Everyone who rides has a bike history. It’s unavoidable.
For example, my brother-in-law took up cycling in his early 20s. First he bought a steel frame Trek 400, a decent bike for its time. As he got into riding I suggested he get some toe clips. “I hear that’s better for you,” I told him.
So he did. He bought some toe clips. When he got a little faster he graduated to clipping in. Then he started riding with a group of guys and racing. Climbing categories, he soon evolved into a CAT 3 rider and bought a Trek 4300 carbon fiber frame bike, and also a team-issue Waterford criterium racing bike. That bike now hangs in my garage. But to talk about that would be getting ahead of things.
My own bike history goes too far back to matter. But I’m guessing the real transitional bike was the Raleigh Assault I rode around on in my early 30s. I was a young dad and still running quite a bit, so there wasn’t that much time to
really get into cycling, per se. But that Raleigh and I went a lot of places together, including to work a few times. It was a decent commuter bike, with tires just wide enough to ignore sidewalk cracks but not so wide you couldn’t buzz along.
The Raleigh went to college with my son eventually, where it was stolen.
Specialized Rockhopper Dreams
So at some point along the way I bought a Specialized Rockhopper. A true
mountain bike with fairly knobby tires. It was fun banging around the local woods and having something to ride with some frequency.
Then my brother-in-law decided to clear out his closet and gave me his red Trek 400 road bike. It already had clipless pedal so I bought some mountain biking shoes and stuck cleats on the bottom and rode both the Rockhopper and Trek that way.
The Trek 400 steel frame
Now that I sat upon a road bike I got invited to join my two best buddies who were longtime cyclists. They suggested I join them on a group ride. Well, despite the fact that I was riding the Trek like mad on my own, those first few group rides were terrible experiences. The Trek was pretty heavy, for one thing. And not that efficient of a bike overall. Don’t get me wrong. It was fun to ride. But not that fun trying to keep up with real riders on real road bikes. Modern bikes with lighter frames, better gearing (not on the front frame stem, like those racing bikes from the ’60s) and real road cycling shoes to boot.
So I got dropped a few times. Every time, actually. Turned around and headed my own way. My best friend rode back to collect me, begging me to try to keep up. “Get real!” I laughed. “Maybe some day. Not now.”
I was pissed, I tell you. I hate getting dropped at anything. Especially by two guys with whom I’ve been competing since high school.
The Red Rocket Felt 4C
Then some mild fortune came along and I purchased the so-called Red Rocket, a Felt 4C that was named Bike of the Year or something in the Bicycling Magazine annual bike review.
The Felt was a revelation. Suddenly I could actually ride reasonably fast. Yet the first time I joined the group ride, calamity arose to stop me cold. I hit a hole on a country road 5 miles into the ride and flatted. But my mechanical friend stripped the tire and threw in a new tube in a few minutes, and off we went again. I was still flushed with embarrassment as we rode off. But I hung in there. All 40 miles, though it hurt to do so. Especially on the hills. My runner’s legs were not yet built up for cycling.
The Felt and I have been together what, 6 or 7 years now. I’ve raced that bike in criteriums and crashed on that bike doing 40 mph due to bike wobble, a phenomena of which I’d never heard until it hit. But I guess we’re still friends, the Felt 4C and I. We’ve done 1500 since the crash.
Last year my brother-in-law was cleaning out his bike closet again because he doesn’t care to ride much anymore. He has his reasons. Mostly perhaps it is the silver Mustang V-8 he likes to drive. From cycling he went into skydiving for several years. He owned the suit, the chute, the whole kaboot. Now he’s sold that off too. When he’s done with a phase in life he moves on.
So he was donating his Waterford bike to my collection because he knows I like bikes. It hangs in the garage right now, awaiting conversion to my frame and height. It hasn’t been in the cards to spend the money on messing around with the bike, and the machine is a piece of art, not just a bike. Its steel frame is snappy to ride, I know that. I’ve tweaked and adjusted it to be ridable, but not quite.
With respect for what a beautiful classic it really is, I’ve consulted with a highly mechanical friend of mine who rides an absolutely stunning Waterford steel frame bike as well. To make the headset adjustable he made one concession and installed a carbon front fork that allows for an adapter to convert the now-wider diameter of modern cycling parts to the narrow gauge of the Waterford. When I’m ready to do that, he’s going to help. I’m thinking my birthday this summer is the ideal time to make the conversion.
Everyone likes a new bike for their birthday. Even if it’s an old new bike. But especially if its an awesome old new bike. The frame is a 56cm and I typically ride a 58 at 6’1″, and I am long in the torso. So there’s an art to fitting it. But we’ll make it happen, I hope.
Bike appreciation day
Down my block lives another rider, a CAT 3 former cycling mechanic named Howard. He is 6’3″ and possesses one of those seemingly fatless frames, and he is beautiful to behold on a bike. Howard also rides a 56cm frame and raves about the handling power of a smaller framed bike. He told me that fitting the Waterford to my size should be no problem.
But first he made me an offer, on the spot, when he saw the Waterford for the first time. “I’ll buy it,” he offered.
That made me smile. Howard knows his stuff. His cycling stuff. And while I did not take him up on his offer, it did mean a lot to me. Hanging out with a great bike is an honor, and one I intend to keep.