My first bike was a Sears Moonlight Special. It was literally a piece of shit – figuratively. I mean, it would only “literally” be a piece of shit if shit was made of sand-filled steel tubes salvaged from the plumbing of the local sewage facility. Which it might have been, but I simply don’t have the peer-reviewed evidence to back that claim up.
I feel comfortable stating that this bike cost less than $50 USD back in the early 70’s, and it was yellow. It also had a saddle which, upon my personal dissection (Go Science!) was conclusively comprised of a shaped steel plate covered by a thin foam pad and a faux-leather shell. Made in America, fuck yeah. That’s one reason right there that the United States doesn’t have the same over-population problems China does.
After that, I was given my dad’s Raleigh, made of Reynolds 531 tubing which I loved deeply, apart from the exposed brake cables and Weinmann centerpull brakes. I installed some aero brake levers on it and quickly learned the value of owning some proper brake-adjustment tools like the Third Hand. (I’m not sure why a Third Hand is a bicycle-specific innovation; having one more hand feels like a genetically-viable mutation.)
Finally, after a summer of saving up, I bought my own proper racing bicycle, a Cannonwhale SR700 with Shimano 105. In hot pink, for $700. I loved the shit out of that bike, crowning it with every accessory (apart from an EPMS) that one can think of: I couldn’t afford Scott Drop-ins, so I happily accepted my brother’s bar-ends from his Bridgestone as substitutes. I saved up for ages and bought a Selle San Marco Regal and got one step closer to looking like Greg LeMan. Benotto bar tape was a no-brainer at only a few bucks a roll. So Pro, so cheap. And it never wore out and it didn’t matter how bad you were at wapping bars; if you needed four rolls to cover the real-estate (wrapping the brake levers cleanly is the crux), then you were still only out about $10.
It was such a great bike. I rode it in France, Belgium, The Netherlands, not to mention most of the northern United States. I rode with my family, my friends; I rode with my dad the most. In fact, the only time I dumped that beautiful Regal saddle was with him, five minutes into the first ride with that saddle when he decided to change the route and hang a louie when I was overlapping wheels with him. Scraped the leather clean off the right-side of the saddle. No worries, a little super-glue and the saddle lasted me another 10 years.
I lost and found my way back into Cycling two or three times during the lifetime of that $700 bike. If I was the man I am today, I’d have kept it, too. I still have many of the parts, but I dumped the frame because it’s too big for me, and I didn’t realize how much it would mean to me today. We all walk the path of La Vie Velominatus in steps; it is only natural to wander off the path from time to time.
My #1 is worth something like $10k, maybe more, maybe less. Which in any case is a stupid amount of money for a bicycle. My Nine Bike is the hand-me-down, worth a bit less but in practical terms, almost the same. An entry-level bike, like my ‘Wale SR700 would cost a few thousand dollars today, well out of reach of a young Velominatus hoping to get into the sport.
Cycling is supposed to be the accessible sport, the sport of The People. What happened?