The One Constant

Michael in Lycra on a Recumbent – It’s All Good

I’ve gone through many changes in my bicycling life, from racing around on homemade BMX bikes (before there was such a thing), to single tracking on early steel MTB’s, to club racing on svelte lugged-steel racers with indecipherable French and Italian names, to commuting long distances through dark-and-dank PNW winters while my friends-and-family watched with puzzlement, to riding and wrenching on 6-foot-long recumbents and 3-wheeled tadpole trikes, to hauling groceries and dressing in tweed on tricked-out city bikes while blogging about the experience. So when they say the one constant is change, it’s hard to argue the point. But if you dig a little deeper, there is a constant buried there; I’ve enjoyed riding all through those 40+ years on every type of bike in practically every circumstance, and even after all these years, my enthusiasm has yet to wane one iota.

My guess is that some of the visitors to this site just picked up bicycling again for the first time since childhood, while others have been lifelong enthusiasts. Whatever your story, we’d love to hear about your bicycling background, where you’ve been, where you’re headed, and what it is about riding bicycles that got you started and keeps you coming back for more. When you have a few minutes, consider dropping us a note and sharing your story in the comments below.

32 Responses to “The One Constant”

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    Funny you and I have had very similar backgrounds. Raced BMX: check. MTB racing in the mid 90s: check. Road racing (collegiate in my case): check. Commuting in the PNW: check. Never got into bents, but I expect there are many out there with a similar story to ours.

  • Aaron Pailthorp says:

    PNW? I thought you were in PA. That was then, this is now? (Greetings from Seattle in any case.)

  • Alan says:

    @Aaron

    We’re actually in Northern California, but I lived in the Seattle area for 10 years back in the 1980’s.

    Alan

  • ToddBS says:

    Rode BMX bikes as a kid – as most boys my age did. Nothing competitive, just neighborhood stuff: building ramps in the street, jumping curbs, dirt tracks in vacant lots. From there I went on to riding my bike to school, which I did up to the point I was 16 and got a car (funny, my bike that I had at the time cost more than my first car). I went through a number of bikes in that period, mostly of the department store 10 speed variety until I finally landed on a Centurion Sport DLX, an entry level bike for the time. I rode it with the local club for a year or so before getting the car.

    That was 1990 when I mothballed the Centurion. In 2008 I started getting an itch, and the only thing I found that could scratch it was a hardtail MTB. I rode that for a while – bought my daughter one as well – until I started wanting to do some road riding. I had gotten interested in touring and bike camping, and ended up going with a good all-purpose bike (I wanted to start commuting, too) in the Surly LHT. Just a few months ago I discovered my old Centurion – in storage in a tool room at my grandparents’ house. I took it home, and am now in the process of cleaning it up and getting it road-ready. I’ve ridden it a few times actually (the 20 year old tubes actually still hold air just fine!) and I like it better than my other bikes. If only I had remembered about it earlier.

  • Mark says:

    I haven’t been riding quite as long as you, but that’s only because I haven’t been alive as long (I’m 21). I actually started biking a bit later than most kids do, with my first successful attempt at riding a two-wheeler unaided didn’t happen until I was eight, but from then on, I always loved it. Most of my riding when I was younger consisted of either going to a friend’s house or riding up and down the street pretending I was Luke Skywalker on a speeder bike. But, when I was 13 or 14, my uncle and cousin introduced me to mountain biking. It took a year or so before I had a rudimentary mountain bike (a 2002 Specialized Hard Rock), but once I tried it, I was officially a serious cyclist. Since then, I’ve expanded my interests to include commuting and touring as well, and I currently own a Salsa Casseroll and Raleigh XXIX, both single speeds, as well as an old Miyata 10 speed. I never intend to stop biking, and I sincerely hope that most, if not all, of my transportation in the future can be accomplished on two wheels.
    Happy Riding

  • Brian C says:

    Live and cycle in Victoria, BC. Never raced, but have done lots of cycling over the years – rockies from Jasper to Fernie, Going to the Sun Highway, Oregon Coast, Danube, Holland, Ireland and this year Cuba.

    Have been a commuting cyclist for the last 15 years; car free for the last 5 years. And been active in advocacy campaigns for the last 15 years, including attending ProBike/Walk conferences in Seattle, Victoria and St Paul’s. Also attended Velocity Conference in Paris in 2003 – one of those magic moments cycling the Champs Elysee with 10,000 of my friends!

  • Daniel M says:

    Well, since you asked…

    I got my first bike, an All-Pro BMX bike, for my sixth birthday in 1980. By the time I was in fourth grade I was riding it to school every day, and started riding it around town and beyond.

    For my 11th birthday in the summer of 1985, my parents got me my first geared bike: a Schwinn Mirada mountain bike, back when mountain bikes were a new thing. I was definitely an early adopter! With the gears I was now able to ride greater distances on and off-pavement. That bikes was damaged in a fire at a bike shop and replaced with a 1988 Diamond Back Topanga with – gasp! – indexed shifting! I had that bike all the way into college; it was even stolen off my front porch in Berkeley and recovered in San Francisco by the police!

    At some point I came into some used lugged steel road bikes, a 1980’s Trek that was too big for me, and a 1990’s Japanese off-brand (Alpine) that I still have and may convert to a fixie. These bikes got me into still-longer rides.

    I got my driver’s liscence at age 16 in 1990 and one year later bought a 1974 BMW 2002. I’m just one of those people that never stopped riding just because they could now drive.

    In the late 90’s I got the last steel Gary Fisher Hoo Koo e Koo, my first bike with a suspension fork and SPD pedals. Around 2003 I bought a BOB trailer and started touring: Big Sur Coast, Eastern Sierra, Iceland, Southern Europe. I found that an MTB can make a great tourer because of its comfortable riding position and low gearing.

    For a few years I had a hybrid: a Marin Mill Valley that was light and fast but with a stupidly stiff front fork and absurdly low spoke count wheels: 16-spoke front and back (!) I had to replace the rear wheel when it started to break spokes regularly and I finally got sick of the punishing ride and sold it to a friend, who wisely equipped it with 38mm tires and rides it happily to this day. It was my first and last aluminum bike. Because of it I now know how to remove a cassette on the road without a separate chain whip.

    I replaced that bike with a Bianchi Volpe, which is a great value and has a great ride and handling and has proved strong enough for light unsupported touring, even on unpaved roads, but I have had it with the low bar position and horrendous toe overlap, particularly with fenders mounted.

    Finally, this winter I found my holy grail: a NOS Rohloff hub on Craigslist. I had a wheel built onto it and had the whole thing retrofitted to my old Hoo Koo and the hub is everything it is advertised to be; however the used Marzochi Bomber fork I had mounted at the same time has somehow made the handling unacceptably twitchy.

    The plan for the future:

    Replace the Fisher with a Thorn Raven Tour. I already have the Rohloff and the frame is pretty reasonably priced.

    Replace the Bianchi with a Surly LHT or a Rivendell Sam Hillborne. Can anyone out there give me the justification, besides lugs or looks, to drop the extra $1000 on the Sam?

    If you read this whole ramble I’m impressed. It’s just that Alan asked.

  • ToddBS says:

    Replace the Bianchi with a Surly LHT or a Rivendell Sam Hillborne. Can anyone out there give me the justification, besides lugs or looks, to drop the extra $1000 on the Sam?

    Even Grant himself said that the only difference between the Sam and the LHT was if you were that guy who just absolutely, positively, had to have lugs. It used to be in the description of the Sam on the Riv site, but I see they’ve removed it now.

    That said, the Sam frameset is going for USD 1000 on Rivbike.com right now. LHT framesets are in the USD 430 range. If you’ve got a well-enough stocked parts bin, you may want to shell out the extra 570 for the Sam. The only thing keeping me from getting a Sam frameset and moving my LHT stuff to it is that I fit a 52 Sam. Which has 650b wheels. Now, I have a very nice hand-built set of 650b wheels, but I’m not really sold on the long-term availability of them.

    Sorry for the OT post. Just figured I’d answer.

  • Bob says:

    I first started riding as a preschooler in Germany in the late 1950’s. I still remember my father holding the back of the seat on my mother’s large black bike, running behind me up and down the street. I don’t remember when he let go, but I haven’t stopped riding since.

    After bringing us to America in 1961 (to Pittsburgh, PA) my mom and dad bought me and my brother, Joe, a couple of bikes at the Goodwill. Mine was a three speed English racer and Joe’s was a 24″ with a kick-back two speed. I was eight at the time, and we kept those bikes for several years and moves to the flat lands of Ohio and the then the shores of Lake Ontario, outside of Toronto, Canada. Those bikes provided us with many great times.

    We returned to Pittsburgh in 1968, and some time in high school I bought a gorgeous new silver Atala ten speed racer, that lasted me until my first year at Penn State, when I t-boned a VW bug while passing cars down a long hill. A bunch of stitches in my head, a broken toe (from the toe clips) and extensive roadrash ended my cycling in the fall of 1970 until the spring of 1971, when I resurrected the bike and began riding again. About this time, I started motorcycling as well and have been an enthusiast ever since.

    Two disastrous marriages and several decades later, I am still a great motorcycling enthusiast, but do not currently own a motorcycle. My bicycling has remained constant, but several years ago I started riding recumbents and still do. Now I am enamored by those who travel long distances by bike and I read the journals on “Crazy Guy on A bike” regularly.

    I am now 57 years old, still working, still cycling, and, just as it was when I was a kid, I’m looking for some adventure on a bike.

  • Alan says:

    “Replace the Bianchi with a Surly LHT or a Rivendell Sam Hillborne. Can anyone out there give me the justification, besides lugs or looks, to drop the extra $1000 on the Sam?”

    Some of what you’re paying for with a lugged frame from Riv is intangible. They’re beautiful bikes that ride like nice old frames from the 80s. That’s something that doesn’t come across on paper, but if it’s important to you, it’s certainly worth it. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a bare bones, but well-designed workhorse, the LHT is a super value. I feel very fortunate to have both, and I don’t see them as overlapping enough in purpose that I’d consider letting either of them go at this point.

  • Steve Butcher says:

    It’s interesting that in life how we often end up as we start out. I never did race (unless you count the after class sprints against my college room-mate on our “ten speeds” in the mid-70’s). I grew up on a farm in Missouri and started cycling on a Western Flyer cruiser on gravel roads somewhere in my single digits in the mid to late 60’s. In high school I got the bug to get one of those fancy English ten-speeds and wound up with a Raleigh Grand Prix. Actually took it on a four day/100 mile bike tour with friends. My Raleigh was stolen in college so my next bike was an old Raleigh three-speeed my uncle gave me while I was in medical school. I eventually traded that for a brand new road bike (I can’t remember the brand but it was red and it came from a bike shop in Ottumwa, Iowa). After going into practice and getting busy I sold that bike ( big mistake). A couple years later I bought a pair of cheap cruisers (another big mistake) for my wife and I to ride together. She wasn’t all that interested in bikes so these were eventually donated away. About three years ago, I spied a vintage Schwinn Super Le Tour at a local flea market. It was in pretty good condition and came with front and rear Schwinn aluminum touring racks so the “bug” bit me again. I decided I would like to start cycling for exercise as running hurt my knees. This also got me to surfing this internet thing and I discovered a whole new world had formed during my non-cycling years. Websites like Ecovelo and Cyclofiend, to name a few, opened my eyes to all kinds of exciting new bikes and cycling activities. I have enjoyed buying older bikes and fixing them up for various uses. I’m up to six; which is all my corner of the garage will hold. Hmm, might have to build a “bike barn”. Well, the conclusion of this story is: I still live in rural Missouri and still ride on gravel roads, however, my ride is usually my vintage steel rigid frame mountain bike with the “purty yellow fenders” or the Super Le Tour (now in commuter mode with upright bars, and front and rear baskets). When my schedule and the weather permit, I have a 3-3.5 mile bike commute to my clinic. I recently joined a bike club in a nearby town which helps to support a local 35 mile rail-trail. I’m kind of in to this bike advocacy thing. Lastly, I recently discovered the “Gravel Grinder News” web-site and believe I have found a “connection”. I’ve even thought about calling my ride the “Tour de Limestone” or a kind of an Ozarks version of L’Eroica. LOL. Anyway it’s been alot of fun and I always enjoy learning more about what is going on in the cycling community.

  • Little Tiny Fish says:

    I always had a bike when I was a kid, but I never really took interest in it. I mean, I was riding around all the time, but I took the fun for granted. In college I left it behind, and the few semesters I had it I never did anything with it.

    Then gas prices went up and I thought it was ridiculous that I travel 7 miles a day by car so I started using my bike more. I rode it through the winter and rusted it out completely because I didn’t bother washing the salt and sand off of it.

    I took it up to the local Collective and replaced a bunch of parts and kept going back, learning more and more about how to build and fix bikes. Now I open the shop once a week and volunteer on another day, I’m part of the Milwaukee Businesses by Bike group, I helped to coordinate the Bike Porn Film Fest, and am currently working to promote the Tour of America’s Dairyland as well as Superweek (if they get the funding for it).

    They’re such beautiful and fun machines. It’s hard to understand why it’s so tough to get people back on them.

  • Josef says:

    Like so many, I had a couple of almost bike free years between the age of 30 and 40 (but at least went hiking with the family just about every weekend). When I returned to biking, I came from years of distance & marathon running; one of those things men do beyond 40 … don’t want to share by bike practice here — my projects on bikes all have to do with longer distances; see for example http://www.rolloveramerica.eu

    What I would like to share in response to Alan’s intro is the day I got my first bike. Still remember everything. I was just three years old, when one day in the spring of 1959 a blue Volkswagen van rode up to the house we lived in. My father and I went to see the man. He opened the double doors on the side of the van and I could see it was full of bikes, some leaning against each other, others hanging from the walls. I had never seen something like this in my life. And I got to choose one for myself.
    It was red, had supporting wheels and pretty soon I was commuting to the neighboring farms (plenty of kids there), many times with my younger sister on the rack). At the end of that summer we moved to a new house my parents had built for themselves in another part of the country.
    This day, this man and his van, and my first tours on the bike I will never forget, this memory will probably still be alive when dementia will have erased others one day …

  • Graham says:

    My first bike was a revelation. I have always been a very big and strong kid, but running and agility weren’t in the cards for me. The first time I took off on my own bike, I realized that I could be as fast and nimble as anyone else.

    Since that first ride I have only ever ridden for fun, but I’ve tackled all kinds of terrain on both mountain and road bikes. I am dying to try out a recumbent because of their supposedly mythical ability to make even a giant clyde like myself aerodynamic, but I can’t see the wife allowing me to take more than a test ride.

    I’m currently hunting craigslist and the local shops for an old school totally rigid mountain bike frame close to my size so that I can build it up into a single speed because now my kids are starting to ride and I want to hop curbs and run on dirt tracks with them and my road and commuter bikes would faint at the thought of trying that foolishness with me in the saddle!

  • Marty says:

    I started enjoying riding when I was just a kid like most people. A group of ten or so would take long tours from Queens, NY to Long Island and back. We would ride anything we could find, including unfitted small bikes. I even made a tandem, buy filling the rear dropout of my bike and attaching the front of my friends bike. Wobbled at slow speeds, but stayed the course. Bikes turned into cars and marriage and kids. Moving to NJ over 20 yrs ago renewed my interest. I bought a Mongoose for $225. I saw Zipper fairing in one of the bike magazines and thoght how cool. I also added fenders and panniers and began using the bike for shopping and errands. Thanks to the net I became facinated with recumbents and bought a Bikee in 2000. I have experimented with different recumbents, but have settled on my ICE T trike. I still have a few folders and a retro urban tourer inspired by Ecovelo Alan. I have learned to do my own repairs and upgrades. I leave my car at home when possable. Cycling has become my olympic flame that I hope will never extinguish.

  • Don says:

    We lived on a busy road outside Philadelphia when I was young, so when I got a generic orange stingray-type banana seat bike, I was only able to ride on the sidewalk with the training wheels. Then it was stolen from the front yard, and it wasn’t replaced until years later, albeit with a similar orange stingray. I had already turned eight and had not yet learned to ride, but my sister very kindly helped me learn, and my fondest memories are of coasting downhill no-handed on the way to school, back when a fourth grader could make such a trek without fear of catastrophe.

    The family moved to Virginia Beach, which is about as flat as you get. Eventually that second stingray was also stolen, from the school bike rack. Those were the days of the ten-speed revolution, and I got what in retrospect was as ugly and heavy a bike as you’ll find, a caramel-colored Sears Free Spirit 24-inch. The good part, though, was that that bike was both indestructible and dismantleable, so I learned a lot taking it apart and putting it together. I eventually did the same with my brother’s hand-me-down Raleigh Gran Prix with the cheap Brooks saddle.

    Years later, a college student in Minnesota, I found a leaden balloon-tire special with an ancient spring saddle. My friend christened the bike Constantin in homage to Brancusi’s Bird in Flight. That got me around town and in the habit of biking for transportation.

    At one point in Minneapolis, I sold my car to pay off debts but reserved enough to buy my first new bike, an early Bianchi hybrid. I rode that to work winter and summer, and did the same when my wife and I moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where I managed to snap a bottom bracket in a fit of torque.

    I still have that old Bianchi, but my current ride is a Gary Fisher Monona with various add-ons and switch-outs. I had planned to get a bike with an internal hub, and in fact had already purchased a Jamis and taken it home only to learn that the shop had sold me a bike that had already been paid for. But the LBS was cool about it and gave me a good deal on the Monona.

    Now I ride every day, troll blogs like this one, dream of the next bike, and long for the next ride.

  • Don says:

    I should add that I now lock my bike religiously.

  • Ryan says:

    I clearly remember my first ride some 40 years ago on my brothers hand me down schwinn typhoon, my dad running behind me hand on the saddle and then I was off….except we had never talked about turning! I froze up and was “stopped” by a neighbors camp trailer LOL. Rode to school on my stingray through Jr High, got a huffy 10 speed but didn’t ride it much….in my mid 30’s while I was (intentionally) between jobs my life long best friend called and said “lets go for a bike ride you live right by the Burke Gillman trail”, I said I don’t have a bike, he said “no problem.” While on that ride we talked about doing that crazy STP (Seattle to Portland) thing. That prompted the purchase of a Cannondale R800 to ride the 2000 STP, been logging road miles ever since. Recently my lust for a carbon bike was replaced by lust for lugged steel goodness. I built up a nice do it all steel road bike (lugged fork only) and now save my pennies for the someday purchase of Sam H. Damn your excellent pictures of your Orange Hillborne Alan!!!!

  • John Boyer says:

    My apiphany came in High school where I discovered that a car could not give me the joy that childhood on a bike brought me and then pined for. A bike leaves you naked to the world unlike the secretive 1958 Ford Panel truck with shag carpeting did in high school. a world that I did not enjoy.
    I went carless through the college years and when I worked on Mackinaw Island, a carless community and tourist spot in the summers. In 1977 I loaded up a Centurian Pro Tour and left for Portland via Canada, three months of the time of my life.

  • Beth says:

    Funny you ask this because I was just thinking about this. I was on always on a bike growing up. In the 80s I started with a Schwinn 3 speed. Rode that for years. Then got a 10 speed that I rode for years and it let me go even farther away from my neighbor. Moved to LA and left the 10 speed behind. Bought a Nishiki MTB. I didn’t have a car so I rode my bike or took public transportation. Then it got stolen. So sad. Didn’t ride for a few years. Moved to Davis, CA. I miss the bike trails around Sac Alan. Bought a Univega MTB. Hated it. Sold it. Bought a Giant MTB and loved it!! It got stolen. Bought an 80s Raleigh 10 speed from Ebay and fixed it up. A little while later I bought a Gary Fisher MTB. I switched off riding them both. Moved to Minnesota for a year. Rode a lot in the summer. Moved to Boston where I am now. Sold the Raleigh and the Gary Fisher was stolen. No more locking bikes outside. The bikes go where I go. I now own a Dahon, which I ride around the city. Love it! And finally just this week I bought the new 1.1 WSD Trek. I’m doing a 25 mile charity ride for the American Cancer Society in July. I cannot wait to go for my first bike ride this weekend on the new Trek. Thank you for your blog Alan.

  • Alan says:

    Thanks for your story, Beth. Enjoy your new bike!

    Alan

    PS – I think you need one of these:

    Stay away from cable locks; they’re ineffective. More here: http://www.ecovelo.info/2010/03/05/a-false-sense-of-security/

  • shawn says:

    I always had a bike growing up. Usually it was just some beater singlespeed that my dad found or got a good used deal on. We often spent as much time working on them as riding them, but they were great for riding around in the dirt of southern Idaho and jumping stuff. My first bling bike was a new 1974 Schwinn Stingray; lived on that thing from 8 to 11 years of age. My first grown-up bike was an old school 10-speed from Sears in a hideous but oddly appealing orange. At 14 I scraped together my lawn-mowing money with some birthday cash and came home with my first ‘serious’ bike: 1980 Takara Touring 12. I rode that thing daily until I got a drivers license, and while I didn’t cotton to cars, I found that motorcycles moved me and I rode them throughout the high-school and college years, coming back to bike occasionally for old times sake. When I graduated from the University of Washington I was given brand-spanking new Specialized Stumpjumper, circa 1989, and promptly took it on a European tour. I fell in love with that bike like I hadn’t loved a bike since that Stingray, and rode the wheels off the thing, literally and figuratively. Then it was stolen. 15 years later it still pisses me off. As it was my sole transportation, I replaced it with a 1995 Fisher HooKooEKoo which was fine, great really, but not love. Still have that one, probably always will since we both survived being hit by a car that almost broke my neck. It was on the HKEK that I went big into MTB: singletrack epics, the longer and more remote, the better. I retired the HKEK in 2002 with the arrival of a Santa Cruz Superlight full-boinger which is butter on the trail, but in town not so much. I got a great deal on a Lemond Buenos Aires go-fast bike and it’s okay, but it pains me to ride it for very long; something about those too skinny tires at high pressure, but I’m also not as limber as I was 20 years ago. Finally, this winter I got my Hillborne as a go-anywhere/do-anything ride and fell in love with it immediately. It’s the most comfortable bike I’ve ever ridden. I can ride my 46 mile round-trip commute pain-free, I can take the unpaved road less traveled, and racked and fendered as it is I can carry more than I dreamed possible in Seattle weather I wouldn’t normally ride in.

    Thanks for asking, Alan. It was fun to look back on the place bikes have had in my life. I’ve had many interests over the years, but bikes have always been the real passion.

  • Urb Anwriter says:

    Bicycle life, eh? My first new bike, a Peugeot (AE – 8?, fenders, lights, horrid tool kit, plastic rear mech), stolen in 1972. Aluminum nirvana with Cannondale SR-800, though the rims Araya 395 (?) were terrible. Build steel frames, ride R-20s and Ryans, wrench off and on for 22 years, the only person in the shop who loved Sach Pentsports and drum brakes. Still at it, waiting for the weather to improve enough that putting the Loring ‘together’ is going to give me one, dry, first ride. Have to love that fork though! And 3 Nexus 8 hubs. No Alfine, yet, but that 11-spd is coming… and Gates belts. And even today I’d rather ride in the rain than not ride at all.

  • Jasen says:

    I’ve been a bike commuter my whole life – using a bicycle to get me around to where I needed to go. Though, the type of bicycle has changed several times. BMX, Mountain bike, whatever was in the garage, etc.

    RAG BRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) took me to a new level.

  • Randy says:

    I grew up riding bikes like most everyone else. Switched to dirt bikes in my early teens and didn’t ride much of the pedal type anymore. At 19 I i served as a missionary for 2 years and our main mode of transportation were bicycles. This is when i fell in love with bikes. I’ve now been commuting for ~5 years. It is now a family affair, my wife has an older bike i restored for her and we pull the kiddos behind in a trailer. We would love to get a cargo bike (bakfiets) but can’t afford one just yet on a grad student salary. I wish we lived in a more bike friendly area (we live in OKC, OK), but it is nice in a way to stand out from the crowd (except when people try to run you over).

  • philbertorex says:

    As a kid, I rode my bicycle a lot. Then with a driver’s license, I moved on to a motorcycle. It wasn’t until I was in college, and my motorcycle broke down, that I started riding a bicycle again. It was Peugoet U.S. Express. I continued riding it until I moved to the wilds of Oregon. Then I parked it in the garage and forgot about it. A few years later, we moved into town, and I began to think about biking again. I had sold the Express, but one Saturday, I borrowed my wife’s unused Trek Multitrack and tried the ten mile ride to work. I was surprised when I finished the ride. I fully expected to only make it a couple of miles before succumbing to exhaustion. Although I couldn’t walk the next day, I was hooked. The next step was to get a bike that was big enough for me. This led to the lesson, that a cheap bike is not a good thing. Although, I made the commute on a department store bike for a year, it was a challenge. Eventually, I saved enough money to buy a Trek 1000C. A year later, I discovered that the comfort features on that bike caused lower back pain. So I bought a 70’s Peugoet road bike and restored it. It was much better, but required a significant amount of work to keep it going. I went back to the Trek 1000C, but the aluminum frame cracked one day. I finally settled on a steel framed Trek 520 touring bike. So far the 520 works well for a commute that takes me from country highways to city streets. After five years,I’m still making the 20 mile commute five days a week and enjoying it immensely.

  • anni says:

    oh, it took me so long it seemed to learn to ride a two wheeler, but once learned, there was no looking back, and thus began a long and obsessive relationship with the bicycle in all its many forms. my first two wheeler was a long forgotten brand but i still remember the pleasure i always felt riding it with my “babies” (dolls) in the front basket, and later riding all by myself the mile to my best friend’s house.

    for my 16th birthday my father bought me a raleigh mixte 10 speed, having won a bet with him that there were “girl’s frames” made in 10 speeds, and i rode that taxi yellow bike the 14 mile roundtrip to high school in san jose, on to college in eugene, and a master’s degree in san francisco (with a break for peace corps in ecuador in between). my husband even had to raise the handlebars so my 8 month pregnant belly could fit between the saddle and handlebars as i continued to ride out to san francisco state up until a couple weeks before giving birth!

    infant bike seats were not then what they are now, and after a couple less than satisfactory tries at bringing my baby with me on the bike i gave it up in favor of walking and busing with the children over the next few years. but when i got back into a bike shop to buy my two boys their first bmx bikes, my own bike lust was renewed with fervor. and it hasn’t abated since.

    after a couple years with a wonderful peugeot mountain bike (also taxi yellow!) i advanced to a much beloved ice blue cannondale road bike with clipless pedals, and it brought me the exhilarating feeling of freedom of flight as i raced down (and crawled up) the roads of our santa cruz mountains home. how those hours of riding evaporated the stress of trying to perfect my performance at my graveyard shift 911 job (taking those hours so i could have more bike riding time as well as more time with my children) and somehow gracefully meld that with raising four children. thank god i had a helpful and understanding stay at home husband. but still, those years have become a blur in my mind, though the blissful rides still have a focused niche in my memory.

    of course i had to get a tandem so i could share the thrill of bike riding with each of my growing children. i excitedly put a black with rainbow splattered paint ibis tandem on layaway and worked hours and hours of overtime to pay it off. i rode with each of my four children on that wonderful bike. it eventually led me to long distance touring when i discovered how wonderful overnight jaunts could be when i rode with first my oldest son, and eventually with each of my children, from home up to and through big basin state park to the historic pigeon point lighthouse youth hostel. one year i even took about 10 kids on the 85 mile round trip ride to celebrate my 11 year old son’s birthday– we even sang happy birthday to him in the lighthouse! i marvel now at my hutzpah in attempting such a long and challenging ride as the lone adult (my husband doesn’t share my bicycle obsession) but i don’t regret it, it was a wonderful trip.

    i’ve proceeded to longer and longer rides and more and more unusual bikes. i’ve ridden RAGBRAI across iowa with each of my two daughters (and our mini dachshund!) a total of three times, twice on the upright tandem, and once doing a complete circle of iowa on our recumbent tandem trike! i embraced recumbent riding, not for the need for something more comfortable but because it was just so fun riding a different style of bike after so many years on upright two wheeled bikes. i have an easy racers two wheel recumbent, a single recumbent trike (ICE trike), which i’ve toured down the california coast on with two dogs towed in a trailer behind me– what a blast!

    i regretted all those years of not being able to bike commute to work because of the distance (although i did ride the 70 mile round trip to work on the last day of my workweek day when i didn’t have to worry about having enough time to sleep), but now that the kids are grown i’ve gotten a bike friday folding bike and do the complete commute via bus and bike. it’s a long trek, taking two and a half hours each way, but along the way i get almost 25 miles of riding in each day, and i’ve found i love watching the bus culture, and getting chauffeured after all these years of commuting on my own.

    after seeing your beautiful rivendell bikes on your website i’ve decided to gift myself one of those longed for bikes as a retirement present and just last week put a betty foy on long term lay away (along with a donation to smile train, the great cleft palate surgery people). no, i don’t need another bike, but i know i’m going to love riding it with a basket in front filled with my two little italian greyhounds riding the wonderful bike paths and lanes of eugene where we’ve decided to retire to. i still have about a year and a half or so to go until i retire but hope for much more extended bike touring trips in my retirement years.

    i also can’t wait to ride with my grandchildren (the first of whom was just born january 1st!) strapped to the back seat of the tandem trike along the willamette river bike paths, i’m so glad i’ve kept that tandem despite not having many places to ride it here in the santa cruz mountains. i know i have a whole wonderful stage of life ahead of me introducing my grandkids to the joys of cycling. i still have all my bikes with the exception of my first two wheeler and the raleigh and i’m hoping to see another generation of legs crank those pedals round and round with the same joy i felt whenever i was on those saddles. may the circle be unbroken…

  • purplepeopledesign says:

    I grew up in Vancouver and watched it become the cycling haven it is today. I was four when I got my first pedal machine, a red metal tractor. Three wheels, rear wheel drive and a real steering wheel linked to the front wheel. The next was a four-wheeler. A bike actually, with training wheels. One day my dad removed a wheel and a week later, the other. Freedom at 5, I could have retired right then. When my sister inherited that bike, I received a police auction special. It was a put together from parts of 3 bikes and I hated it then, but in hind-sight it made me comfortable being the kid with the weird bike. Today, it would fit right in at Critical Mass with brushed on blue paint, front wheel larger than the rear, purple banana seat and ape-hangers. I had that bike until I saved up some paper delivery money for a real 10-speed. It was heavy metal from Sears, but no matter. I could ride all over town now, and did. I went downtown, the beach, even the end of the airport runway to watch planes. I learned about tire pressure, shifting and brake pad toe-in. The next bike was bought with high school graduation money. A Japanese-made Bianchi in that nice sparkle blue they had back in the 80’s. I remember the decision, choosing to go with proven Dia-Compe sidepulls and Suntour drivetrain instead of the new Shimano 600 group. That bike was great and I learned how to climb out of the saddle and ride corners with the handlebars turned the opposing way. Then in ’86, I saw my future and it was recumbent. Chased the guy down and he recruited me to volunteer for the IHPSC later that summer. Built my first ‘bent in the fall and cut up my trusty Sears bike to do it. Next, I converted a BMX into a recumbent. Then built a tadpole trike and the year after upgraded it into a full-suspension three-wheeler. Somewhere in there I crashed my Bianchi into a parked car by falling asleep at the handlebars. (Yes… it’s true.) So I salvaged what I could into the parts bin and bought a Bridgestone MB-6 to replace it. My laid-back adventures slowed for a while and I spent the next few years commuting on that Bridgestone and learning to bunny hop. When the rear drop-out broke from all the pounding, I upgraded to an MB-1 for the last half of the 90’s. Riding all year round for that long taught me control in snow and ice. I inherited my first tilting trike when my recumbent mentor moved to Europe. That trike was a revelation and I promised myself that I would make my own version of it one day. In the meantime, the MB-1 was stolen and replaced by a Fisher Sugar, which briefly saw gong show action on the North Shore before I moved east to Ontario, where it now normally sits in the basement. Since moving here, I’ve fired up my welder and began building bikes again. First came a SWB recumbent, with integral cargo racks. Then my first long-tail, with side-loader racks. Those are so great for hauling stuff I had to add them to my SWB. I built a super-longtail for a local delivery guy that will carry 12 Rubbermaid containers and a trailer that holds signage for another local start-up. And for myself, as promised, I built a new tilting trike that is low and fast. Needless to say, life is good.

    :)ensen

  • konrad gannon says:

    First of all I can’t believe anyone would be interested in my cycling story. I’m really honored to share it with eco velo, a site I check into almost daily and whose “owners” ride absurdly clean bikes. My first experience bicycling was riding around with my Mom on the back of her old British bike in the late sixties. She used one of the fist rear rack child seats available anywhere. My father got me my first bike when I was five from a junkyard and did enough to it to get it rolling but nothing to improve the appearance. So I was always made fun of, story of my life, but all the kids on the street wanted to ride it. I still have a picture of myself on it in the back yard and a better impression of a Wild Ones Marlon Brando you’ve never seen. This bike was eventually replaced with a nice Columbia given to me by my uncle and I have a picture of myself on that one as well. It was red with a nice black banana seat. It was big enough for me to grow into so once again I was made fun of by all the other kids. I grew up in the greater Boston area so I was also given a good lock and taught how and why to use it. My dad ran kind of a crazy bike repair shop in our basement called El Cheapo Bike Repairs. He rarely charged more than the cost of parts. I was his test ride guy and all through my childhood I had cast off bikes to ride around on. I had a paper route that I did on these bikes and my father would always stay up late after working second shift to make sure I had something running in the morning to make my deliveries on. Some of the bikes I remember were The Hulk which was a gigantic baloon tired model from the fifties and the Iron Butterfly, a crazy psychadelic bike with a steering wheel decorated by my girlfriend and I in junior high. That one got me chased a few times by the local toughs and in Boston there were plenty of them. I remember that my dad had a nice Puegot that he used to ride to work in downtown Boston. He had to true the wheels on almost daily. We moved to North Carolina when I was fourteen in the early eighties and I kept riding whatever I could get my hands on even if it was an old yellow girl’s Schwinn. When mountain bikes came around I bought a beautiful black and gold Ross in 1984. The owner of a local shop let me ride it out of the and make weekly payments until it was paid off. The town I lived in then, and still do now, thrives on cars culture and, once again, I was made fun of all the time for riding to school every day. But I endured it even when I did an endo over the handle bars in front of what seemed like the whole student body. I used to tell my friends I didn’t want to ride with them to parties in their cars but would meet them later on my bike. Needless to say i didn’t have many friends. In 1987 I bought my dream car a 1987 VW bus but was just as excited by the fact that I owned a Trek 1000 road bike and a Raleigh Technium mountain bike. More buses followed and few more bikes until in 1993 I decided, after quitting a job, that I would ride around the country for awhile. I had a Cannondale mountain bike. I also had a Golden Retriever named Molly who I couldn’t bear to part with so I bought a used Burley trailer and converted it to tow her. A friend signed up for the trip and when it was over at the end of the summer of ’93 we’d covered 7350 miles and 23 states. My rig, with dog included, weighed 190 pounds. When I returned I had dreadlocks and my brother said I looked like one gigantic quad muscle. A ride to Boston and a near complete Blue Ridge Parkway trip followed. After experiencing a lot of hand and neck pain later on I converted to recumbents in the summer ’95 with the purchase of a Ryan long wheelbase under set steering beauty and headed off to community college to study horticulture. The distance from the front door of the house I rented to my parents’ front door was exactly 100 miles and I made the trip regurlarly often leaving on a Friday afternoon and returning on a Sunday. After almost three years in school in a small town in southern North Carolina I was known in the area as “The Bike Guy”. With my long beard, long dreadlocks, and long red bike I was easy to spot around town. One example of what life was like for me was I was at the grocery store one night, really exhausted, and a woman in front of me in the checkout line said, “Hey Bike Guy! My kids just love you.” I’m not kidding. I actually have a lot of little stories like that. After graduation I moved back home and eventually, after ten years on recumbents, converted back uprights, something I could never , at one time, imagined myself doing. But I live in a hilly town and no matter what they tell you, recumbents aren’t great on the hills. I bought a Bianchi city bike and met the most beautiful woman, fourteen years my junior, who would, after dating for only four months, become my wife. Included in the deal was her 2 year old daughter. Though not an avid bicyclist herself she was completely accepting of my riding even when I packed up her daughter, now my daughter as well, into a borrowed Burley trailer and hit the road. So here’s where my life is now. Nora is 8 and her little sister Lola is almost three. I own a Surly Big Dummy . Nora rides on the Snap Deck set up so she faces rearward so she can joke around with her sister in the Burley Solo that she herself grew out of. On shorter rides Nora pedals her own bike. Mom Melissa rides along sometimes on her Breezer I bought her shortly after our marrige. Today Nora was with her grandparents so Lola and I rode to a local lake while Melissa slept after working a third shift. Tomorrow morning, after she gets home we’ll be heading out to the farmer’s market Nora, Lola and I. And that’s how it its. The ride never ends. The road goes on forever. It’s like breathing for me. I take Lola to daycare every day, even down to 14 degrees, and I’m so proud to see that big bike in the line of cars at the drop-off area. I dream of touring with my girls someday. Thanks for reading. Keep turning the cranks.

  • beth h says:

    BMX in the 70’s seems to be a recurring theme here. I didn’t race but messed around on the whoopdees behind our apartment in Concord, CA before BMX became a nationally-sanctioned sport. When I got too tall for my 20-inch Huffy I graduated to a Penney’s 3-speed — which I destroyed riding on the same trails. By my teens we were living in Gresham, OR and I was commuting 5 miles RT to my high school to participate in a music group that rehearsed every morning at 6:45 (!!). Riding my bike assured I would get there on time, because the city bus didn’t run that early and my musician father was too tired to wake up at 6 after rolling in the door at 2. The movie “Breaking Away” came out my sophomore year of high school and helped immeasurably to set my feet on the bicycle path for good.

    I failed my first driving exam at age 17, told my parents I wasn’t interested in owning a car and to please get off my back. I rode my bike or took public transit pretty much everywhere after that. After a break in bicycling during my first set of college years, when I became a working musician and music teacher, I drove my percussion gear around town in a car my father had insisted on giving me (I finally passed my driving exam at age 24!). The car, it turned out, had multiple mechanical problems; I checked out a copy of the Chilton’s manual for my make and model from the library and learned how to install refurbished parts to save money, but I hated the expense and hassle of owning a car. Finally, I sold it in 1990 for $600. I used the money to buy a mountain bike with street tires, and never owned a car of my own again.

    A few years later, burned out and watching my teaching prospects dry up as numerous school bond measures failed in succession, I chucked my music career and ended up apprenticing to a fellow who ran a one-man bike shop on the Oregon coast. After a year there, I returned to Portland and got a job with a cooperatively-owned bike shop, where I’ve been for 14 of the last 15 years as a mechanic and parts buyer. Along the way, I went back to school at Portland State and finished my degree, commuting downtown four days and one night a week for two years. On Commencement Day, I rode a three-speed to the Rose Garden Arena, my black gown fluttering behind me and my mortarboard nestled in the front basket, and had pictures taken with my diploma and my bike afterwards.

    When my partner and I began dating I informed her that I would never own a car of my own again and that she had to be really okay with that. (I only help drive her car on very long trips, once or twice a year.) When we bought a house, we informed the realtor that we had to find something no more than 7 miles away from my shop, because that’s as far as I felt willing to ride each way after nine to ten hours on my feet. (We found a tiny fixer-upper five miles from the shop). Being an L.A. gal, she’s mostly a fair-weather rider; but we enjoy weekly trips to farmer’s markets and garden supply stores during the spring and summer.

    Last year, deciding there was no time like the present, I decided to listen to the voice in my heart that had always dreamt of being a “jock” (do all music majors have these fantasties?), and took up bike racing at the tender age of 46. Remembering how fun BMX had been, I entered short-track xc races (and later, cyclocross) on a singlespeed mountain bike. I finished last or near-last every race and had the time of my life. This year I “catted up” to Singlespeed class and have managed to persuade the short-track race promoter to add a Womens’ Singlespeed category so women racing singlespeed can actually have a chance to podium (instead of finishing behind three hundred men).

    Meanwhile, I continue to average 2,500 to 3,000 miles a year between commuting, goofing around and racing and remaining happily carless. I plan to ride a bike forever, or at least until I fall off at age 110 and die on the spot.

  • Tony Dyson says:

    I cycled in the UK until 1969, when I was 17. At that time I was riding a Dawes tourer that I’d steadily modified over 6 years to try to make it go faster. What can I say? I was young.

    I didn’t consider cycling again until 2000. I was strolling through a Arvada, CO, with some friends. The “Best of Bents” shop was still operating, and they had Hase and Peninger trikes on display on the sidewalk to tempt the curious. It worked, but $3,000 was too much to spend on a whim, when I didn’t know whether I’d even really enjoy cycling again.

    I thought about it and did some research. I saw the “Bike E” described in a review as “the entry level drug of recumbent cycling”; that sounded like what I needed. BoB sold the Bike E. I tried one in 2001, liked it and bought it.

    After putting around 9,000 commuting miles on the Bike E, I sold it in 2007 and bought a Sun EZ3 AX delta trike. The Sun would probably meet with your approval. It’s sturdy, with no pretensions to being a racer. It can easily carry plenty of luggage. It’s extremely comfortable, and seats the rider high enough for decent visibility. It invites being ridden in normal clothing, requiring nothing more than a velcro band to keep the trouser leg away from the chain.

    Best of all, it remains my favorite means of commuting.

  • Grant Franks says:

    I rode a bike as a kid in the 1960’s. One of my earliest memories of dawning independence came from riding my bike all the way across the county where I lived.

    I let the bike riding drop when I was old enough to drive a car and only came back to it two decades later. After college, law school and eight years as a lawyer, I upended my life and restarted as a teacher in a small liberal arts college in New Mexico. I was lucky enough to get a house only 2 1/2 miles from the campus and was struck with shame to learn that one of my colleagues who lived only a few blocks from me not only commuted to school on a bicycle but didn’t even have a driver’s license. I bought a new bike, a red Giant hybrid, and began to cycle-commute in the early 1990’s.

    In the early 2000’s, I began to notice some pain in my lower back and decided to try a recumbent cycle. I settled on a Trice recumbent trike, largely because of the advertising claim that they were “fun.” Fun is exactly what one wants in a mid-life crisis machine. In fact, the recumbent trike turned out to be so much fun that I decided to ride it across the country in the summer of 2003, from Santa Fe to Washington D.C. Two years later, my wife and son, each with their own recumbent trike, joined me on a trike ride from Santa Fe to Chicago IL.

    A week ago, the odometer on my Trice Micro clicked over to 10,000 miles. It’s still fun.

 
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