Farewell My Old Friend the Racing Bike

In 1985, the bicycle I’d used to commute to and from school was stolen off a Greyhound bus and my mother and I went to the local bike shop to get me a new one.

The bicycle which caught my eye and my heart was a KHS racing bike with a light aluminum frame, 12 gears, and the skinniest tires I’d ever seen. To emphasize its purpose as a racer, it came with toe clips and lacked a kick stand. I wasn’t sure I was worthy, but we splurged and it ended up being mine for 26 years.

The first year I had it, I put it to its intended use and won a bicycle race with it. It never formally raced again, but I can attest it was faster than any bike I ever had, and faster than most of my friend’s bikes. I could speed past Peter on his steel-frame Schwinn bike (which he still owns, BTW) despite his muscular advantage. I could quickly catch up to kids who had a 10 minute start on me, and if I wanted to, blow past them. Yes, indeed, this bike was fast.

As the years passed, and I needed it more as a form of recreational transportation, I weighed it down. I took away the toe clips. I put on a kick stand. I bought a heavy lock and attached a rear basket to hold the lock, picnic baskets, and/or groceries. I put on a big cushy gel seat. Neil gave me a sensor so I could see how many miles I’d covered and at what speed. With that bike, I commuted to work, or provided myself with transportation while my car was being fixed. With that bike, Peter and I went riding together (which included Neil on a bike seat on Peter’s bicycle for a few years.) With that bike, I did grocery runs and sped up and down the bike path to downtown to go the library or watch movies. With that bike, I rode alongside my son as he himself learned to ride.

I had Kelly, and it soon became clear that as a toddler she needed fresh air and loved speed. I wanted exercise and adventure. The basket came off temporarily and  a bicycle child seat took its place. I remember our years of biking together most fondly. I’d bike with Kelly to parks and to storytimes at a library and two different bookstores. When gas prices spiked, I’d bike with her to Neil’s school, from whence Neil would scooter home with us by his side.

The beginning of the end for the racing bike appeared at Christmas 2007, when Peter gave me a Mongoose mountain bike. The Mongoose could take me on rides the KHS couldn’t, like up the Rancho del Oso trail to the spectacular waterfalls in the middle of Big Basin park, and onto the rollercoaster dip at the far end of Arastradero Park. The Mongoose is slower than the KHS, but it’s a much more comfortable bike to ride, and it will do roads as well as trails. It’s no exaggeration to say it’s the SUV of bicycles, with its suspension frame, 21 easy-to-switch gears, and its ability to drive and jump over small obstacles.

I still stuck to my racing bike for most of my street riding. But increasingly, I’d ask myself whenever I was going on a bike ride whether the Mongoose might not be just as good. And Peter openly wondered if we really have enough room for me to have two bicycles at once.

It finally came to a head on Monday. I want more reasons to go bike riding, and decided to see how long it would take me to go to Kelly’s school and back on a bicycle — a route that’s particularly appealing since half of it is on an off-road bike path that starts near our home.

The KHS had been sadly neglected, since I haven’t had much time to ride in years. I reinflated the back tire, which had gone flat. The brakes squeaked and creaked for want of lubrication, and quite frankly, the entire bicycle badly needs a full tune-up, again. By the time I got to Kelly’s school, the back tire had gone flat again, and I had to walk home. I looked it over, and the frame could use repainting, and the handle bars some retaping, or foam covering. Would the repairs really be worthwhile, given that I have another road-ready bike? I’d seen bicycles like my once state-of-the-art bicycle for sale at Goodwill for $10, and they don’t even have those any more. And, frankly, I might really like to put those funds towards a child’s tandem trailer bike so Kelly can once again go riding with me, without me waiting for her to catch up with her little legs on a low-gear bike.

It’s still hard to let go of a friend, but it might have a better fate than I worried it would. At Christmastime, Joe had located a “beater” bike like mine, and modded, repainted, and revamped it into a new stylish bike for his girlfriend. I asked him if he’d be willing to take my old KHS, and gave him my blessing to dismantle and discard it however he sees fit. I don’t know where it will go from there. But I will remember that speedy bike and our many rides together forever.

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