I found this site, while looking for some info on an old bike I used to own (and theoretically, still do own--but that's another thread). I must say that you people here are amazing in your willingness to help each other, and the knowledge is a gold mine!
A little about myself. While I may live in Krakow, Poland, I hale from Western PA, and later, the Florida panhandle. I've been living in Krakow, however, the past 11 years. I am a solid Clydesdale (at ~250+lbs--I should say it in kg, because it seems lighter--but I won't), who hasn't ridden much for the past 14 years. As to why I am starting again.... hm.... hard to say. Gas is $9 a gallon here, but that's more of an excuse to spend some money on a bike. ;-) The truth is, I've missed cycling, and this summer finally found the gumption to get back in the saddle. :-) Oh, and I'm 43.
Now, my cycling history. I started with a Schwinn Stingray 5 speed! It was a 68 model I got in the mid-70s as a birthday present. Of course, BMX was just becoming all the craze, so that 5-speed didn't last long. I converted that poor banana-seat-equipped bike into a mean, lean bmx machine, and worse, repainted the gorgeous deep green/black metalic paint into a ugly silver.... dumb, I know.... but I did.
Well, growing up in Western PA, where the hills are plentious and steeeep, and where far too many roads choose the lesser of two evils, by choosing to go straight up those hills, I never considered bicycle riding to be something more than bmx. (or, my speciality, downhill bmx--now a big mb sport!) However, my first year in college (also in W. PA), I had a friend who had a ginormous Nishiki touring bike that was tricked out with front and rear racks, and paniers, and a fuzzy saddle. I fell in love with that bike, and the one time I rode it (he and I were both over 6 ft tall, and it was a tall frame), I discovered that one could actually _ride_ on those roads! I know he did. It was his car. Well, the next fall, I transferred to a school in FL, and needed wheels. So, I found the cheapest bike I could find with a tall frame--a Schwinn Sprint! I fitted toe clips onto it, and rode it that entire year. I learned quickly, however, that not all frames are created equal. It was as springy and soft as you could imagine. As soon as I powered out of the saddle, it would squirrel all over the road. I started frequenting bicycle shops, and reading everything I could get my hands on, and learned a lot. I also found myself parking next to a really nice bicycle. It was a Raleigh touring bike. It had decent kit, and also was fitted with front and rear racks. I didn't know anything about Raleigh, but I could see the quality in it. That spring, the guy who owned it was looking to sell it, so I went and sold my cruddy Schwinn for $90, and bought that Raleigh for the same amount. :-) For the next 4 or 5 years, that bike became my car. Since we were near the beach, but not too close, I rode it the 15-30 miles several times a month, and in the summer months, sometimes, several times a week. I was big in snorkling then, so would load it with gear (which never ceased to amaze me how much gear it takes to go snorkling!) In any case, that bike survived me until I finally got a "real job" and then some. Several years after graduating, I "lent" it to a friend who promised me he would take good care of it--he didn't. I have no idea if he still has it, but one of my biggest regrets in life was giving that bike away.
So, what am I riding now? A German-made Patagonia trekking bike. I also have a built-up mountain bike, but it's no good for commuting, and is a bit small for me. The Patagonia is about perfect (but still not my Raleigh). I've enjoyed being in the saddle again, and keep finding new excuses to run errands, etc. :-)
And I'm glad to be here. I have some questions I hope somebody will help me with--advice, really. And would love to post a pic of my ride.