I’ve never had a bad bike. Some have been better than others, some more faithful, some more temperamental, and of course there have been those that you want to curl your legs around and stay with forever. Nothing lasts forever, though, except nothing.
This is my list.
- First bike. Gold and white, 5th birthday gift. I will never forget learning to ride that bike. It took forever and a lot of falling and terror and crying and training wheels. But that feeling of finally taking off the training wheels and riding free is something that will stay with me as long as I live.
- Cool kid’s bike. Purple with a banana seat. I will never forget when banana seats became uncool and you didn’t exist if you didn’t own or convert your bike into a BMX. My deep-seated fear and loathing of dirt and jumps began with that conversion.
- Man’s bike. Gray Murray 10-speed, department store birthday gift. I was about ten or eleven and “Welcome to the world of gears.” Rode that thing to school every day until I got a driver license, many years later.
- Nishiki International. First sport bike, $375 at Freewheeling in Austin, sold to me by Uncle Phil Tomlin. All I had to do was become a sportler. Incredible precision shifting. Suntour, Dia-Compe, Sugino, brown cloth tape, cages and clips and downtube shifters. I saw the identical bike on the campus at UCSD, all original, hard-worn components, in the summer of 2007.
- Picchio Rigida. Can you say Campy Super Record? Can you say drool? $1,200 from Frewheeling. Initiated into the secret society. One of the most beautiful bikes ever, shiny dark purple with glittery stuff in the paint. Cracked the rear drop-out and Skip Hujsak fixed it.
- Tommasini SL. $800 for the frame only, Freewheeling. The infamous Pink Shadow, pink with black shadowing, conquered the Blue Goose race course over by Cele. My mom mailed it to me when I moved to Japan. Fields cleaned and resold it for me for $900 with the hilarious tag, “Lightly used.”
- Eddy Merckx SLX. $900, frame only, Freewheeling. Squarest, most masculine chrome fork crowns ever. Dark blue, smooth, it wasn’t better than the Picchio, but it was way more Belgian, for sure.
- Bridgestone Commuter. $30,000 yen, the biggest bike they had at the bike shop in Utsunomiya, and it was a 54cm. Heavy, fenders, rack, 36mm tires, triple chain ring and a baby seat on back. I loved that bike even with my knees under my chin.
- Masi Criterium. $900, frame and NOS Shimano Dura-Ace 7-speed that no one wanted because, 8-speed. Freewheeling. My most favorite bike ever because I rode it the longest and even had it repainted in Carlsbad when the thousands and thousands of miles had stripped away its beauty.
- Specialized Stumpjumer, $575, Freewheeling. Reaffirmed my childhood allergies to soft surfaces on Austin’s Greenbelt.
- Eddy Merckx Leader. $700, frame only, from some guy in Oswego, Oregon. This was the 7-11 Team colors. It was a sweet bike too, but by now carbon was calling and no one could believe that anyone did the Donut on a steel bike with downtube shifters.
- Felt Frankenbike. $2,400, my first bike with handlebar shifters, ca 2007 at Revo Cycles in Dana Point. Front end aluminum, rear triangle carbon. As you can imagine, our relationship was brief. First time I’d ever bought from a bike shop in the U.S. not named Freewheeling. It was weird to buy a bike from people who didn’t know almost every bike you’d ever ridden for 25 years.
- Specialized Tarmac. Carbon with Zipp 404’s from PV Bicycle Center. Steve Bowen gave me a generous deal on it, $3,300 or something like that. Yeah, carbon is better than steel. White with blue lettering.
- Specialized Venge, I’ve blotted out the price, PV Bicycle Center. First day riding it I fell coming home from the NPR, hopping a curb on Beryl, and got a nasty concussion. Black with white lettering.
- Giant TCR, about $5,000, from RIDE Cyclery in Encinitas, part of the great deals we got from SPY-Giant. Amazingly nice bike except for the seat tube that I may have cracked in the Great NPR Bicycle Falling Off Incident of October, 2013. Giant warrantied it anyway and gave me a new frame. I put FastForward wheels on it and have stuck with the wheel brand ever since.
- Giant TCX, about $2,800, also from RIDE. I began my ‘cross “career” on this beauty, one of the few times I’ve actually gotten worse at something the longer I did it. Four seasons of CX nonsense and I was done. But it was an awesome commuting bike and you can still see it in the South Bay when Major Bob is pedaling a ‘cross bike. But he cut the seat tube too short …
- Cannondale EVO Super Six, about $5,000, Helen’s in Santa Monica. More impersonal, high-performing carbon. Intro to wireless shifting. More better, more tech, more cheating.
- Giant TCX, under $3k, Smith Cycle. Crazy comfortable and nice bike for cruising around and doing the Baby BWR on. Hasn’t dissipated my dirt allergies, but Giant is hard to beat.
- Fuji F1, frame only, from Veloworkx in Santa Monica. Crazy nice, stiff but comfortable, light as television news, but I won’t miss it when it’s gone as it will be replaced by another faceless plastic piece of amazing road weaponry, disposable, interchangeable, made by machines for machines.
Not a lot of bikes for 54 years. Your list? Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!