Remembrance Of Bikes Past

While I try to be pragmatic about bikes, regarding them merely as functional instruments that are secondary to The Ride, the truth is that even I am prone to fits of nostalgia and occasionally find myself pining for bikes I no longer own. Moreover, even though I currently own more bikes at one time than at any other stage in my life, I nevertheless find myself thinking about these erstwhile bicycles more and more. Maybe it’s because these bikes remind me of other bikes–or, more likely, maybe it’s just because I’m getting old.

Either way, here are three bikes that I regret selling:

1988 (?) Trek 1200

Not a photo of my actual bike, lifted from the Internet

I mentioned this bike in a post the other day because of the Biopace chainrings, and since then I find myself thinking about it. It was already an old bike when I bought it, and if I remember correctly the reason I did so was that I was considering going back to being a messenger and wanted to spare my good Fred bike. (I was leaving my job as Michael Moore’s assistant and hadn’t yet worked out my next career steps. In fact I still haven’t.)

I found the bike through one of those free circulars with classified ads in it that they used to have in the old days. (I think it may have been the Pennysaver.) The bike was out in Belle Harbor, looked like it had barely been ridden, and was equipped pretty much exactly like the one above, with the addition of a Vetta computer the size of a desk calculator. At the time I was living in Manhattan and I’m pretty sure I took the A train out there to pick it up. I can’t remember what I paid for the bike, but I do remember that it was ridiculously cheap.

I never did end up messengering on it, but I did swap the Biopace rings for round ones, change the clips and straps for clipless, and probably fitted it with a more svelte saddle. There was also an ill-fated and embarrassing attempt to convert it into a fixed-gear for winter training, which involved using a Singleator or similar device, and which I immediately learned didn’t work. (This was before the fixed-gear craze, at which point such things became common knowledge.)

Being young and of limited means it felt positively decadent to have a second road bike for rainy days, weekends away, or what have you. I also quite liked the bike, which I remember felt smooth and almost flexy, and not at all the way aluminum was “supposed” to feel. While today the bike’s ’80s color scheme has an endearingly retro appeal, back then the bike was just old enough to look severely dated and quite ugly. It was also long before the whole “Eroica” thing took off, and people still thought downtube shifters were just old and stupid–though in retrospect the 105 group was sublime in its reliability and simplicity.

I’d love to still have this bike today. Alas, I didn’t realize how well it would age (it’s still utterly un-charming, but that’s what’s so cool about it), and I sold it in a moving sale. I do recall that I recouped my entire investment, so that counts for something. Unfortunately I probably spent that money on something stupid, like a pair of Mavic Cosmics or something. I’d much rather still have the bike.

1998 (?) GT GTB

Also not a photo of my actual bike, also lifted from the Internet

Whereas I bought the Trek because I though I might need a messenger bike, the GT GTB was all about Fredness. See, at the time, there was still this notion among bike racers that you should train on a fixed-gear during the off-season, the idea being you’d spin more, smooth out your pedal stroke, keep your efforts steady, blah blah blah. So that’s what motivated this purchase–especially after my attempted Trek conversion debacle. (See above.)

While the triple triangle was cool and made me nostalgic for my BMX days, there was nothing special about this bike at the time, and it was pretty much the only ready-to-ride track bike you could buy. (I bought mine new, from a shop.) The only component it came with that was worth anything was the Sugino 75 crank; everything else was totally generic. In fact, my understanding was that GTB stood for “Generic Track Bike” but I have no idea if that’s actually true.

I swapped out the deep track drops for bullhorns, and for pedals I used some old red Ritchey Logics, like these:

And yes, of course I added a brake.

I used the bike as both a winter trainer and a city runabout, and for the most part it was a horrible bike to ride, the track geometry making it ridiculously uncomfortable for any ride longer than an hour. And while I’m sure the triple triangle is merely decorative, I could never shake the notion that those seatstays were sending every little bump directly into my ass. Nevertheless, it served as my beater bike for quite a few years, until I eventually sold it when the whole fixie craze was just beginning to percolate. I did have some sense that track bikes were becoming a thing when I let it go, but I didn’t really appreciate what was happening, and I was stunned when I got like a zillion responses to my ad and someone snapped it up immediately. I do recall that the person who came to pick it up had never ridden a fixed-gear, or tried clipless pedals for that matter, and I was mildly concerned that he might not make it home. In retrospect, I’m sure he did. Furthermore, he’d probably already attained “OG” status on the fixie scene by the time I started my blog.

So why do I regret selling the bike? One reason and one reason only: I should have sold it a few years later, because I’d have made a killing. At the height of the fixie craze the GTB became a hot commodity for the simple reason that it was black, looked cool, had uncomfortable track geometry, and wasn’t sold anymore. In fact even now someone’s trying to unload one for like twice what a new one probably cost at the time:

Oh well. You can’t always time the market.

2002 (?) LeMond Poprad

Also also not a photo of my actual bike, also also lifted from the Internet

While cyclocross still hadn’t exploded in popularity, by this point more and more companies were beginning to offer off-the-rack cyclocross bikes. Redline was among the first with the Conquest, and of course there was the Surly Crosscheck, but if I recall correctly LeMond (technically Trek) weren’t too far behind.

I hadn’t started racing cyclocross yet, but I wanted a cyclocross bike very badly for winter riding. I’d learned my lesson with the GTB and yearned for a bike that had fender mounts and clearance for wider tires. In fact, I’m pretty sure I sold the GTB to fund my purchase of the Poprad, which I also bought new from a shop.

The Trek/LeMond bikes of this era were classy yet inexpensive steel bikes. (Steel was pretty deeply unfashionable at the time, so the LeMonds were a bold retro statement.) My Poprad even boasted a Reynolds 853 sticker, though I’m fairly sure only the downtube was actually made from the stuff. It’s worth noting that, at the time, stock cyclocross bikes didn’t really come with race-level components, since most people weren’t using them for that, the discipline still being relatively obscure. My Poprad came stock with Sora components, which still shifted by means of those pathetic little tabs on the inside of the hoods, and I fitted it with full fenders and used it for commuting and winter riding. Before long though I did start racing cyclocross, and I changed the parts accordingly:

Yes, that’s me. No idea how to credit this photo, sorry.

When I wasn’t racing this bike I was commuting on it, and besides my experience selling my GTB, one of the earliest indications I had that fixies were becoming a thing was when I was riding the Poprad home from work one day and these people hanging out on their track bikes yelled at me to “Get a track bike!” (Ironically, a few years later they were probably all selling their track bikes for cyclocross bikes just as I had done.)

I’m not sure why I ended up selling the Poprad–I probably wanted something lighter for racing or something stupid like that. In retrospect I should have hung onto it, since a versatile and classically-proportioned steel bike that takes cantis is now an endangered species, and while my Milwaukee handles road-going fender duty quite nicely I do think they’d complement each other quite well.

Most distressingly, I sold it to somebody who said he was going to use it for triathlons, which makes me shudder worse than that front cantilever did.

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