My first real bike
Like many people my age (late 30’s), my introduction to road bikes began with the 10-speed-bike, in the form of a Schwinn Varsity. Can’t remember for the life of me, but I’m pretty sure I got it for a birthday. Funny, I remember vividly seeing my best friend Eric’s Varsity on a Christmas Day, 7 months before I got mine. Eric was always ahead of me on ‘getting things’, the advantage of having 4 much older brothers who helped him earn cash when he wanted something badly enough.
There is nothing real significant about the Varsity… unless you consider that for a young kid it offered a chance to expand horizons. At the time my horizons only expanded as far as the confines of the small town where I grew up. I could get to the movie theater, the shopping center on the edge of town, the arcade. I also used it to drag our lawnmower along behind me, one of the ways I earned enough cash to afford the myriad of tires and parts needed to keep a working bike in shape. Unfortunately, one winter that bike spent too much time in a leaky old garage and was badly rusted when I came out to get it the next spring.
The next bike came as a result of the damage to that first Varsity, but I had outgrown it anyway. It was a fairly forgettable Schwinn World. The significance of this bike isn’t the bike itself, but my first riding experience in a much larger world. When I was 14 I joined my friend Pat on a bike tour of Coastal Maine. The trip was part of a network of churches and included 25 young teens and 10 chaperones from all over Ohio. What I remember:
- Outfitting the bike with racks and paniers to carry clothing and gear
- 2 days and 26 hours on a school bus to get to Friendship Maine
- Only 3 or 4 girls and 20+ boys – not a real good ratio
- Sleeping in churches and hostels
- A week of rides of 20-30 miles including my first experience climbing real hills
- Lobster dinner in the beautiful town of Camden including ‘eatin’ the eyes’ on a dare
- Final destination of Bar Harbor, and a trip up Mt. Cadilac in Arcadia Nat’l Park
Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the east coast and the first point the sun hits in the US every morning. On that climb, I got my first real taste of competition on a bike. The core group of guys decided to race up the climb, which amounts to 3.5 miles to an elevation of 1500′. The main group all hit the climb at the same time, while I was a bit behind goofing off as usual (flirting with girls probably). But I did make note of my time at the bottom and top. Cyclometers were certainly around in 1984, but I didn’t have one and relied on a sports watch.
I passed a few of the guys on the way up, and when I got to the summit I had beaten the fastest guy by a fairly sizable margin. You see, at the time I was close to the same height I am now, but weighed about 135 lbs. Well… this kid (who’s name I can not remember) was so pissed off that I ruined his celebration, he went back down and came up a 2nd time, just to beat me. And he did! That kid was nuts and I have no doubt that if he were around today he’d be on the front of every attack on the Ramble and going for signs with the best of them.
A step up
What replaced the Schwinn World was a Raliegh Touring 18. This bike cost me $500 in lawn mowing money in 1985, but it was worth every penny. This bike got me much farther out in the county roads surrounding my home town. I rode for hours and hours, exploring routes, riding alone or with my friend Pat and occasionally his younger brother. It was the bike that got me to school and back every day in all kinds of weather until and even after I got my driver’s license.
It was also the bike I used to ride my first century, which also happened to be TOSRV. I did that when I was 17 with Pat and his dad, who rode my Schwinn World. I didn’t remember much about that ride until I rode it again exactly 20 years later, but that is for another page. The one thing I remember most was standing out of the saddle for most of the last 10 miles on the first day. We had done a 2 day metric century as a training ride, but 105 is a helluva lot farther than 60.
My senior year of high school I moved with my mother and sister to the Dayton area and ended up at Beavercreek HS. During that year I continued to ride and that’s where I discovered many of the roads of Greene County. I was a cross country runner at the time and spent far more time running than riding. It was a short time in that part of Ohio and then I moved on to the University of Cincinnati, which is the subject of the next chapter in this tale.
Proceed to College Daze