I have to say since discovering this site while searching for info on a 1989-ish Paramount a few weeks ago, I have been VERY impressed and happy with this site. I used to post on MTBR.com a lot, but its almost too big and posts get "lost", people get flamed, blah blah blah. Its tiring to keep up with. Anyways one thing thats really lacking on that site is the Commuter forum.
Anyways I thought some of you might be interested in reading about my "bike history". I know I'm always inerested in hearing how other got involved with the sport. When I was about 12 or so, my Dad bought me my first 26" wheeled bike from Sportmart. I thought I wanted to try mountain biking. Well needless to say the thing didn't shift right, weighed about 35lbs and the rims on it were not of the best quality. So I bent a rim and we took it in to the LBS in the Chicago suburbs where we were living at the time.
The "gentleman" working there was nothing but rude to us, and basically called my Dad an idiot for buying the Huffy, and went on about how all decent bikes have 36 spoked wheels (which I later counted and indeed had 36 spokes on the Huffy too...), and basically made me hate bikes and cyclists to the point I never rode again. We had similar previous dealings with this shop too, and it was the only LBS within a 30min drive.
Anyways the Huffy sat for a long time. I got into cars and could care less about bikes. Flash forward to me at 18. I'm working at a Porsche dealership detailing cars, my boss can't say enough good about me and my work so we get a 1998 VW Passat with the 20v turbocharged I4 and 5spd manual in on trade. Like I said, my boss likes me so he lets me have it at a loss to the dealership, so now I have a $150/mo car payment. This is one *****IN' car though. Gas crisis of 2000-ish hits, and suddenly its starting to really hurt to put Amoco/BP Premium in the tank when I am commuting 100mi a week to school and work.
My coworker Nathan shows up one day on his old Specialized Hardrock Ultra and starts talking about how he plans to save $30/wk on gas just by riding the 6mi or so into work. I start thinking how I'm really skinny but still outta shape, broke all the time and gas prices are $1.85+ for the stuff my car likes, so I decided to buy a new bike. I got a GT off eBay since GT was always a good brand when I was growing up, put it together myself, took it out for a ride and promptly shattered my collarbone on my first ride. Regardless, I was hooked.
I went in and had the bike PROPERLY setup by a shop that had subsequently opened in our area, which proved to be very friendly and helpful and showed me a lot about the drivetrain, etc. I started riding into work and found that I loved the freedom of riding, and was amazed when I would beat my coworker who drove, and lived on my route, to his house everyday after work.
I started to ride a forest preserve path near my house, which had a 9mi crushed gravel loop. I met all kinds of great people while riding and would ride this trail several times a week. I noticed my cardio and general health improved immensly (I was somewhat "sickly" at this point in my life). My Mom, who was ever concerned about my health even had to admit I looked really healthy for once.
Anyways we had to somewhat suddenly move to Michigan since my Dad lost his job after 24yrs. This was devastating to me since I had lived in the same neighborhood for 20 years, and had some of the same friends for 15-20 years of my life. I dropped out of school since our living arrangements, jobs, etc were all kind of uncertain at that point, and we moved to Grand Rapids, MI. I traded my Passat in on a clean 1990 Mitsubishi Montero and actually made money on the deal since I had paid so little for the Passat. I just couldn't have a car payment anymore with all the uncertainty.
We moved in July, and I got to MI and promptly had no friends, and no way to make friends seeing as I didn't have a job, and I didn't go to school. I was horribly depressed and found out though that were several singletrack trails within an hour of my house and three within 20min. I realized the GT was not up to the task and went to the local bike shops and started looking at mid-range mountain bikes. Three days after moving I came home with a Kona Cindercone I got on clearance. I started to ride everyday and was floored by how much fun I was having by myself riding the trails. I was a terrible rider but it gave me something other than my dismal situation to focus on for a few hours each day. I got a job, it completely sucked, and the people I worked with were just bad people all around.
I quit and got a job at a VW dealership, and quickly discovered one of the mechanics was the president of the local cycling club. He approached me about cycling when he saw that I rode my bike to work every day. He is primarily a roadie, but must have seen potential in me enough to go dust off his mountain bike and offer to "coach" me. We started hitting up the trails that I had been riding, and his speed, stamina and skill just absolutely blew me away, especially considering I am 20 and he's 26 years my senior. We ultimately formed the After 5 Club as more and more employees got interested in what we were doing, and started to buy bikes and dust of their old bikes. We had ex-racers, recreationalists, all kinds of riders coming out of the woodwork. It was amazing and a great time for the year before I left for school.
I ultimately decided to go back to school (as much as I despise/loathe/hate school) and picked Waco, Tx. Why? I discovered that Baylor is a private Christian school (which my parents were pleased with) in a WARM climate where I could ride year round. I also happened to read an article in Bicycling Magazine about how Cameron Park in Waco, and 4mi from Baylor, is some of the best and most technical singletrack that can be found anywhere. This meant leaving my friends, again, but I felt this was where I was supposed to be.
On the way down, with both my bikes on the back we were rear ended by a VERY shady driver, who tried to evade us but decided to stop once we flagged down a cop one lane over, who then proceeded to not assist us at all beyond putting his lights on and ensuring the driver pulled over. We got no insurance money from the guy and I wound up with a bent crank on my singlespeed and a taco'd wheel on the Kona. First stop when we got in town was the ONLY bikeshop in town, Bicycles Outback, which I thought would suck since Waco isn't exactly a cycling town. We called ahead, then immediately brought my bikes in. Right away they bent the crank straight for me, and felt so bad about what happened they offered to rebuild my front wheel with a new rim for 50% off labor and 10% off parts. We talked a lot with the shop manager who was a Baylor graduate, and found out nearly everyone working there was a Baylor student.
Through the first semester I made frequent visits and they showed me how to do certain mechanical jobs on a bike, and eventually started letting me use a stand and tools. I'm mechanically inclined, so working on a bicycle came to me pretty quickly I guess, and the shop manager took notice, and by winter break he had offered me an "apprenticeship" where I would do limited repairs and overhaul my own bike, and then start on payroll 2nd semester. I learned everything I could in that short time and I still am in disbelief at how much I learned about bikes in that few weeks. Now I'm a bike mechanic, getting paid to do something I love. Not the world's greatest, but I do good work when I can, and leave it to someone else to show me if I don't know how to do something or can't quite get it.
I'm just pretty amazed looking back now how it was only about 4 years ago I got my first crappy GT. Now I've had a handful of bikes since, currently have 3 (road, SS, mtn.), and can build a bike from scratch and get it to work when a year ago I could barely adjust my brakes. I put on over 2,000mi last year between rides and commuting, completed a Century, built a roadbike, etc. What I am even more amazed at is how things have just fallen in place in a sense. Looking back I can see how purchasing the Kona got me allied with a great shop that taught me tons about bikes, riding, etc. Getting a job at the dealership got me in with a great rider who taught me everything I know about riding and got me on the pavement and the trails. Coming to Baylor and getting rear-ended got me a job at a bikeshop where I love what I do and can buy all kinds of crap I don't need for my bikes
Anyways this is a LONG post, and if anyone is still reading at this point, sweet! I just posted hoping maybe someone else will share their "bike history" or find some inspiration/encouragement from this.
Bikes I have/have had:
1996 Huffy Pebble Creek (Dad rides and loves it now!)
2000 GT Agressor (the one that started it all)
2001 Kona Cindercone
1999 Univega Modo Viviere
1991 Miele (SS conversion)
1993 Peugeot ISS 500 (SS conversion)
1994 Peugeot ISS 550 (SS conversion)
1989 Paramount OS3
2004 Specialized Stumpjumper Comp HT