were a car occupying the full lane. When the light changes everyone is going slowly enough that you can easily move to the right of the lane as you cross the intersection, allowing traffic to pass.

If there are cars at the stop light I always take my lane, and my place in line. I am an outlier in this sense as most cyclists will pass along the right to the front of the line of cars. I think this practice is dangerous. It upsets drivers, because if they have had to pass you further back on the road they now have to think about passing you again. As a cyclist, passing on the right you also open yourself up to someone turning right in front of you and cutting you off. If you take your lane and place in line, suddenly the dynamic changes. Now you are behaving as a car would and the cars in line to cross the intersection understand that you will behave in a predictable way. Once traffic is moving through the intersection it is easy to move to the right when it is safe for cars to pass.

These are two good examples of how taking the lane as a cyclist can be safer, but there are many more cases as well. If I am attempting to turn left I will always change lanes and move into the turn lane to turn. Generally this makes sense as turning left from the right side of the road is never reasonable. If I can’t move over to the left to turn I will dismount my bike and cross at the crosswalk as a pedestrian. That brings up another issue which is to never, ever, ride on a sidewalk. Not only are you now not behaving as a vehicle would, but every single driveway/mall entrance/corner becomes a huge hazard. Cars don’t expect you, and they will absolutely not see you.

I do believe that there are certain ways that cyclists should not behave as cars. This is in the case of high-traffic, high-speed limit roads. Does a cyclist have the right to ride on such a road? Yes. Does that mean it is safe or reasonable for a cyclist to exercise that right? Absolutely not. My feeling is that the top speed of a bike is fairly limited, while an automobile’s speed is not. That means that a cyclist is going to travel just as quickly on a side street where the speed limit is 25 as they would on a road where the speed limit is 45. Most major thoroughfares run parallel to numerous side streets where the traffic is minimal, and the rate of travel for a bike on these roads is essentially the same. There may be more stop signs to deal with, but those really do not impact travel time significantly. A little bit of route planning before your ride can make things so much safer for everyone, so do your homework. Google maps now offers bike directions that generally avoid major streets and opt for bike routes and bike paths, so there are no excuses.

Not all of the situations you will encounter on the bike will be easy to evaluate, but generally if you are thinking and behaving as if you were a car this will be the safest option. What’s most amazing is that I’ve found drivers are fairly tolerant of this behavior as long as you are keeping to the right when the road is open. Just watch how many people give you a little extra space the next time you line up at a stoplight and don’t jump to the front! Now get out there and ride safe!

Categories: bike, safety Tags: , , ,

Meet Jane

March 21st, 2011 3 comments
The new bike

Meet Jane

RunBikeNerd and AgeofMelissius would like to announce the arrival of a new member of our bike family: Jane. She joined us March 19, 2011, weighing 25lbs and measuring 47cm tall. Both her parents are proud and happy!

I have been looking for a bike for my wife for a few years now. Ever since I began rediscovering my love of the bike I have wanted to share that experience with her. Unfortunately, there have not been a lot of suitable options to consider. I wanted to get her a new bike, as while I am okay with making repairs to my bike on the side of the road, it’s not something I want her to have to deal with often. Also, our house is set upon a large hill, so “super cute” cruiser bikes were out in favor of bikes with some gearing. I knew a road specific design would be best for her, but a racing frame with dropbars would be a little intimidating.

This year I found the Novara Express from REI. In truth, this frame probably has more in common with a cyclocross bike than a road bike, with clearance for wide tires (it comes with 700×32), and V-brakes. It also has spots on the frame for mounting a rack and fenders, making it a great potential commuter bike. But they’ve pared down the weight as much as possible, with an aluminum frame and carbon fork. The gearing is fairly conservative, with 48/36/26 up front and 11-28 in back, should make short work of any of the hills in our area and potentially a good setup for touring if that was a consideration. Finally, it is equipped with a nice flat handle bar, with comfortable bar ends for longer rides. This gives it a nice relaxed geometry, but still aggressive enough to be efficient (unlike the sit-up-and-beg comfort bike designs).

I actually think this is a remarkably well designed bike. It is not intimidating for riders who are only looking for recreation, or just getting back into riding, yet its features are flexible enough to allow more serious use if commuting or touring become an interest. It seems like a really fun bike to ride, and I hope it will give my wife many years of enjoyment!

Categories: bike Tags: , ,

What Does a Bike Mean to You?

March 4th, 2011 5 comments

Lately, as I have been getting out on my bike more, I have been thinking about the feeling of freedom that I get from riding. I love thinking back on my first memories on a bike when I was growing up. Whenever I climb on a bike I know that those memories formed the enjoyment I take now in riding.

I was fortunate to grow up in Edmonton, Canada, a city that grasped early on what an advantage a bike/bus infrastructure could have for its citizens. It’s a fairly small city, but it boasts a huge trail system and a wide array of bike routes to access those trails. Having those kinds of resources available in a city that was fairly safe to travel around meant that a kid with a bike could get pretty much anywhere they needed to go (at least in the summer).

Spokey Dokeys Bike Beads

Spokey Dokeys

My first bike was blue. It had a banana seat and coaster brakes. I attached “spokey dokeys” to the spokes so that it made a happy plinky sound when I rode it. I can still remember the exact moment when my Dad let go of the handle on the back of the banana seat and I was riding on my own. Freedom was no training wheels, and suddenly I could ride the whole length of the block without stopping!

It was the early 80’s and the BMX bike rose to power among children at the time. My parents got me one and it was my first exposure to a bike that had a hand brake. You could ride a BMX almost anywhere, so sidewalks weren’t necessary anymore, and with its rugged frame you could drop it pretty much anywhere if the need to play came upon you. Freedom was confidence in your bike, knowing it could take you places!

As the 80’s drew to a close the mountain bike was coming onto the scene, and bikes with gears were all the rage. How many gears your bike had was a status symbol, and I saved my money up for an 18-speed mountain bike from Consumers Distributing. I remember it being huge, I could barely stand over it when I got it, but it lasted me all the way through high school. This bike really made the river valley trail system in Edmonton available. There are some steep hills going into and out of the valley, so the gears got put to good use. This was my first exposure to saddle soreness as I increased the length of my rides. One park in particular was always a favorite destination, at the edge of my boundaries, 7.5 miles from my home. Freedom was the whole park system, and bike rides could last through much of the long summer days!

With happy memories come some regrets, and it is for my fourth bike that I feel the most loss. This was my first bike purchased at an actual bike store. It was a Giant Sedona mountain bike with 21 speeds and the newest “grip shift” technology. I rode this to and from university for a good couple of years but I was hard on it and at some point it started slipping gears when I was trying to put the pedal down. Eventually the chain broke, and the tech at the bike store gave me the bad news that replacing the chain was not going to solve the problem. The cassette had been worn down by the worn chain and now the bike would slip gears even with a new chain. I could not afford a new cassette, so with only the new chain and an unreliable drivetrain my bike fell into disuse and ended up on the balcony of our first apartment. A cycling friend of mine ended up fixing it up for me as a birthday present, but by then the rift between my bike and I had grown and it was just too much hassle to take it out. Eventually, when we moved to California we put the bike on our patio as we had no room in our small apartment for all the boxes. The next morning when I looked outside the bike was gone, I can only hope that it went to an owner more appreciative of it than me.

My current bike

A Proud Bike Owner Again

The happy ending to this story is that after 10 years of having no bike to call my own I found this little beauty. It is a 1992 Marin Limited Edition road bike, with all the original components. The lime green color was just the frosting on an already awesome cake. When I first got on this bike I was blown away by how quickly a bike like this can move. Suddenly, a 14 mile commute to work seemed possible with this bike, and moreover it was perfect for taking out for a ride on weekends. Quite a bit has changed on this bike since I got it, and a lot of me has changed as well. One thing has stayed the same: when I get on my bike I am reminded of all the bikes before this and how each brings the same feeling of freedom. Each time I push off from my driveway it is like my Dad is there letting go of my saddle and I am riding without training wheels for the first time. Each time I stop I am squeezing the brake of my first BMX. When I shift I think of the first bike I ever had with gears. And every trip is an adventure, a test of how far I can go on my own two wheels.

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