Nothing against my children, they are great kids. They provide me joy, require me to shell out lots of money, and most of all don’t talk back. No, I am not talking about our two sons and daughter; I am talking about my other children, Lucy, Margaret Thatcher, Iggy and ‘76. You see these are the names of my bikes. And unlike most inanimate products, such as my 42” Sharp Aquos 1080p Smart TV, I have given them names. I think the reason I have given them names is because we share something together. The time I pushed my limits and bonked in 113-degree desert heat-Lucy was there. My first century-Iggy was there. My first dog chase-Iggy too. The multiple times I have almost gotten run over by motorists- Lucy, Iggy, and Margaret Thatcher were all there at different times, and of course the hills. Oh, those hills we have climbed together but also enjoyed the descents as well. Most importantly they were all there when I challenged myself physically but mentally, too. I don’t share the joys, triumphs, and agony of defeat with my 41” Sharp. It just doesn’t inspire me to give it a name.
Wondering if I was alone with bike insanity or an unhealthy relationship with steel, aluminum and carbon fiber, I did an informal social media pole with some of my cyclist friends in a Facebook group. Almost immediately my phone began dinging with comments. “My Surly is the Black Sun”, said one. “Romper Stomper, Clarity, DJ Sparkles, Hippogryph, Cordelia, Elvish, Sinbad, and Why Not?” were all names of other peoples bikes willingly shared within minutes of my post. So I wasn’t alone after all. People do have a desire to place a name, and perhaps a personality on something that brings them as much joy as mine do for me.
Lucy was my first road bike, a Cannondale R300. She is the bike I completed America’s Most Beautiful Ride with. A century ride around Lake Tahoe, where I first began raising money for cancer research through riding. I crashed her and spent months in rehab and years in pain thanks to an unleashed dog. After neglecting her for years, I rekindled our relationship, and loaned to my oldest child, while he was in law school-where she spent a year alone in a dusty garage, neglected. Someone should have called bike protective services on my son, as she reemerged, dusty & rusty when he brought her back home to me after months of begging on my part. She now has been transformed into a commuter bike and takes me on slower, but on more deliberate, utilitarian trips.
And then there is ’76. ’76 was the first bike I ever had. A 1976 Huffy Stars & Stripes I rescued recently from a bike swap meet and have spent hours restoring it back down to its original Cheater Slick drag tire on the rear. This came with a red, white and blue stripped banana seat, red and white starred fenders, and a white and blue fade painted frame. It was the epitome of cool, when I woke up and saw him next to the Christmas tree. I would be the next Evel Knieval, or at least crash as often as he did.
Iggy was my first mountain bike-a Giant Iguana with an awesome chrome-black frame paint job, which I later found out they discontinued as it was polluting some river in China. I sold Iggy at a garage sale, as I just didn’t have any more garage space with a family of five cyclists. I let Iggy go for $45 and to this day feel like I put one of my children up for adoption. My telephone number was etched into the down tube and I hope someone, some day, calls me and says I found your child. I want that bike back dearly. Iggy was the bike I began biking with my father on. We would spend a week each summer on bike tours and reconnecting with each other. Camping outside, stopping along the routes to admire something beautiful, and stopping for the occasional ice cream shop along the way. Iggy was also reliable despite my stupidity. Despite only having trained the weekend before and riding the longest I had ever rode-a whopping 25 miles with some friends, I signed us up for a whopping double century ride, 210 miles! Imagine my youthful stupidity (I was 23 then) thinking I could ride a mountain bike 105 miles down and then 105 miles back the next day on a mountain bike with knobby tires! Iggy got me through that stupidity alive and in one piece, but so did the 10 Aleve I took during the second day. Oh, how I miss those fond memories of trying to walk into work that Monday. Just put one foot in front of the other…
Margaret Thatcher was the lady I left Lucy for. A Giant Defy 1 Composite, carbon fiber bike that I could hold with just my index finger extended underneath the frame. My wife refers to Margaret as my mid-life crisis and she is right. But unlike the Iron Lady, this lady has curves and sex appeal. but she remains a strong lady, just like her namesake. Margaret has been with me on more century rides than I can count including my longest ride ever. Margaret carried me from Cleveland to Cincinnati on a 330 mile journey in 29.5 hours to help me celebrate my 30th Cancerversery (Anniversary of being cancer free), while raising over $11,000 for cancer research. As a road bike, she road over 80 miles on crushed limestone, went up some of the steepest grades I have ever ridden on, pulled me through when I lost my sag support for hours at the hottest time of day and without any food or water left. She held me up when I bonked, having to lean against her and fight back the tears outside a local gas station. Only a friend does that.
What I think is interesting is we tend to have a relationship with things that take us on a journey. My friend in high school named his Chevy Nova, “The Beast”. It was an ugly avocado green, with ripped seats and no AC. It was a mess. But it was his first car. His journey to adulthood and independence. It took him places and gave him freedom. Much like Lucky, Margaret Thatcher, Iggy and ’76 do for me.