This is going to take a while, and there is a high possibility of me rambling on. So you best hunker down and get comfy.
I feel the need to express this again. Sorry, I don’t know why, but here it goes. As some of you may already know, I love the bicycle in all its different forms. And I really love my current, personal collection of bicycles (4) that I currently own right now. I do lament the bikes I have owned and sold…some more than others. I can actually think of and remember every one of the bikes I have ever owned. I can seriously recall certain moments and memories on each and every bike. Every one of them! I’m not kidding. I have my favorites and those bicycles are some that I really pine over. But I loved them all for what they offered me. And every one of them had something different to offer, seriously. They all rode and handled a bit differently.
Anywho. I spent almost my whole existence (other than the last 7-8 years or so) riding bicycles. Not professionally, but for recreation and transportation. When I started working in the bicycle industry riding my bicycle went from something that I just always did and loved to do, to a serious way of life. Shit, I ate, breathed and lived all things bicycles and bicycle culture when that happened. I had felt that I had finally found what I was supposed to be doing with my life…I felt that I had found my “people.” It was seriously a life changing event for me. It changed everything. Going to work stopped feeling like I was going to work. My father always told me to “find something you love to do and do it for a living and I guarantee you that you will never work a day in your life.” It’s fuckin’ true! Who’da thunk?!
During my time in the industry I had access to whatever I wanted to ride. If it didn’t come free, it came in the way of “testing” or “employee discount” via “payroll deduct”. I was, more often than not, riding a top of the line bicycle with the best of the best in components and frame material. My position allowed me the luxury of trying every single cycling discipline I could. Well, I think it goes without saying that I was a happy boy.
So….Bicycles and bicycle culture was it for me. And with every “culture” there is usually a “counter culture.” And if you know me, you know that that is where I found my attention turning to bicycle counter culture, single speed culture to be more specific. I felt connected to these misfits of the industry. These were people that shared the same wonderful passion as me and my coworkers, but they were just doing it a little different then we were. With a little more “fuck you if you don’t like it” kinda attitude. I came to work in an office setting wearing shorts and a t-shirt every day and we were still considered “corporate” to them. Oh well, I liked them and I loved a lot of the product they were peddling (pun intended).
One of the many companies I fell in love with was an awesome little frame maker out of Minnesota, called Surly. They were big in both the Bike Messenger and single speed culture. I loved their aesthetic, company philosophy and their overall attitude about bikes. But what really caught my eye was their ideas on frame building. They designed their frames with the future needs of the bicycle in mind. That’s to say that they designed versatility into the initial design of the frame. Like rear dropouts that can be used for single speeding, geared riding or use an internal hub, with very little added work. Light weight frames and components were not the most important thing them. Durability and usability seemed to be corner stones to their design process. Attractive.
When I first stumbled upon them at Interbike 1998 I was infatuated with their product. But I wasn’t in the right place as a cyclist to appreciate the need for their product. I was kind of a bike/component snob. And that was really easy to do when what you want to ride comes easy (read free) to you. To be frank, I wasn’t going to be caught dead back then on a heavy Taiwanese frame like a Surly. Such a dick thing to say. But like I said, I was a stupid, near sighted bike snob that only rode frames that were handmade either in So. Cal (from our factory) or at least in the good ol’ US of A.
Now I am older, smarter and a little more grounded. I’m not nearly the dickey, gear whore, bike snob I used to be. Riding my bike is still just as important as it has always been though. But I took a long break from enjoying my bicycle. Hell, there was a time (the first time in my life) that I didn’t even own a bike. I think the way I was riding and what became important to me (the gear, the weight of said gear and the status of what kind of bike I was on) burned me the fuck out. I stopped enjoying the ride because I was focusing on everything but the actual ride. Shame on me. Because of this long-ass break from the bicycle, there was a hole in my life that I couldn’t fill. Seriously, I didn’t think that back then but looking back, that is sure-as-shit what it was. It also seemed like I was trying to fill that hole in my soul with food. It’s not fuckin’ funny man. I gained almost 60 lbs! When I say almost I mean 57 lbs. What the fuck!? This was the heaviest I had ever been. Not acceptable.
In the summer of 2014 I had a horribly realistic dream about me having diabetes and getting my feet cut off. You know, because of bad circulation and all. Shit, what a wakeup call!! It scared the shit outta me. So, I made a decision. I need the bicycle back in my life. Period. And so it was. In August 2014 I bought a new bike and started riding again.
I had a different mindset about things now. I made the decision to ride Surlys. As many Surlys as I could afford. Now that I am older and smarter (remember, I said I was smarter? Read it again if you want, it’s true,) I am choosing my bicycles and components with a whole new look on things. Frame weight is not an issue, I am not racing. My frame material of choice has always been steel and still is. The versatility of Surly’s frames are exactly what I am looking for. All day comfort is of the utmost importance to me. I am not saying that Surly is an “old mans” frame manufacturer, I am just saying Surly is the frame manufacturer that this “old man” is using exclusively. I have three, The Karate Monkey, Straggler and The Pacer. A mountain bike, cyclocross bike and road bike respectively. They are pretty amazing. I also have a Schwinn townie type bike for tooling around the, well…town. I am currently riding between 50 and 100 miles a week now. Nice.
The point of all this, not that I need one…it’s my blog after all, is this: As I got to be an older cyclist, and after a long time off of the bike and given the time off the bike to reflect…the smart frame builder wins. Not the lightest, not the most expensive, not even the one that was made in USA. Just the one that seems to be building bike frames that you can ride anywhere, anytime and all day. Not race, those have their place, but just frames that you can ride. Like you did when you were a kid. You can still go plenty fast on them…but you have nothing to prove to anyone. That’s who really wins; the cyclist that rides and doesn’t give a shit what anybody else says. The cyclist that has made the choice to ride what gets their motor revving. With that in mind, try not to let all of that revving shadow the feeling you get riding your bicycle. That’s an important point, read it again.
So open your mind and take a step into the counter culture, see what the little guys are doing out there and scope out what they can provide you. You may find a whole new you.