Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: St Peters, Missouri
Bikes: Catrike 559 I own some others but they don't get ridden very much.
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Life style changing bike (long)
Stapfam's thread about bike progression got me to thinking about my old Schwinn Twin tandem.
In the mid 70's my wife and I had a lot of kids at home and not much money. About the only recreation I had was riding my bike with a neighbor but that didn't work very well for my wife. One of the first times that we tried an organized ride together, she touched my rear tire, went down, and came to rest looking up at the underside of a pick up truck who had nearly run over her.
One day a friend who was moving asked if I would like to have an old tandem bicycle that she had no further use for. It was a coaster brake Schwinn Twin that had been left out in the weather. The wheels and all of the components were rusted beyond usefulness but the heavy steel frame was still useable. I figured that if I could acquire a wheelset and a few additional things I could make a bike out of it.
My first stop was my local bike shop. The mechanic there said he had exactly what I needed. His dad had bought a Schwinn Twin Sport 5-speed and had replaced all of the stock components with alloy ones. He sold me both wheels (heavy), both cranks, both handlebars, two seats, a rear derailleur, shifter, narly everything that I needed for $30.00. All this is from the very first person I had talked to about the project. At the time I actually hesitated because it sounded like a lot of money to me. I cold set the rear triangle to accept the wider 5-speed wheel (with Atom hub brake), touched up the paint, kluged together the derailleur and rear brake cable routing and we had a 60 pound 5-speed tandem for about $70.00. That was 1976.
The bike didn't really fit either one of us but from the beginning it was a marriage made in heaven. My wife and I started taking regular rides together. Some people skoffed on some of the organized rides but we didn't care because it was the best that we could afford and we were on the road together having fun. Some other folks, on the other hand, were very supportive. We met a couple one Sunday who have now been close friends for 30 years. At one hilly week end ride Susan Noterangelo, of RAAM fame, sought us out to encourage us. Life was good.
Eventually one year we had a car that we didn't need. We sold the car and bought our first Santana tandem for $1,200. I thought it was all of the money in the world. Our parents thought we had gone insane. My son told me that we were doing it backwards - we were supposed to sell our bike to buy a car. The Santana was a lot nicer bike.
In the course of time I lost my job and we decided to open a bike shop. That's a decision that never would have happened if we hadn't started riding together on that Schwinn Twin. The bike shop never came together financially but, at that point in time, our two sons were getting away from us and involved in some things that I didn't approve of. The bike shop brought our family back together and today my older son credits it with turning his life around so it was worth it.
Eventually I sold the Schwinn Twin to a family who had a blind 14 year old daughter. The totally blind daughter used to ride a single bike in circles around their cul-de-sac. They wanted a tandem so they could take her on longer rides but didn't have a lot of money to spend. We worked it out.
Today we have a pretty nice fleet of bikes. Our family all live close and love and respect one another. My two sons come by now and then to work on their freeride mountain bikes and are both talking about acquiring road bikes. I can't imagine a more satisfying life than the one that I'm living today.
I often wonder what life would be like today if I hadn't acquired that old Schwinn Twin so many years ago. This story is one of the things that has convinced me of the existence of a higher power who truely does guide our lives.