Back when I was a true hardcore cycling junkie, the big American cyclists went by the names of Greg Lemond and Andy Hampstien, and the exoticness of a bike was measured by the coolness of its paint job and the degree of patographing on a Campy Super Record gruppo. 21 pounds was featherwieght for a high-end road bike and these new-fangles "Rock-Shox" were a novelty on the MTB scene.
Back in 1985, I was a geeky junior high-schooler who bonded with a friend over $100 toy store bikes. Mine was a blue Kent 10-speed and his a blue St. Tropaz with a cool pump and saddle bag. One day while ditching out of yard work to my Mom's dismay, I dropped myself in front of the living room television to flip through the channels. After a few nondescript shows on various channels, I came across something that would forever alter my life. The date was April 10th.
From the moment I came across it, I was transfixed with Paris-Roubaix. The '85 edition was particularly epic, with Eric Vanderearden winning from the 43 riders who finished what 186 initially started out. Set against John Tesch music and Phil Ligget commentary, the mud and cobbles of the parcours and the grit and brutal perseverance of the riders launched me into an obsession that never ended.
By the next year, I was one of the first true cycling fans on eastern Long Island. Never mind the Super Bowl or World Series, I followed Le Tour, Il Giro, and Lon fere du nord! I was teased for having shaved legs, lycra outfits, and an $800 bike back in high school. I tried my hand at racing, scored two minor time-trial victories and second at a local crit, and eventually made it to the Empire State Games to score no major results. I even played around at two NORBA races. My racing career never amounted to anything, though it was a major epic against the years of lower class welfare following my father's death. In the end, I wasn't much of a racer, but I was a passionate bike rider who worked at bike shops, became a cycling historian, promoted the sport tirelessly, featured cycling into many of my artschool projects, and amassed a volumous collection of cycling magazines and paraphenalia. Eventually, I proved to be a better artist than cyclist, and my beloved sport faded away as I became a New York City art student.
As the years progressed, I would pick up other sports, all of which were rated either as "not as fun as cycling" or "somewhat fun, but not as fun as cycling". Speedskating was my first endeavor, and though I tried my best, I found it rather boring. Street skating was more exciting, though after a few years and some sponsership, I found myself with a severe injury which gave me reason to stop. Rock climbing became my new sport, and in it I found other lost cyclists and followers of the sport. Little by little I began to follow the cycling again, making daily hits to cyclingnews.com and to Graham Watson's excellent website. Soon I was following the peleton again, back when Lance was still recording win #2 at the Tour. Still something was missing.
In the months before my wedding, my financial advisor told me to make any "big dollar" purchases now before my wife and I would pool our assets for future spendings such as house payements and college funds. I looked at my life and my checcking account, and decided on two things. One was a new computer for this proffesional graphic artist. The other was, of course, a bicycle! Initially I was considering a mid-range road bike, thinking in the area of $1500 for either a Felt or a Giant. From the moment I saw it, though, I new I had to have it. Glancing at the Cannondale Cyclocross bike, I was whisked back to the days of looking at pictures of Paul Curly and Tomas Frishknect. I always wanted a cyclocross bike, and thought about all of the training bikes I punished in the off season riding "psuedo-cross". I thought about the riding I would now be doing: fumbling around on a Sunday and a few evenings after work. I live in New York City, where flat-out road riding is impossible, but nearby Riverside Park resembles a cyclocross course/Tour of Flanders/fun little bike path/Paris-Roubaix. The cross bike made perfect sense. I can commute on it, play on it, ride with my wife, and even try 'cross riding. No I don't plan to race, but I do plan to ride a whole lot. It's the perfect Attention Deficit Disorder bike; fly along the road in a big chainring, stop and try a trail that goes off the side of the road, then fumble over the curbs and around the pedestrians of the city. Ride fast, ride slow, ride simple, ride technical. Yup, I made a good bike choice.
So I am back to cycling once more. the big American cyclist is Lance Armstrong and an exotic bike is measured by how much carbon it has and how much weight trouble it gives the UCI officials (14.9lbs!!!). My magazines now feature rock climibng and graphic art. But the best part is that I once more have a fun bike to ride, I have a fun time riding my bike, and I've found a smile that has been missing for 13 years.
BTW, my wedding was this year on April 10th. I missed Paris-Roubaix and my wife has a tifosi-like rabid cycling fan for a husband.