Defining Moments: My First Kit

Defining Moments: My First Kit

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As children, none of us were given an allowance. Instead, we were taught from a young age that if we wanted to buy something, we had to earn the money in order to do so. To facilitate the model, and possibly to avoid child-labor law infringement, we were paid to do chores around the house in exchange for a cash payment directly proportional but not necessarily related to the amount of time it took us to execute the task. The hourly wage, at it turned out, was at the discretion of the one doing the overseeing and commissioning of the task at hand.

In my view, it worked out very well for us. Coming from a family that was neither wealthy nor poor, it taught us a number of important lessons about life, money, and the important ways the two are separated. It’s one of the fundamental things I’m very glad about regarding my upbringing.

My grandmother, by choice or otherwise, was in on this scheme of leveraging our desire to earn money as a means to achieve her end of having her dog tended to regularly. As grandmothers are wont to do, however, she found ways to be knowingly complicit in circumventing the intended lesson by overpaying us for our labor; she was perhaps too fond of her dog, and I was perhaps too willing to walk it repeatedly and unnecessarily in order to earn my wage.

I don’t remember how old I was, but I was still riding my old Raleigh made of Reynolds 531 tubing and clad in a Weinmann grouppo which I now wish I’d kept; I could have been no more than 10 years old. Nevertheless, I had already made the determination, by studying the pros in the races I watched on scratchy old VHS cassettes, that if I was going to amount to any kind of cyclist, I would require proper cycling kit.

I needed cycling shorts and I needed a cycling jersey; t-shirts and an old pair of lederhosen simply wouldn’t fit the bill. And cycling shorts and cycling jerseys would cost serious money. So off I was, walking my grandmother’s dog fourteen times a day – collecting payment every time – and before very long, I had saved up the money I needed.

I don’t remember the name of the shop, but I do remember on which rack and in which corner of the store it hung. It resembled Laurent Fignon’s System U kit, though I felt a tinge of guilt that it wasn’t as fluorescent as LeMond’s ADR strip. It was nothing compared, however, to the unexpressed guilt I’d felt all year at secretly having hoped Fignon would win the Tour against my countryman.

Riding my trusty Raleigh, I spent the summer of 1989 riding with my left hand on the tops of my handlebars and my right hand on the hoods. I’d spotted a photo in Winning Magazine wherein Laurent Fignon was leading the Giro d’Italia riding in just this position; I summarily emulated him in this regard.

The fact that this was just a moment captured in time as Fignon changed hand position was lost on me; the fact held neither relevance nor value to my view of the world. Fignon rode like this, and so would I. This single photo fueled my desire to ride a bicycle for an entire summer. Up and down the streets I went, imagining myself making history as I left both Fignon and LeMond in my dust and I took off up the road – one hand on the tops, one on the hoods – with Phil Liggett’s voice in my ears as he commended the ferocity of my attacks.

I found daily motivation in riding like Fignon. In rain, in shine; I rode the way the photo I saw showed him riding. Every time I climbed aboard my bike, I wanted to be a better cyclist; I wanted to be more like Fignon. I was nevertheless bound to eventually discover that Fignon didn’t really ride like that; it had been a trick of the camera. By the time I discovered the truth of that photo, I had ridden like that for so long that it felt lop-sided to go back to riding sensibly, with both hands level.

I felt awkward then, riding with both hands in the drops, as I chased my sister down a mountain during a family vacation in New York State. She was in front on her Raleigh with pink  handlebars, and I was frantic at the notion that she was ahead of me. There was no alternative but to beat her through the series of sharp corners coming up ahead on the road we had dubbed “Alpe d’Huez” for its steepness and numerous twists and turns.

There was, of course, a very real alternative to beating her through those corners.

As I laid in the emergency room with the doctor scrubbing furiously at my wounds, he posed several theories that might explain the flawed decision tree that placed me in his care. The prominent thought suffocating my mind was that my cherished kit had been torn apart firstly by the crash and secondly by the doctor – and that neither seemed to hold the garments in the same esteem I did. It was destroyed; a summer of over-paid dog-walking lost.

As a matter of comparison, this commercial, aired during this year’s Tour de France, is exactly how I rode as a kid. In fact, I still do today.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BwnuBVUBsQ[/youtube]

// Defining Moments // Nostalgia

  1. I really liked that Specialized commercial as well. Reminded me of being a 10 year old in Southern California in the early eighties and time trialing my older brothers Centurion on the 5 turn access road that went around the outside of his condo complex. I would clock myself and every time i went over there I would try to break my PR on a flying lap that started and ended at his garage. Kind of a poor boys Strava using my cheesy little Timex wristwatch.

    I got my first “real” road bike 3 years later for Christmas – a Japanese built KHS Fiero (I still have it) and proceeded to strip it down and repaint it to look more Italian (Mom was pissed).

    The first proper team kit was La Vie Claire of course…

  2. @frank Yeah, I know all that thanks – we were wondering if the reason the practice stopped was due to the UCI, or do you think it’s just because of a sudden leap in gilet technology?

  3. @frank

    @the Engine

    We need photos of the PDM kit, matey. Immediately. This kit that I crashed in was also accompanied by white tennis shoes; it wasn’t until several years later that I bought a pair of lace-up Duegi’s which I sewed a leather flap onto to cover the laces and an extra strap sideways to make them look more like LeMond’s shoes.

    Found and modelled by No1 Son

    “Dad – these smell of shed”

  4. @Oli

    @frank Yeah, I know all that thanks – we were wondering if the reason the practice stopped was due to the UCI, or do you think it’s just because of a sudden leap in gilet technology?

    What I was clumsily trying to say is that I think the manufacturers started making full zip jerseys across the board, and that the gilet came into prominence later.

    I can’t think of any vests being used regularly before the 2000’s…can you? My theory is that someone was cutting sleeves off their jerseys to make gilets and eventually someone said, “Right, I can do that much better than you can with those shitty scissors you’re using.”

  5. @the Engine

    @frank

    @the Engine

    We need photos of the PDM kit, matey. Immediately. This kit that I crashed in was also accompanied by white tennis shoes; it wasn’t until several years later that I bought a pair of lace-up Duegi’s which I sewed a leather flap onto to cover the laces and an extra strap sideways to make them look more like LeMond’s shoes.

    Found and modelled by No1 Son

    “Dad – these smell of shed”

    AWESOME!! Event the beer koosie foot warmers!  RAD!

  6. My first post and already Rules #26, #30, #36 and #41 broken, albeit 1979, but here goes… after performing any unskilled labor I could find during a typically brutal Indiana summer, I was able to afford my first kit: Le Coq Sportif jersey, wool shorts with “genuine” chamois, and an unknown brand of shoe with wooden sole (had tiny Italian flags sewn to the rear seams). The helmets in the shop were “hairnet” style which had a bad rap for making head injuries worse, so I wore a kayaking helmet – heh. The bike was also new: I had saved $200, which my father wished me to spend on a used car; instead, I purchased a steel-framed “Ross Super Gran Tour” (nearly gave my father a heart attack) that was dearly loved for many years, on which I raced and won, and was my daily commuter – car shmar.

  7. @Thighmaster That image and post has the makings of a full-length motion picture. At least sell these as post cards.

  8. @unversio

    @Thighmaster That image and post has the makings of a full-length motion picture. At least sell these as post cards.

    The motion picture idea very interesting, but I think “Breaking Away” cornered that market.

  9. @Thighmaster

    Rule #41 is a personal thing anyway, as I think we’ve discussed here before, as long as you don’t put the damn things facing forward. So really that’s just three rules – a lot of people start from further back than that.

    Were you like the prototype for Breaking Away ? Used cars, Italian flags, unskilled labor, upset father… I hope they paid you a consultancy fee.

  10. BTW I like how you have put the shoes on the ground and are in your socks, to save them for ‘on the bike’ I guess.

  11. @ChrisO

    @Thighmaster

    #41 is a personal thing anyway, as I think we’ve discussed here before, as long as you don’t put the damn things facing forward. So really that’s just three rules – a lot of people start from further back than that.

    Were you like the prototype for Breaking Away ? Used cars, Italian flags, unskilled labor, upset father… I hope they paid you a consultancy fee.

    I wish… the real prototype was Dave Blase, whom I had the privilege of riding with in a handful of road races in the late 70, early 80s. I dreamed of riding “the Little 500″ and got an offer to do so, but ultimately chose not to matriculate to that university despite the dark forces that were tempting me.

  12. Kit devolution -fast forward 5 years (re: post #112): 1984 cat 4 criterium at Purdue University, me in no.2 slot – still could only afford same  jersey, LeCoqSportif, but new shorts – my rich girlfriend, probably sick of my crack-dangling wool shorts, purchased me these snappy red/black lycra ones. My first lycra, ah, a fine day to be sure. The chamois was excellent. The newer helmet was a strange birthday gift from my father – it was trying to emulate the “hairnet ” style with safer materiel. You can see it came with a true chamois for forehead perspiration! It was replaced that day with a black Bell helmet I received as part of the winner’s booty (unfortunately had to give back the prize money of $100). Was still riding the beloved Ross with Shimano 105, but had Weinmann hubs by then. Brooks saddle. I think the guy in front of me was riding a Pinarello.

  13. @Thighmaster

    Kit devolution -fast forward 5 years (re: post #112): 1984 cat 4 criterium at Purdue University, me in no.2 slot – still could only afford same  jersey, LeCoqSportif, but new shorts – my rich girlfriend, probably sick of my crack-dangling wool shorts, purchased me these snappy red/black lycra ones. My first lycra, ah, a fine day to be sure. The chamois was excellent. The newer helmet was a strange birthday gift from my father – it was trying to emulate the “hairnet ” style with safer materiel. You can see it came with a true chamois for forehead perspiration! It was replaced that day with a black Bell helmet I received as part of the winner’s booty (unfortunately had to give back the prize money of $100). Was still riding the beloved Ross with Shimano 105, but had Weinmann hubs by then. Brooks saddle. I think the guy in front of me was riding a Pinarello.

    Here’s the photo…

  14. Clearly someone isn’t following the rules here…

  15. @Thighmaster

    @Thighmaster

    Kit devolution -fast forward 5 years (re: post #112): 1984 cat 4 criterium at Purdue University, me in no.2 slot – still could only afford same  jersey, LeCoqSportif, but new shorts – my rich girlfriend, probably sick of my crack-dangling wool shorts, purchased me these snappy red/black lycra ones. My first lycra, ah, a fine day to be sure. The chamois was excellent. The newer helmet was a strange birthday gift from my father – it was trying to emulate the “hairnet ” style with safer materiel. You can see it came with a true chamois for forehead perspiration! It was replaced that day with a black Bell helmet I received as part of the winner’s booty (unfortunately had to give back the prize money of $100). Was still riding the beloved Ross with Shimano 105, but had Weinmann hubs by then. Brooks saddle. I think the guy in front of me was riding a Pinarello.

    Here’s the photo…

    The guy in front is actually a time traveller sent back to test this year’s Team GB track aero helmets away from prying eyes.

    Why do the people sitting on the bench only  have one leg each?

    What’s the hippy doing behind the telephone pole?

    And why is there a gallows just off the course? Is this for anyone found doping?

  16. @Thighmaster the bloke in front of you obviously didn’t subscribe to either Rule #5 or Rule #9 if he’s in full tights & long sleeves while you’re in shorts and a short sleeve jersey. You look like you’re travelling about 15% faster than him in that shot.

  17. @Mikael Liddy you are spot on… I was overtaking him in that, the last turn heading into the straightaway, I was so far ahead of him at the finish I was elated, but because I started in last place (I arrived late) and he was in the top three for most of the race, they assumed he was the winner while I looked like the guy keeping up the rear. I was crestfallen until the crowd, the guy who actually placed second, and my team convinced the judges it was I who actually won.

  18. @Thighmaster These photos and stories are super! Great stuff, and more please if you got ‘em!

    (Why did you have to give back the cash prize?)

  19. @Oli

    @Thighmaster These photos and stories are super! Great stuff, and more please if you got ‘em!

    (Why did you have to give back the cash prize?)

    Thank you for your comment  You are too kind.

    In terms of the prize – after a week or so I was asked to give the money back. Apparently a highschool student was in the race, but that day neither the race organizer nor the student were aware that he could lose his highschool sports eligibility for participating in a paid sport competition. If I returned the money all would be well for him, so…

  20. @Thighmaster

    Fantastic story and pictures. That is what it is all about. Fantastic stuff. And I echo Oli in saying, why the fuck did you have to give your money back? Test positive for Too Much Awesome?

  21. @Thighmaster Wow! And looks like the Blues Brothers are parked at the race (far left in the distance).

  22. @Thighmaster Those days of USCF are great to remember. Being hauled around in the back of a VOLVO from one state to another. Selling items to come up with weekly race entry fees and travel. I am not a sentimental person, but I do have my original “paper” license in the wardrobe. Thanx for finding this and posting.

  23. @Thighmaster So you’re a Champion as well as a winner. Chapeau.

  24. My first kit consisted of an old hand-me-down Saeco bib that flew in the face of Rule #8 and directly violated Rule #53, a jersey purchased at Winners, and an MTB hlemet.

  25. Crappy b/w photo… but me in the late 80’s rockin the Look/Wonder, Sidis, and early Poly helmet (death knell of the hairnet) – remember when they had lycra/net covers?

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