Part 1: A Short History of My Bikes - Learning to Ride
I learned to ride a bike when I was 6 years-old. I may have been able to balance a bike before then. But back in the day, bikes were big. I had to grow to a sufficient height to reach the pedals on a 24" Schwinn "fat tire". Of course, in 1963 there was no such thing as a "fat tire" or "cruiser". A bike was a bike. We had a beat-up old blue Schwinn of indeterminate age. My two brothers and I used this bike to learn how to ride a "two-wheeler". My brother, Mike, is 6 years older than me and the bike was old when he learned to ride it.
We called the old Schwinn "Blue Bird". This photo is not of Blue Bird. But the color and general condition is pretty darn close. My dad and older brother taught me how to ride the heavy monster on the dirt roads in Golden, Colorado. I peeled off quite a bit of skin before I learned to ride. My general tendency to fall off bikes is a trend that continues to this day.
Part 2: Dangerous Bike
For the first 4 years of my bike riding adventure I rode old hand-me-down bikes. Some were pretty darn ugly and one was down-right dangerous. The dangerous bike was named "Crazy Crate", because you had to be crazy to ride it.
The goose neck snapped on Crazy Crate one summer day when I rode it off a curb. The handel bars came completely loose. I fell head-first off the bike and ripped a huge gash in my chest on the sharp remains of the broken gooseneck. My face smashed into the concrete gutter that was full of gravel. I saw stars. The evil bike then ran over top of me. I was hurt really badly.
Part 3: My First New Bike
I was 10 years-old and in 5th grade in 1967. On December 25th, 1967 I got my first new bike. Santa had left me a 26" gold Schwinn Typhoon! This bike was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
I didn't even open the rest of my gifts. I put on my coat, stocking hat and mittens. Grabbed my bike and headed out into the freezing Colorado winter weather. I was in heaven! These old Schwinns were well made by American craftspeople in Chicago. The bike was flawless and gleamed in the cold white winter sunlight. I rode Goldie a zillion miles.
In the summer my friends and I would race our bikes 8 miles to a swimming pool. We would swim all day, then race our bikes back home. Goldie was a great bike.
Part 4: My First Road Bike
When I was thirteen I got a paper route. By this time we had moved from small-town Golden to the Denver suburbs. I converted my solid Schwinn Typhoon into a paper bike. I got "long horn" handlebars and a spoke guard. I hung huge canvas paper bags off the handlebars emblazoned with "Rocky Mountain News". The "News" was a morning paper. Before school the district manager would drop bundles of papers on my driveway. I would fold the papers with rubber bands; load the papers into the canvas bags and pedal out in the quiet darkness of a sleeping suburb. I delivered over 100 papers and pedaled for miles. I got one and half cents for each paper I delivered. I made $1.50 a day.
I saved up my money. After three months I had earned enough money to buy my dream bike; a brand new 1971 Schwinn Varsity 10-speed for $90.
I added a "lightweight" hollow chrome moly front fork. I had the bike shop wrap the handlebars with black tape rather than the stock brown tape. I bought toe clips. The bike was metallic brown and it was amazingly fast. More Schwinn Varsity bikes were made than any other derailleur bike. This was my first major purchase. The Varsity is completely obsolete by today's standards. Back in 1971, it was a lot of bike for the money.
Part 5: Selling Bikes
In 1973 I was 16 years old. I worked for a lawn care company in the summer for $2.00 an hour. I saved my money to buy my first car. I wanted a sports car. I found a really pretty baby blue 1960 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite.
The Bugeye was perfect and had only 35,000 miles on it. I didn't quite have the $500 asking price. So I sold my bikes. I got $25 for the Typhoon and $50 for the Varsity. (BTW - I kept the Bugeye for 20 years. I sold it to raise part of the down payment for our first house.)
Part 6: Colorado Rocky Mountain Bikes
Our first house was in Conifer, Colorado. With a growing family, I was buying a lot of bikes; all for the kids. My wife took it upon herself to go to Target and buy bikes for her and me. Unfortunately, she purchased Huffy Granite mountain bikes. I think her idea was we would go on family bike rides. She didn't count on my sons and I racing each other. My wife and daughter would tool along totally disgusted by the juvenile behavior of the "boys". To this day, many years later, my wife and daughter refuse to ride with my sons and me.
This is a Huffy Granite. Rigid fork and 15 speeds. You can buy this bike today for about $100. Even though these are cheap bikes, they were durable and we rode the daylights out of them.
My wife and I moved around for some years. We lived in San Antonio, Texas. We moved from Texas to Maryland. Finally we moved back to Colorado and bought another house in the mountains. By this time the Huffys were long gone.
It was time to buy some good bikes.
In 2006, I bought my first good mountain bike; a Giant Boulder SE I call "Big Red".
In 2007 I bought a Giant Boulder SE for my Daughter Katie, and a Specialized Hardrock Sport for my son Andy.
In 2008 I bought my wife a Specialized Myka Comp (She was riding a horrid Mongoose and I had to force the new bike on her for her birthday - she loves the Myka)
In 2009, I bought a Specialized Stumpjumper HT Pro Comp (Sworks) called "Little Stumpy"
In 2012 I bought a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert. I call this bike "Ultra Stumpy"
Part 7: Buying a Road Bike
I don't mean to brag, but I know a fair amount about mountain bikes. On the other hand, I had no idea what road bikes were all about. I asked for some advice on the Spark Cycling Team forum. It is tough to ask for advice when you know zip about a subject. I was pretty certain that road bike technology may have moved ahead a smidgen since 1971.
I live in a place with a lot of rough dirt roads. I thought I wanted a road bike that I could ride from my house and over the vast number of rough paved and gravel roads in my area. They make such bikes. Giant sells the Roam and the Escape.
Giant Roam 0 for $820.
Specialized sells a bike called the Cross Trail.
This bike has some great features for $770.
However, the Crosstrail and the Roam look a lot like bikes I already own. So I did an experiment. I took my Boulder Giant SE and converted into a more dual purpose bike. I bought easy rolling semi-slicks and changed the rear cogs to something more road worthy.
The results of the conversion of Big Red is not an unqualified success. The bike is far more roadable. I covered 18 miles on pavement, concrete paths and hardpack paths. The course was rolling hills. My average speed was 9.1 mph with a top end of 32 mph. The gearing was a little too tall for the hills but the bike was smooth. I can keep fiddling with the bike. But I think the concept is sound. The mountain bike geometry made Big Red extremely maneuverable and responsive with the new tires.
I had considered the purchase of the excellent Specialized Tricross. This bike can handle dirt roads and has the gearing for mountain touring.
I test rode this bike and it impressed me to pieces. But would I really use a touring bike? I decided that I ride for fun and thrills.
I like bikes that scare me.
The Tricross was friendly, smooth and well behaved. It had plenty of speed but the speed felt smooth and stable. The Tricross is a multi-use bike that does not compromise. While I was at Wheatridge Cyclery on Saturday, they sold 4 out of 5 Tricross bikes. The only reason they didn't sell all five Tricross bikes is that I was test riding one!
They put a courtesy hold on the Tricross for me when I left on Saturday. I decided that on Sunday I would test ride a few pure road bikes. I already had a good handle on Big Red as a multi-purpose bike. I decided I would ride the Specialized Allez Mid Comp Compact and the Trek 2.1C. Both bikes had the SRAM APEX components that I liked on the Tricross.
I arrived 5 minutes after the store opened at noon and it was already packed. I told the sales guy I wanted to try the 2.1C and the Allez. They didn't have the Trek in my size. So I grabbed a 54cm Allez. The sales guy told me where I could go to get a real feeling for the bike.
I liked the white and red graphics. I crossed 38th Avenue and hit the gas. The bike surged like it was shot out of a cannon. My goodness that bike was fast! The Allez is a sport/comp bike with a light alloy frame and carbon fork.
I checked the handling. The bike was like a razor! I came up on a sharp corner. I accelerated toward the corner. I waited for the last split second, then counter steered and snapped the bike into a steep lean while shifting my weight to the outside. The bike zipped around the corner like it was on rails.
It scared the bejabbers out of me!
In other words, I was in love. I found my bike! I started cruising back to the shop at an easy pace. On one street was a traffic monitor that would flash your speed. The thing clocked me at 26 mph. I hit the gas and managed to get the sign to say "30". It was effortless.
I was on a 54 cm frame. But it felt a little tight. The sales guy told me to grab the 56 cm frame bike. There was a guy looking at the 56 cm bike when I grabbed it. He then put his hand on the handle bar. It was the last Allez in the store. He gave up his attempt to restrain the bike. The 56 cm frame was right for me. I bought the bike.
I had the shop wrap the bars in black just like I had done with my Schwinn Varsity in 1971. I also bought an upgraded black saddle. I bought black bottle cages, road pedals and road shoes.
This is my bike. The woman's version of this bike has the black saddle, which I thought looked better.
I think the bike looks like it is ready to spring forward.
Here is my new road bike next to Ultra Stumpy. I know Ultra Stumpy looks huge. Ultra Stumpy has huge suspension travel and sits very high for rock clearance.
Part 8: First Ride
My co-worker and good friend, Jason, bought a Specialized Tarmac SL4 over the weekend. After work we hit the road. We covered a little over 14 miles in about an hour. That includes stopping at traffic lights and getting stuck in slow traffic. I cannot believe how much ground those bikes can cover in such a short time.
This is fun.