It all started at Wal-Mart. There was the first mountain bike I had ever seen. It was a chrome-plated Murry I believe. I remember thinking that riding one would be fun. Then a year or so later my eight year old son Michael was in bad need of something new. Something to balance out the fact that his older sister had gotten a new computer. I went to the local Wal-Mart where purchased a beautiful Huffy Scout. It was a real neat bike. Black with gold wheels, writing, and accents. I fell in love with that bike; but I knew it would never work out. When I rode the bike through a five foot deep ditch across the road in front of our house, the head-set would loosen up. At first I thought it was working loose, then I discovered the bearing races were deforming. My 175 pounds was just too much for riding the bike off road. I was broken hearted. If a bike that cost as much as this one had would not hold up to me what would? And the bike seemed to be heavily built. About thirty-six pounds worth.
One day at work I heard a fellow worker had a Schwinn mountain bike for sale. I gave him a call. He said it was just like new even though he had owned it for two years. He did not exaggerate. It was new. The paint was not worn from the painted pedals. Said he had to have $225.00 for the bicycle. Riding it was just more work than he thought and much to hard to be fun. I bought the Schwinn High Sierra complete with bull-moose handle bars and fifteen speeds. My wife Judy said, "You paid that much for a bicycle. That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. I just can't believe it. You're an idiot."
I never regretted buying that bike. It was the best bike in the whole world. It had a cromoly frame, alloy rims, fifteen speeds and was mine. That mountain bike was my chance to be twelve years old one more time. My son and I enjoyed many hours together on our Mountain bikes. Many times after church on Sunday afternoon we would eat in the truck as we drove to the Talladega National Forest to ride. We camped many weekends and spent our days riding our bikes. We spent our nights enjoying the camp fire, the forest night-sounds, and recounting the days adventures. There were few people on mountain bikes then. All the trails were open to us. There were almost never any hikers on them either. When on rare occasion we did meet up with someone walking on the trail, they wanted to know all about our bikes. We rode together many days. We enjoyed the out doors and each other's company. He was eight and then nine. I was twelve again and then twelve one more time. Him on his Huffy and me on my Schwinn. I had a mechanical advantage. Life was good.
The High Sierra was a smaller bike than his Huffy. I installed a new rear derailleur, new chain, new toe clips, grips, and a Farmer John on the rear and passed the bike down to Michael. I got a new bike. A yellow Dorado Sherpa. It was the best bike in the whole world. It had click-shift, eighteen speeds, Suntour Power-Cam brakes and Ground Controls; and I still had a mechanical advantage, which I was beginning to need. We rode more places now. One game we liked to play was trials. We would ride out a trail for several miles and stop for a break. When we started back to the truck, the big question was who could ride back with the fewest dabs. Touch the ground with one foot and it was one dab, but if you fell off or could not ride a section of trail it was three dabs. This new game was lots of fun. He was ten and I was still twelve. We found someone to ride with us. He lived about thirty miles away in another town and would meet us for our Sunday afternoon rides. Some of our friends got bikes and it was more fun for us to ride with others. We had ridden mostly with each other, my son and I, for three years and it was good to have others involved in something we both liked so much. Michael enjoyed the fact that he could ride better than the adults who would come to ride with us. That had to be great for one who was ten then eleven. I could out ride him because I still thought I was twelve.
Some years passed and I began to want another bike. The Dorado had an up right position and no longer suited my riding style. Then I saw it at the local bike shop. It was a bright red Giant ATX Bolder. This was one nice bike. It had a total cromoly frame suitable for competition! I was told. With twenty one speeds, under-the-bar X-1 shifters, cassette rear hub, Smoke and Dart's, it was an awesome bike. This was the best bike in the whole world. This bike was stiff. This bike jarred every bone in my forty-five year old frame. This ride would really climb. And I soon got used to the stiffness. After all I was still just twelve. I still had more of a mechanical advantage and I needed it all. The boy was turning sixteen. Many of the people who bought bikes just did not really love to ride the way we did. They soon got tired of riding or turned their interests to other things.
We rode. I rode more. I wanted to ride most of the time. I did ride most of the time. I rode by myself a lot. I rode with my Sony Walkman and Credence Clearwater Revival or James Taylor often. Michael really liked to ride in something with a five-hundred watt stereo and twelve inch sub-woofers. And ride where there were chicks (girls). In the next five years our rides were special. We went to north Georgia to ride. Rode in Tennessee. Rode in Alabama. Planned to go to the Mongalhia and Slickrock to ride, but never made it. Mountain biking is great. So much to do and so many places to ride. Such neat places to dream of riding.
Then it happened one contemptible day last summer. Some lower form of life cut the locks and stole my bright red and much updated Giant and Michael's Trek 950. We bought new bikes. Nice bikes. Traveller is the best bike I have ever had. This "Made in Wisconsin" 7000 SHX is one fine 25.4 pound ride. Just look at the list of credits: Rockshox, Ahead set, STX-RC rapid-fire plus, welded Voodoo rims, double butted spokes, Psycho K beaded tires, Vetta TT, aluminum frame, stem, bar, and seat post. Are we ready now or what? This is the best bike in the whole world. I don't know of another twelve-year-old around who has a bike this nice. I also do not know of one who likes to ride as much as I do.
My how things have changed. The trail we rode for years has been closed to bikes. Not because of over use. It is used very little. Not because of trail erosion. The trail could not be found most places because it was covered in leaves and pine straw. Not because of user conflict. There was none. It was done because someone did not think it good for bicycles to ride the hiking trails that people walked on. The person who made the final decision admitted to me they had never actually seen the trail at all, but there were ten-thousand excuses for closing the trail to bikes.
Life goes on. There are other trails which need to be ridden. There are many new places my bike Traveller has never seen. Maybe you have noticed that a twelve-year-old does not stay discouraged for very long. Lets go ride. Get out while you can. I think I can get in another ride today if I leave now. I may have time to stop by a bike shop and look at some full-suspensions rides. Happy trails.
Written by: Aaron Bruce
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