Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Fat Tire Revolution ( Part 1 )

Recently I visited the website of First Flight Bicycles in North Carolina, They have what I believe to be the most comprehensive in-depth information chronicling the history of the mountain bike. Scrolling through pictures had me thinking back to how I was hooked into the fray. I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of stories like this one, but here's mine for your reading amusement:

Somehow, I missed the boat on being raised on BMX bikes, missed out on the jumping, skidding, berms, wheelies, etc. My path was a decidedly geekier route, I was obsessed with road riding. Could have something to do with the movie Breaking Away, however by the time that film was released I was well into my obsession with all things skinny and shiny. The film just added a massive fuel dump on the fire. It wasn't just me, my group of friends growing up in Jr High School were all on board with this program. Every Saturday morning we'd meet up at Guy and Susans D'Aniello's shop, Amity Bicycles in Woodbridge CT. for a weekly time trial series. We would throw everything we had at a rolling 10-something mile course, come through the line red-faced,sputtering and on the verge of tossing breakfast. Guy and Susan started this shop in their home, it was a ridiculously small amount of floor space but they catered to the serious road enthusiast, it was a fertile environment for young roadie wannabees. For such a small shop it was well stocked with encouragement, advice, enthusiasm, and of course the requisite amount of gear to lust over. The bike I chose to launch my career was a maroon Zebrakenko, a now defunct Japanese import with a decent level of mostly Suntour components. Slowly but surely each part would be replaced with Suntour Superbe Pro...because it was well ?...Pro! It was far less expensive than anything that Campy had to offer, I don't recall looking at any Shimano parts but the Superbe Pro group was meticulously finished, very lightweight and functioned beautifully. I swapped out the saddle for the Italian made Concor, started to become fashion conscience and wrapped the bars with multiple colored layers of Benotto cello tape, Alfredo Binda leather toe clip straps wound through Christophe stainless clips, every single detail was obsessed over. While I never entered a road race I stuck rigidly to the time trial regimen and also partook in a century which at that time was a pretty big deal for a 15 year old kid. During the years leading into the beginning of high school (early eighties) our posse size was dwindling, cars and girls were entering the periphery, distractions for some...not for me. I had lost the beloved Zebrakenko in a theft and acquired a used Colnago Mexico. I was riding an absurd amount but very much losing interest in racing, I had stripped the Colnago of decals and started becoming interested in more exploratory/adventure type riding. The seed planted was a bike tour that my cousin and I struck out on a trip to Cape Cod and the Islands a few years earlier, staying at Youth Hostels and packing all our belongings in panniers made by an upstart company in Connecticut called Cannondale. Then the lightening bolt hit, the bike magazines I was reading were publishing ads for bikes that looked like nothing I had ever seen before. They were equipped for what I had wanted to ride. Big fat knobby tires, "Bullmoose bars", cantilever brakes, big wide platform pedals without clips and straps! "very interesting".. In 83 I took a ride on the Colnago down to a ski shop to take a look a some sweet pair of Lange boots that I couldn't afford. When I exited the store the Colnago was gone. Despite my parents best efforts encouraging me to ride with a lock on board, it was out of the question, " too heavy...doesn't fit in the jersey pocket" etc. Once the funds were available from the loss of the bike, I was driven direct to Branford Bikes and purchased a Univega Alpina Pro mountain bike.

Thanks for reading part one of the infinate part series on why the mountain bike is the best invention of our lifetime- Shotty

1 comment:

Mom said...

I remember that trip to Branford and the beginning of your love affair with mountain bikes. It seemed you knew the trends before it was generally popular.