A few weeks ago I became facebook friends with an old work buddy, circa 1999. A few minutes ago he sent me a message that "an old friend wanted to say hi." In the message was a picture of my first road bike: A Trek "Fast Track" 420.
I bought it new in, maybe, '97 or '98. I hadn't ridden a bike since college but remembered liking it and had an inkling that I'd want to give it a shot again. I'd thought about it over the years but never pulled the trigger. I also needed some damn exercise, and I didn't much care for anything else. Still don't, unfortunately. So I went to the LBS hoping to find some Bianchis that I remember checking out at one point, because I dug that Celeste Green. But the LBS had gone full tilt Trek and Cannondale. I looked around for a while, picked out one that had lots of gears and that I could afford, and came home a couple hours later with a Trek.
Then it sat for a while. A long while. I tried a couple times to go on rides but really struggled and felt discouraged. Then I was dating this really hot girl and, for all intents and purposes, she dumped me. I decided to improve my life and immediately started riding.
I totally dug it. I took it up PCH, down the bike path to the Marina and Manhattan Beach and sometimes even Redondo. I went on night rides (guess I've always liked that). I was also an idiot ... didn't have lights, didn't have a helmet. Just rode, with gym shorts and a t-shirt. Given some of the rides I did (Sunset Blvd at night, pitch black), I'm surprised I lived to tell it.
I remember my first clipless pedals, being nervous as phuck but never going down (that would happen later ... once). I remember getting my friends into it. Taking them down to the Marina or Manhattan Beach, hearing them b1tch about the relentless, slight uphill grade all the way back, which was always against the wind. I remember getting home, then jetting out to get turkey burgers. Perfect Sundays.
Then one day some friends and I stopped at a bike store in the valley near where we worked. I wasn't really looking for a new bike, but I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw it. A red Cannondale CAAD3 Team Saeco replica. I still think it's one of the prettiest bikes I've ever seen. I was dumbstruck by the light weight, intrigued by the fat-ass tubes.
I had to have it. To this day, that bike was the only thing I ever put on layaway. I can't remember how much it cost or how much I put down, I just remember having to wait a paycheck or two to get it.
And then my now long-lost buddy entered the picture. I can't remember the conversation that started it, but it turns out he wanted a bike and, even though I hadn't thought to sell it, I had a bike to unload. I can't remember the terms, just that it was enough to put that Cannondale in my hands.
And that was that. I had my first real "racing" bike. And man, I tore up the streets with it. Night rides, hills, everything. I was loving it. Until at the end of the year I got sick and really, for the first time, found out I had asthma. I didn't ride for maybe a month or so and just like that I lost interest and got discouraged.
Over the next few years, I tried off and on to start riding again, but it never stuck. Night rides were hard, because breathing was more difficult. And I just didn't care enough to really give it a go.
Then in late '03 I left my employer and started consulting. This freed up a lot of time and, sure enough, by early '04 I tried yet again to ride. Except this time it stuck. Without being limited to evenings and weekends, I simply had a lot more time to get into a routine.
By this point I'd become friends with my wife's boss, and he was a pretty serious cyclist. He told me about rides I couldn't even imagine. 80 miles. 100 miles. Mountains. He'd been off for a while due to injury but he was on the mend. It worked out that we rode together a few times, and that really helped get me going. Until then, I'd ridden in a cocoon. Those rides he did were unimaginable because, really, I'd just never heard of people riding that far.
The first couple rides we did together, I struggled. I walked up a hill or two and was just nowhere near where he was. Then he kind of disappeared for a while and I kept riding. I got my first computer with a heart rate monitor. I didn't know how to use it at first, but it was a big step in the evolution. A few months later, after consistent riding, he and I rode together again. And I smoked him. It was one of the best rides of my life, and that kind success just inspired me to keep riding, keep pushing myself, keep getting better.
By the end of the year I started riding with an organized group. It was a mixed group, but I did well. After a couple times riding with them, one of the more experienced dudes told me I should join the big local club, but that I might want to get some bike attire. I was still wearing gym clothes.
The following year, when I was probably in the best shape of my life, a car hit me during a ride. I was fine ... I think my wrist was sprained but not badly. But the bike was totaled. After a long struggle with the driverís insurance company, they finally cut me a check.
It was bittersweet, though, because my Cannondale was gone. I had to bring it with me to the insurance companyís office when I picked up the check. I may have welled up. I had my first my heart rate monitor riding this bike. My first Brooks. I rode my first century on that thing. The only thing I knew of pro cycling was Team Once, because they rode that bike and Iíd scoured the Earth looking for Tacx Team Once bottles.
Yet there I was, back at the LBS, rolling out with my brand new Orbea Onix with full Dura Ace and Mavic Ksyrium SSL wheels. In that Orbea was my original investment in the Trek Fast Track 420. Amazing.
I rode the Orbea for a few years and continuously struggled with comfort. Specifically, no matter which saddle I chose, Iíd end up with a numb crotch after a couple hours riding. I was putting in some good rides, and by all means that bike was fast, but Iíd feel completely beat up at the end of tough rides. All I kept thinking was that my Cannondale never left me feeling like that, and it was aluminum!
I finally had enough and shelled out for a custom frame from Independent Fabrication. I bought a few new components for the bike Ė fork, headset, stem, seatpost, saddle Ė and moved over everything else from the Orbea. Drivetrain, wheels.
All the issues I had riding the Orbea were gone. Iíd finish centuries as strongly as Iíd start them, without reading a single issue of Bicycling Magazine. I was doing rides on the IF I simply couldnít fathom doing before. 100 miles with 5000-ft of climbing, by myself, practically on a whim.
Over the years Iíve upgraded the components to full 7900. Iíve replaced the beat up SSLs with newer SSLs. Iíve gone tubeless, and gone back. But really, once I got this bike and started riding it, I stopped looking at other bikes, because I donít Ė and havenít Ė wanted anything in its place.
(I do periodically think about changing the paint scheme, however.)
All this because I walked into an LBS maybe 15 years ago. And the money I plopped down on the counter that day is, in a very real sense, still underneath me when I ride today.
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Thread: Evolution of a road bike.
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