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Howdy y'all and greetings from The Lone Star state!

Old 05-14-20, 02:47 AM
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jc907
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Howdy y'all and greetings from The Lone Star state!

Caution: This is long. Move on if you're not into reading more than a couple of minutes. If you decide to continue, know that you've been warned!

Having made the decision to finally get back into the saddle after a very looong hiatus, I've found that - like all technology - the bike world has changed so much since I lived in the saddle as a youth sooo long ago that I barely recognize it. Just to give you an idea how long ago that was: when I started riding, mountain bikes were a relatively new novelty and had not yet gone mainstream; it was so long ago that gear shifters were still placed on the downtube and were of the friction variety; it was so long ago that Reynolds 531 and Columbus SL were still the frame materials of choice for most builders; and finally, it was so long ago that most of the top frame masters still literally built frames by hand. I think you folks get the idea. So, in an effort to try to get up to speed on all things bicycle, I thought it might be a good start to join a forum such as this where I can pick the brains of those who know better than I at this point.

Since this is an introduction, a little background is in order: I was born in the "Boogey-Down" in the very early '60s (for those uninitiated, that's The Bronx) and raised throughout NYC, moving from one borough to the next if the rent got too high or the neighborhood got too gentrified one way or another for my mom's liking (she insisted we live in a mixed area because we were too poor to actually travel and she still wanted me to learn about other people and cultures - Memory eternal!). With my single mom busy working and being an only child, I had far too much freedom for my own good and often got into trouble by falling in with the wrong crowd. Like too many in the same situation, I thought I had all the answers and dropped out of school at 15. After two years working full-time jobs at minimum wage without med insurance, I saw the err of my ways, returned to get my GED and was one of the first in my family with the opportunity to go to college. I entered Brooklyn College at the age of 17 majoring in electrical engineering. I still had to work and got jobs where I could to buy things for myself and go to school.

The NYC transit system is an epic marvel of engineering and convenience, but smelling human waste along with people's armpits/BO at rush hour, getting mugged and all the other wonderful Disney-like attractions the NYC transit system offers, soon lost their luster. I didn't earn enough for a car, so I decided to buy a bicycle. I didn’t know anything about bicycles and didn't have a lot to spend, but I had enough for a Panasonic road bike in a large, well equipped shop on Canal Street. So began a love affair that lasted six short, but intense years. The Panasonic became transport to school, work, recreation and exercise. I found unknown freedom and thrills and was constantly amazed that a human being could go so far under their own power with nothing more than the food in their belly for fuel. My daily mileage between work, school and the rest averaged anywhere from 40-60 miles depending on the days schedule. Soon, I noticed what others were riding and began studying bicycles only to realize that my trusty Panasonic steed was - compared to what was out there at the time - an abysmal clunker. I wanted speed, efficiency and practical cargo capacity. So, instead of saving my money and buying a car like most normal kids, I decided instead to buy aftermarket parts for my bike in an attempt to upgrade it into that efficient marvel of human transportation engineering I knew it could be - a "real" bike. The parts soon ended up costing more than what I had paid for the bike and I knew I'd have to take things to the next level. I needed a "real" bicycle frame in order to build a "proper" bike. One day, while coming home from one of my usual rides, out of the corner of my right eye, I just barely caught notice of a very attractive girl strolling South elegantly on the sidewalk as I was cruising North on Broadway. Almost missing her completely, I just HAD to turn my head to get the full effect. Unfortunately, that little moment of visual bliss came to a crashing end as a car, traveling in my lane, decided to pull in front of me, stop and double-park. My only warning of any impending doom was turning my head forward just in time to watch the car's trunk rise to meet my face. The driver and I exchanged a few pleasantries, but feeling I was ultimately at fault for taking my eyes off the road, I limped home with my now foldable bike. I was heartbroken: I had lost my best friend and for what: a nice rear view! On the other hand, it did force the issue and I soon healed my wounds by buying a shiny new Trek 720 touring frame at the same bike shop on Canal Street. I transferred what components were salvageable from the Panasonic. The Trek was not a hand-made work of art like a Cinelli or Colnago with their oh-so-sexy carved stay/tube lugs and gorgeous paint jobs. Nor was it a cutting-edge technological triumph like the then celebrated Klein titanium or carbon-fiber wonders; bikes so advanced you could imagine riding them off to distant worlds, but, it was solid. I could now build a "real" bike purpose made for serious human transportation. Made of shock-absorbing Reynolds 531 double-butted steel, it had a longer wheelbase to allow for flexing when under the load of a rider and fully laden panniers. It even had brazed on lugs for racks and panniers. Eventually, my 720 ended up with a franken mixture of components that worked well together and made it a respectable ride. She had a Sugino AT crank, Shimano Dura Ace front derailleur, Sachs Huret Duo Par Echo aluminum rear derailleur, Suntour bar end shifters, custom built Weinmann concave wheels with butted DT spokes, sealed bearing hubs, a Sedisport Silver chain and even a Cinelli bar and stem that was my nod to the unobtainable beauty that were the hand crafted European works of art of the day. I finished it with a bottom-bracket mounted generator so I could ride at night and Blackburn racks - both back and front. Eventually, I bought a complete set of Cannondale panniers and camping gear: I was ready for anything: short or long distance, day or night, rain or shine.

By now, my recreational rides had grown to include weekend day trips to Amityville on Long Island. It was a 60+ mile round-trip from my home in Astoria. I’d go out in the morning, have lunch and ice cream in Amityville and ride back. My conditioning had improved enough for me to take regular trips outside of the borders of NYC in all directions. I regularly raced and beat riders in Central Park who loved to brag about their multi-thousand-dollar tech marvels and chuckled at my "truck" but couldn't ride worth a damn. Of course, there were serious athletes training there that I couldn't remotely come close to, but I held my own more than respectably while admiring their beautiful, handmade custom works of art.

In '82, I planned a solo road trip to Montreal. My bike was finally going to be used the way it was born to be. I planned to camp out at night along the way and had all the necessary gear including cash for unexpected emergencies like a breakdown or lack of camping area to sleep in. I left word where I was going and was off just before sunup on a Sunday. I proceeded over an empty Queensboro Bridge, blissfully through the nearly empty streets of Manhattan, straight North up Broadway and out of NY. Broadway turned into NY Rt 9 heading towards Albany. All went well until I hit a particularly steep incline that gave me much more trouble than I expected. I had to keep coming out of the saddle to jam on the pedals to keep moving and thought I was just being weak. I stubbornly (and stupidly) pushed ahead. It wasn't until I reached the summit just outside of Albany that I stopped to take a breather and look at my bike. When I did, I was horrified to find my rear derailleur cage had, somehow bent outward 90 degrees. Such was the stress that I had put it through. Since it made no sound or other indication that anything was amiss other than the great exertion I was putting out, I never thought there was anything wrong with the bike. I tried straightening the derailleur and partially succeeded but was sure it would break under any continued similar pressure. Luckily, I found a bike shop nearby and replaced the derailleur with a beefy - but expensive - Suntour unit. By now, it was now getting dark and I found a small park to pitch camp in and continue in the morning. When I awoke, I couldn't move my left leg at the knee. My knee swelled to the size of a watermelon. Not only had I destroyed a derailleur, I also managed to do serious damage to my knee. Idiotically, I tried to continue, praying that my knee would get better - it didn't. I only managed another 10-12 miles making it to the city of Troy. Along the way, my left knee developed a horrible and excruciatingly painful crunching sensation. For most of those few miles to Troy, I rode with just one leg. I had to face it: my trip was over. My knee and I were crushed. So much prep and in the end, only managed a meager 175 of the 1000 or so round-trip miles planned for what was supposed to be an epic journey. Hanging my head in disgust, I limped to the nearest bus station where I packed myself and my bike on the next bus to NYC. At home, further injury was added to insult when I had my knee checked out and was told I had most likely done serious and possibly permanent damage to my knee. By placing so much stress on it going up the incline with the bent derailleur, I depleted the fluid between the kneecap and joint which provides lubrication and protection to the joint. With the fluid depleted, the cap and joint rubbed directly together resulting in the painful grinding sensation. Riding in that condition to Troy definitely, did not help. The weak point was the aluminum cage on the Sachs Huret derailleur which, unknown to me, had a reputation for lacking the strength of the heavier steel version. It had otherwise worked flawlessly. I resolved to replace the Suntour with a new steel caged Sachs Huret.

After 6 long months, I managed to heal enough to ride again and was back to my weekend jaunts to Amityville preparing myself to get back to form and try for Montreal again. I was riding along Queens Blvd and approaching my favorite downhill stretch. Queens Blvd. was and still is, a very wide, busy and often dangerous stretch of road that’s wider and busier than most 8 lane US highways (it’s occasionally nicknamed “The Blvd of Death”). However, there were times when traffic was light enough and the road clear enough to open up on that particular stretch. On such days, I could easily reach 35-45 mph pumping the top gears and getting the bit of draft from the little traffic that passed. Upon reaching the bottom, I felt as if I could coast forever. This was one such day and I was nearing the bottom when a middle-aged Korean man in a parked car decided to open his door into the lane of traffic without looking. I still clearly see his face in his side view mirror, looking to the right as he opened the door. There was traffic on my left and I was literally at his rear bumper when it happened. All I could do was try to throw my weight rearward and squeeze the brake levers with all I had. Fortunately, the car was a large, two-door sedan that did not have a frame for the raised door window. I struck the door with such force that it bent completely in the opposite direction past the hinges as the window exploded all around me. Though strapped into my toe clips, my feet came clear out of my Avocet touring shoes which remained attached to the pedals. I found myself floating as if in a dream, looking down on parked car after parked car and traffic as I passed them. Then, everything stopped. I was looking straight up at the clouds in the dusk sky as the sun was starting to go down. All I could think of was "My bike!!!" Suddenly, a black, dirty face was inches from mine and blocking my view of the sky. The face was shouting at me. I couldn't make it out at first, but then I could hear it clearly saying "Don't move , bro! Just lay still...help's coming. Then the face looked up and down the street as if to see if it was clear to speak again. It returned saying "Yo man, don't worry 'bout nothin'...I saw EVERYTHING!". Almost immediately, an ambulance appeared and I was taken to a nearby hospital where I spent the night. Apparently, SOMEONE was looking out for me that day as the worst I suffered was a concussion and serious contusions to the tops of my thighs where I struck the door. I must have been doing max speed because I had flown about 50 ft and landed square on my back. My bicycle had folded completely in half along the top tube and down tubes at a point near the head tube such that the front and rear wheels ended up alongside each other. I found an attorney near the spot where I hit the car and sued the driver's insurance for my bike and hospital bills. I then did what I thought any bike-bug bitten psycho amateur cyclist would do - I bought and built another bike - almost exactly the same as the one I had except this time, I replaced the Suntour rear derailleur with a STEEL caged Sachs Huret rear derailleur.

A year later, at the age of 23, I passed the NYC civil service examination and was hired by the NYPD. I had a 21+ year career that saw me doing things I could only dream about and traveling the world. Not really liking what I was studying anyway (I only did it because I didn't know what else to do with my life and I had friends in the industry who could get me a job), I gave up on my electrical engineering degree like a bad habit even though I had only 10 or so more credits left to finish. Instead, I pursued a career that saw me working with the UN in the Balkans, doing diplomatic security for the US State Dept. in Iraq, escorting heads of state from around the world along with a few POTUSs, cabinet officials, governors, royalty and a myriad other celebrities and notables. I was a patrolman, narcotics investigator, undercover, federal marshal and ran a UN International Police Task Force Station in Bosnia. In the meantime, I got married, had kids and life, somehow, got in the way of biking.

In 2008, I broke my back in Iraq and couldn't work anymore. That's what happens when an "old man" - as the kids on my team sometimes affectionately called me (actually, they gave me a cool handle: Silverback) - jumps in and out of armored vehicles carrying 100 lbs of gear and guns for almost 2 years. I bought a home in God's Country, NY (outside Binghamton-great hunting/nice and quiet), but eventually I had to move after my surgeries as NY state lost it's mind becoming a nanny state, taxing both businesses and those that could afford to leave right out of the state. NYs rural education system sucked as politician after politician promised to take care of every child that needed extra help. This they did at the expense of the gifted, bright and talented. The problem was many of the kids had problem parents and after getting extra help at school during the day, those problem children went right back home to their problem parents and all that money went out the window. The result: problem kids were still problem kids and there was no funding for gifted and talented children. All were being were brought down to the bottom. I needed to find a better place to raise my one remaining child at home and found that in Texas. Today, my daughter's taking college classes in high school where she’ll graduate with an associate degree. She plans to work for NASA.

My Trek 720 now lives in the garage. When I bought it in '84, it only came in an ugly, ruddy maroon color. I had always wanted it in electric blue. So, I had it stripped and professionally painted electric blue. I even replaced all the decals (thank you VeloCals). It still has nearly every component exactly as it did back then with the exception of the the old Avocet touring saddle having been replaced by a proper Brooks leather saddle and ditching the old generator/light combo for a newer, lighter and waay brighter rechargeable helmet mounted unit. Throughout the years, I've lovingly cleaned it, oiled it and promised to take it out again someday. I've done just that a couple of times now and find she still rides as I remember. I'm just more beat up than I'd like to be, put on far more weight than I care to say since breaking my back and can't take her for a proper ride like I used to. The angle my head's in when I ride also doesn't help since I had neck surgery in '05. After a few minutes, my hands get numb and I have to ride hands-free or get off altogether so the feeling can come back to my hands. I can, however, tolerate a mountain bike posture better. So, I've taken down the old GT Tequesta I bought in '95 and started going over that one. Unfortunately, it seems that the old parts - while not having seen much use throughout the years - prefer to stay where they are and one by one, are ending up needing to be replaced as I remove them and try to service them. So, I've given up on resurrecting the GT and started a new build with a $150 aluminum frame I bought on sale from a local shop about six years ago. I'm transferring what I can from the Tequesta and buying new where I have to. I'm not buying top-of-the-line parts since it's not going to see the kind of use the Trek or Tequesta did back in the day, but I do plan to make it my everyday rider, getting a little bit of exercise with the wifey who rides a big 'ole beach cruiser. Maybe some collector will take interest in my Trek and she can have a proper home to retire to. In the meantime, I'll continue to take her out from time to time, clean her up and remember the good times we had while getting ready for more fun with my new ride.

Anyway, I hope I didn't terribly bore any who might actually bother to read through this. It is a bit winded, but hey..blame the administrator...they asked for it.
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Old 05-14-20, 06:34 AM
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Welcome!
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Old 05-14-20, 07:43 AM
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Nice introduction. Welcome to Bikeforums.
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Old 05-14-20, 04:09 PM
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So tell us a little about yourself.
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Old 05-14-20, 05:38 PM
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Old 05-15-20, 06:33 AM
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Hi there,
That bike shop on Canal was one of my favorite places growing up in the 80s and 90s.
I also spent years riding from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn College for school.
Subsequent to that, I also spent some time in the Middle East.
What a small world.
Pleased to meet you!
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Old 05-15-20, 07:37 AM
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jc907
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Originally Posted by Rage View Post
Hi there,
That bike shop on Canal was one of my favorite places growing up in the 80s and 90s.
I also spent years riding from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn College for school.
Subsequent to that, I also spent some time in the Middle East.
What a small world.
Pleased to meet you!
Ha! Ditto, it is a small world indeed!
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Old 05-15-20, 08:33 PM
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Eddy_G
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Hi. I didn't read past the first sentence where you said to move along if not into reading a long story. But I will take the time to say... Welcome!
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Old 05-15-20, 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Eddy_G View Post
Hi. I didn't read past the first sentence where you said to move along if not into reading a long story. But I will take the time to say... Welcome!
Ha! Thanks.
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