Friday, January 13, 2006

I was about five or six years old when a kid from the neighborhood showed up at the play ground with his ultra, and I mean ULTRA, cool honest to goodness racing bike. It was definitely a Peugot. It was probably a px-10. This would have been in the late fifties when the american bike scene was dismal from the standpoint of euro racing bikes. But this thing sang a siren song to me and in that instant a life long love of skinny tire racing bikes was born. I still remember the moment, the lighting, the smells, the whole shebang. Soon I was rigging up faux derailleurs and wistfully hoping for racing handlebars for my 20" no name hand me down kids bike. Then my mom took me to get a "real" bike when I was getting closer to nine and she bought me a Raleigh Gazelle (at my insistance); a skinny tired single speed wonder that I loved even if it didn't have gears. This bike was stolen and then recovered with the help of my eagle eyed big brother. I was glad to have it back but as I reached my teens I disdained bikes and didn't rediscover them until I was eighteen and I needed a bike to get to work and back one summer. I went to the local college bike shop and promptly bought a 1970 Gitane Tour De France with sew-ups, which pretty much insured I would never earn any actual college money that summer as the bike cost about what I would be making all summer long-$225.00. Naturally I was clueless about sew-ups and I spent a great deal of time that summer putting tires on the bike, learning how to repair tubulars, airing them up at the gas station just to have them explode off the rims on the way home, and other such stuff. It was still fun though. I then reached the phase of my bike education where I learned about the mystical wonder of Campagnolo parts. I started replacing my parts with Campy as fast as my pocket book would allow me to and eventually ended up with a bike I was hopelessly overinvested in and which was an amalgam of inappropriate but Campagnolo parts on an old frame that didn't fit me. I was in my mid twenties and had met a guy who had just discovered the racing scene and I embarked on the longest phase of bike love of my life once I learned a little about spinning and long rides and cycling shorts and cleated shoes and such. It took about three months to progress from total geek to quasi-initiate and the next thing you know I was shaving my legs and getting some shape to my quads. By now I had met Jim and Scott Flanders who owned Flanders Brothers Cycles. I also had a real job with actual income and I could at long last afford real equipment. Naturally, in keeping with my experience to date, I had purchased another star crossed frame (Ciocc) that was too small, fitted it out with my accumulae of Campy stuff, and showed up for a group ride with the Bros. These guys were the undisputed top of the heap-they had both won the state championship many times, had raced on the national team, and ruled the scene in Minnesota. They mentioned to me that my frame was too small, showed my why, and stepped back. It wasn't long before I was in their shop seeking advice and purchasing my first real, proper sized, full Campagnolo Super Record equipped Basso. 100% Italian. Whoa. I had finally reached a state of humility about this euro bike thing where I realized I didn't know much about it. I relied on Jim and Scott to help me select the right stuff and that was an excellent decision on my part. I then bought a new bike every year and sold my old one. In this way I was able to own and ride many Italian frames, always Campy equiped. Eventually I ended up with a DeRosa in 1985 and equiped it with Campy although Dura-Ace was a viable option that year. I also was having kids so I rode that DeRosa for ten years, busting my hip, shattering my elbow, and other such mishaps but I always managed to hurt me and not the DeRosa. I started buying bikes again in 1995 but I have not been able to switch as often as I did in the halcyon days of the eighties. Jim and Scott still advise me of what to ride. I am now on the Ottrott and it is a wonderful bike. It is like riding my own stealth fighter. I miss the days of toe straps and Super Record parts though. Campagnolo had the mystic thing totally dialed in for decades and finally "achieving" Campy was a wonderful and magic experience. Modern parts are so far superior to the old stuff that comparison is impossible, but the magical Campy feeling is still a fond memory for me. I still have the Gitane Tour De France. It is my fixie. It is still too big and has definitely seen better days but it works for slugging out the early and sloppy days of the season which are coming up again soon.


Blogger Jimmer said...

Hey! ......... Nice Website Jim!
Thanks for the props!
Keep on bikin'!
I need to stop by and see your wares.

5:54 PM  

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