To begin with, I've almost always loved bikes. Initially I think it was a combination of the freedom and a bike being the closest thing I could get to a car. You see, I also like cars quite a bit. As I have grown older, I have also realized that biking is a good way to save cars. I'll leave that for another post though. In addition I have cerebral palsy. My feet and my left arm don't quite work right. This has left me with a unique relationship with bikes. For one, physical activity is good for everyone but when things don't work right one needs to take even better care of oneself. Biking seems to be one of the best exercises for my type of Cerebral Palsy. It works the muscles that need to be worked and stretched and puts low impact on my joints which I will probably wear out faster than other people tend to. So biking has always been a really good alternative to walking. It also seems to put me on an even playing field with able-bodied people. I can build the same strength as other people however being on foot for various sports requires a dexterity I can't quite muster. So biking is important to me.
My CCM echo (lowercase title) was the first bike I bought with my own money and to date the only new bike I've ever bought. It was a piece of absolute junk. Sorry I can't find a picture. When it was new I thought it was a pretty cool looking bike. I was in grade four and managed to save up about $150 which seemed like an awful lot. I was convinced I was buying a pretty serious bike and it was an adult bike. My dad was of the "it doesn't fit unless it's too big for you" school of thought. So I barely rode it for a year or two. In addition it had painted steel rims which I thought was super awesome in the store but after a ride or two made the crappy, crappy, brakes squeal like crazy. They were jarringly loud. Nonetheless I eventually grew into it and rode it till it pretty much fell apart. The brakes were always garbage. Both derailleur eventually disintegrated. The grips disintegrated. The cool paint faded and rusted really fast. Having said that, the summer of Grade 8 I calculate that I rode about 1500 km. I wore the tires nearly bald over the lifetime of the bike, went through a set or two of brake pads, and only gave up on it when a wheel kept popping tubes and my thirteen-year-old brain couldn't figure out how to stop it. I had run out of new tube money and started riding an old ten-speed we had in the house until I got some more. That bike turned out to be a favorite and after leaving the echo alone for only a few months rust ate it and that was that.
The bike I picked up was my mother's old Raleigh ten-speed. It was an early eighties vintage with steel rims but some aluminum components. It had good fenders on it and a quite nice rack. My suspicion was that it was a Grand Prix or the Canadian-named equivalent It was a men's bike and she found it uncomfortable so she rarely ended up ever riding it. The result was that I got my first taste of ten-speed bikes on a solid entry-level nearly brand new Raleigh. It fit me just right. It handled beautifully. It felt incredibly fast after my CCM. When I couldn't figure out why the tubes were popping in my CCM I just started riding this bike and never looked back.
This was short-lived however. Seeing my enthusiasm for my mother's ten-speed my father urged me to take his old bike. He claimed it was much more serious of a bike and being of the mindset that it doesn't fit until it's too big the extra large frame would fit my 6'3" (tall average) build better. It was enormously uncomfortable and I could never ride it more than two or three kilometers at a time. In addition to that it was pretty worn out and my father at one point had "stripped it down" to make it "faster."The paint came off in large sheets (though the bare metal never once rusted despite being winter-ridden). Someone (possibly me) had rebuilt the bottom bracket, removing the right fixed cup and not tightening it with the right tool. Without knowing that it needed to be so tight, I was dumfounded as to why the cup would work loose after just a few kilometers. It was quite a frustrating bike for me. I don't know what model it was. It would have been mid-seventies vintage. It had aluminum cotterless-cranks, safety levers, steel bars, and steel rims. It would live three lives due to my father's insistence that it fit me so well and was such a nice bike. The first life was when I simply rode it as-is. I'd ride it a bit around town and back and fourth to school. That was all I could stand.
It lived a second life in my undergrad years when I attempted to make it my primary transportation. By this time I had grown a strong hatred for the bike but couldn't justify buying one when I already had one. I rode it around first year, often leaving it unlocked in a bike-theft prone city. Once even for a week. It once got stolen but to my dismay I found it lying on the other side of campus. Perceiving that I was stuck with it, the next summer I rebuilt it and repainted it. Aside from creating enthusiasm for riding it, this didn't help the bike one bit. Despite leaving it lying around everywhere it never got stolen.
The third life of the centurion was short and came after undergrad and into my first year of my M.Div. When I arrived home after my degree I was bound and bet I would get back into biking. Unfortunately my biking enthusiasm had worn thin and I had given up on biking on the inside. It required a complete rebuild after living three hard years in Waterloo in residence common rooms and snowbanks. I began rebuilding it. I got as far as disassembling and cleaning everything and buying new tape and tires. After that I simply lost interest. The bike sat in the garage half assembled for a while. When I had finished my first year of my M.Div. and was facing a summer in Toronto I realized that I needed a bike. I had also discovered Sheldon Brown's website. This time I was determined to make the bike work. I had the right information and a need. I moved the bike (half assembled) to Toronto and left it in the basement of my residence. Now, I did not lock it. This was not because I wanted it stolen this time. Quite the opposite, I didn't have money for a new bike despite wanting one and having looked at some. This was because I didn't have a lock anymore and lived in a seminary. Things shouldn't go missing from a seminary. In addition there were nicer bikes than mine unlocked down there which had been unlocked for quite some time. Lastly, it was unrideable. There was no chain. The tires were flat. There was no grip tape. There were no cables on the brakes. The bearings had been cleaned but hastily thrown together without grease or adjustment when I ran out of time at home and had to bring the bike to school in one piece. It was utterly unrideable. Yet when I went down to put it back together, it was gone.
English Three Speeds I had become convinced of how great old three-speeds were for commuting. At this time in my life I was not looking for a toy but legitimate transportation. Their chain guard and fenders would allow me to travel in nice clothing should I need to. Their three speed hub allowed for nearly maintenance free operation and shifting while stopped which was incredibly useful in stop and go traffic. Their sturdy racks would take a heavy load. Their older appearance and heavy but simple construction meant that they could stand up to the abuse of student utility riding. On top of that, an old three speed had the same appeal as an interesting or vintage car. Having said that, English Three-Speeds were and are enjoying a surge in popularity and so had been commanding prices in Toronto of more than their brand new counterparts. I had been eyeing up a KHS Green at a local bike shop but at the time was dirt poor and knew little about bike value. I just couldn't justify it. Luckily I am a Kijiji lurker and one day I happened to be at home in Belleville and a really good Superbe came up for next to nothing that I snapped right up. I won't get into the details here as it will have it's own post once I get some better pictures of it. This has been my trusty steed for three and a half years. I rode it as-is with only new tires for two years before doing a rebuild and adding some upgrades.
|Apparently I have no complete picture. 75% finished.|
So now I've got three bikes sitting in the garage. The Fuji for longer distance and faster rides. The Superbe for puttering around town in nicer clothing. And the no-name Raleigh waiting to be dealt with. I have a hard time justifying two bikes that do the same thing. Therefore I think the no-name Raleigh needs to go. In addition I think I can get as much out of it in the spring if I sell it as I paid for the Fuji which would be satisfying. I still have the urge to find out if I would like fixed gear riding but I just don't see having time for it. If I were to have three bikes, the third I think would have to be a folding bike to keep in the trunk of my car, throw on the boat, or take the train. So now, as winter sets in and I only have one or two rides left if any at all this is where I stand on my biking history. I'm pretty excited for next summer. Winter can't end quick enough, I may need to invest in a trainer.