In the past few months I’ve had to make some tough decisions. With cash flow and storage space becoming more and more scarce, I needed to sell a few of my girls to the highest bidder. My girls are my bikes. I call them my girls because they are part of my family. They are an extension of my passion for riding. They are the material manifestation of my dreams turned into steel, aluminum, rubber and carbon. Giving inanimate items names and personalities may seem eccentric but why not reserve your comments and sentiments until you read through my desire to do so.
My girls all have names. Their names fit their personality, intended use, or simply are a play on words of their manufacture’s given name. For example, the latest edition to the family is Felicia. She is a Felt F2 with Di2 (electronic shifting). Felicia has become my prime mover. She has adapted well to my need for climbing mountains, fast descending and riding in spirited group rides. Furthermore, Felicia equals my penchant need for long days in the saddle and pre-dawn assaults on the open road. Felicia shifts perfectly every time, without hesitation without reservation, and without even a grrr of audible complaint. She is built for speed but provides all day comfort.
Remarkably, Felicia has taught me a valuable lesson without even being able to speak. She made me realize that I had other girls in my family that perhaps are grown enough to leave the nest. What’s more, maybe another owner might be able to enjoy my girls more than me. Being selfish and keeping them around just for the sake of being a collector deprives someone else the pleasure of riding them. The pleasure I received for years when I rode them more frequently should be shared with others. Instead, they’ve been in my garage collecting dust.
The first to sprout wings and take-off was Scarlet. Scarlet is a Scott CR1 team issue, a full-on race bike. Light, stiff and intolerably uncomfortable to ride. She served a purpose though, she was my preferred climbing bike. I climbed and climbed and climbed some more. I was crazy enough to ride Double Centuries on her. I owe Scarlet so much because she made me a better climber. Scarlet and I shared many remote climbs and screaming descents. She handled like she was on rails. She was a little rough but I put up with her because when it was time to scoot up a mountainside she was stiffer and lighter than any of my previous girls. Heck she was the lightest production frame at a scant 880 grams at a time when getting below 1,000 grams was a on everyone’s wishlist. In 2006, I rode her in my rookie Furnace Creek 508. Scarlet now resides in New York, and I wish her and her new beau great success.
Climbing Fargo Street in Los Angeles a 34% stupid steep hill
At the finish of the 2006 Furnace Creek 508 42 hours 59 minutes later
Scarlet was so stiff and so light she was a natural on Fargo Street. Annually, Fargo Street comes alive for an underground event named simply the Fargo Street Hill Climb. All sorts of contraptions can be seen there. If the bikes were to be rated by creativity there would be a significant challenge picking a winner. I did the climb on a non-event day and “zipped” up the 34% grade. Yes, 34%!
Next to go was Candy my Cannondale CAAD9. Another one of the stiff and lightweight type of bikes. Candy was an all Aluminum frame with a carbon fork and had her specific purpose– she was the crit bike. In 2008, I raced 30 races of the crit and road race variety. Candy was “disposable” – as they say about Aluminum frames in bike racing.
I also found that Candy could do other things than just go around in circles in a four-corner crit. She could handle a little light dirt too. On a beautiful spring day, Easter Sunday to be exact, Candy and I climbed on road and dirt (mainly fireroads), doing some Rough Riding along the way. We saw lots of MTB riders that day and here I was on my road bike. Eventually we reached the summit of Santiago Peak at 5,700 feet (1737 meters) in Orange County a 12 mile 4,000+ ft climb. I learned that Candy wasn’t one-dimensional – she just needed the right shoes– 28 tires in this case. It’s important to note that many of today’s carbon wonder bikes won’t allow a 28 tire in the wheel well. Carbon frame manufacturers are missing the boat riding road bikes on dirt has been a thing since the days of steel bikes.
Next girl to leave was Chloe my Cervelo Carbon Soloist. This was a bitter-sweet decision. The sale of Scarlet and Candy funded the purchase of Felicia. I hadn’t been riding either Scarlet or Candy, so I justified the sale by consolidating the two into Felicia. But Chloe– oh Chloe was sacrificed so that I could upgrade from riding Power Tap hubs to an SRM crankset power meter. Chloe was a really tough decision. A complete bike for a crankset? WTF? She and I had raced Race Across America in 2007 and various other Ultra races. We even did some crits together. In the end, I was comfortable with my decision and moved on. But I confess to you that I still miss her. There’s also a little part of me that says…”years from now you are going to regret selling the bike you raced across America”.
My first fixed gear bike was a Pinarello Aluminum track bike, Penny. She got her name from Money Penny from the James Bond movies and a little from Penny from the television series Lost and obviously from Pinarello.
I had been toying with the idea of racing the Furnace Creek 508 on a fixed gear. I bought Penny and started riding fixed. I progressed doing longer and longer rides and eventually did a century on her. But since I never did any events on Penny my connection with her was not as deep nor as sentimental as it was with my other girls.
However, our relationship was not any less valuable nor was it fleeting like a summer love. I have to thank Penny for teaching me how to ride “fixed”. She taught me how to spin high cadences. She taught me to not even think about coasting on a fixed gear bike. She taught me with gentle nudges on my arse as if to say “don’t stop pedaling or something like this but worse will happen”. Penny acted like the consummate big sister to my next fixed gear, Rose. For a time I had them both and rode them both. And eventually, Penny would teach Brandy, my girlfriend at the time, how to ride “fixed”.
She also helped me understand why a fixed gear bike should really be a steel bike. Penny was as stiff as a 2 x 4 in the bottom bracket area but not so smooth on longer rides. Her seat tube and head tube angles were steep as they should be for the track but that made her less adaptable for the road. A road bike needs a little slacker seat tube angle to climb and slacker head tube to be stable while riding with no hands and taking care of things ultra cyclists do while on the bike. Time off the bike is the enemy of an ultra cyclist. So it is essential that you do as much as possible while the wheels are moving in a 500 mile race.
She had beautiful lines and a paint job. Like all Italian girls Penny sparkled and glittered with style. Whenever I rode Penny I wanted to get out of the saddle and sprint– she was that much fun— all the time. But I wanted something better suited for the long haul. Something more comfortable and that had to be steel. Furthermore, the rules for the Furnace Creek 508 Fixed Gear Division called for a steel frame. Penny took a backseat to Rose and watched all her exploits. Now with storage being limited she was the next logical choice to let go. Farewell, Penny, I’m sure you will be great at teaching another rider how to ride “fixed”.
The next girl to leave the nest was Colleen the top of the range Colnago at the time. She took me from club rider to fledgling Ultra Cyclist. She helped me cut my teeth in Ultras. She took me from the guy who rode 50 milers and was pooped to my first Ultra — The Grand Tour Highland Triple (300 miles). After being off the bike for two years, I bought Colleen as a frameset. I painstakingly chose each of her parts and built my dream bike in 2003. Colleen was the highest-end bike I had ever owned at the time. It was amazing the way mechanics would move me to the head of the queue just because they wanted to work on my bike, a Colnago C40 with Shimano Dura-Ace 9 speed.
What comes next is always a fun story for me to tell. I had been off the bike for two years because of a crash. I destroyed my bike, broke my hand, jammed-up my neck, new career and just life itself got in the way of riding my bike. When I finally finished the “Italian Job”, Colleen was dressed to the nines and I was back on the bike and riding. I registered for a Double Century. I knew I needed a big goal so that I could get and stay motivated to train. The Grand Tour was marketed as a “beginner’s double century”. I trained for eight weeks and lined up at the start. Sixty miles into the 200 miles I was talked into doing the 300 miles by Lynn Katano, Roehl Carago, and others. So my first Ultra Cycling event was a 300 miler after only 8 weeks of riding — I don’t know that I would call it training. I had never done more than 100 miles EVER! I was hooked and have been doing Ultras ever since. Colleen got me my start in Ultras and I’m a different rider because of her.
Colleen was also allowed to leave the nest.
The impetus for my post today was the realization that I have chosen to sell Colleen instead of Bianca, my 1987 lugged steel Bianchi. Bianca has been in the family longer than any of my other girls– 20+ years. I took a picture of her this morning because I wanted to give her the option of leaving the nest. My consternation lasted for weeks prior to posting Colleen for sale. I thought I was comfortable with my decision of selling Colleen and Bianca simultaneously. But when the time came today to hit “submit” and list Bianca on eBay well I just couldn’t do it. Why? Because steel frames have style, they have class and they are “real”. Colleen was the highest-end bike at the time. As time goes by that highest-end is supplanted by the next “highest-end” bike and so on. But a steel frame is timeless and I’m not interested in keeping up with the latest in steel frames. Colleen goes and Bianca stays and I’m comfortable with my decision– once again.
Thank you for reading my blog and taking a walk down memory lane with me. My bond with my girls goes deeper than just building and riding them. I have suffered many days and nights on my girls. We have traversed deserts, mountain ranges and concrete jungles together. We have crossed the country, I have towed my baby boy, commuted to work and we’ve gotten groceries together. Sometimes during my Ultras when I have fallen asleep my bikes have taken over and kept me alive – no running into oncoming traffic or dropping off a cliff. So why wouldn’t I think these inanimate objects have a connection with me? To me a bike is not just a bike– it’s an extension of myself. It is not only a bond — it’s a synergy. Man and machine — we become one and we are greater together than we ever were as individuals. Do you share an emotional connection with your bike?