In The Beginning

In the beginning…circa 1997.

The Trek Hybrid Bike

Back in the early 1990’s, my wife and I were riding 25 year old Schwinn English Racers. A “ride” covered about 2-3 miles and many stops at tag sales along the way. A big “ride” was the 4 mile round trip to the local library. We were happy in our ignorance.

However, the bicycles were getting a little shabby around the edges, so my wife told me she was going to buy me a new bike for my birthday. Of course, she wanted me to pick it out myself. We figured $250 would cover it nicely — because we had seen all the bikes at the major discounters for $150. What did we know?

I went to a few bike stores and tried out some bicycles. Frankly, the $250 Trek Hybrid wasn’t half bad (at that time). The $375 version seemed to shift smoother, however. This required a discussion, since we tend to spend money cautiously. I dragged Susan (my wife) down to the bike shop with me and had her try the various bikes. She not only agreed with my initial reaction, but also ordered a new bike for herself as well. So, my $250 birthday gift now cost $750! (Her birthday is 2 weeks after mine).

Our new Trek 750 hybrids arrived a short while later. It started an odyssey that was totally unexpected, but ultimately satisfying beyond our imagination.

First, a side bar: The Schwinns that would not die.

We gave our Schwinns to two of our friends, whose bicycles looked like they had been dropped from a cliff and left out in the rain for five years.

They rode them for awhile . . . then bought new bikes for themselves . . . and sent the Schwins to one of their married children. The kids rode the Schwins, then bought new bikes for themselves and sent the Schwins back to us.

We next gave them to another couple we know. They are still being ridden.

Back to the Treks

We didn’t know about the importance of bicycle weight at this time. Like children in a candy store, we bought big mirrors, saddle bags, bells and panniers. If you think clams are happy, you should have seen us.

The rides, however, began to get got a little longer — still on the quiet local streets around town — until one day, when, we decided to try the bike trail nearby.

The trail is about 6.5 miles each way, with one or two “hills” that would now be classified as rolls.

Our big ride now was to ride about 4 miles down the trail, have a snack and ride back. Not to laugh. At that time, we loved it. The trail was through the woods and paved. Susan still had to walk the hill sometimes, but that didn’t bother her. She was having too much fun. In a short time, however, we were pros. We could do the entire 13 mile round trip and live to tell about it!

The bike trail became a regular experience. We were becoming tired of it, however.

Fortunately, at about that same time, we saw an ad for a sponsored ride for 15, 25 or 50 miles on closed highway. We seriously wondered if we could actually ride 25 miles.

This was a ride where part of the Meadowbrook Parkway on Long Island, NY was closed from about 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The rides were 15 miles, 25 miles (down and back) or 50 miles (down and back twice).

With 3,000-4,000 riders, it took us about 20 minutes after the start before we could actually get on our bicycles and another 10 minutes before the traffic thinned out a bit. Fortunately, the outbound part was a gentle descent of about 150 feet over 12 miles. This gave us much encouragement.

The 12.5 mile point was in Point Lookout Beach. On a sunny fall morning, it was a pretty spot to ride to. The return ride was harder — we were a little tired.

However, we did the ride, thus completing a new milestone and some additional confidence.

It was time to move forward.

Why does everyone ride faster than we do?

At some point I joined one of the local bike clubs — and Susan and I did our first sponsored ride, on roads not closed to traffic.

We did planned on 50 miles, actually did 35 miles, and got passed by everyone, it seemed.

The little roll was a hill to big to climb, and became our turn around point.

It got us thinking…about “us and our bikes” vs. “them and their bikes.” We still weren’t savvy enough to understand that a 35 pound bicycle takes more effort to ride than a 20 pound bicycle, but we did understand that our thick tires put more drag on the road and that our gears did not give us the same high gears as a road bike. To this day I wonder why we understood the gear and tire aspect, but not the weight aspect.

We had both bicycles re-fitted with 30 cc tires (the smallest we could put on that wheel) and a larger ring set on the front.

Our $375 bikes were now $750 bikes, bringing my $250 birthday present to $1,500 — but this did help with speed.

When I started riding with the bicycle clubs, I rode this hybrid for two or three years. Susan, who joined the club later, did the same.

Everyone still rode faster than we did, but not as much.

Somewhere during the hybrid years we started riding rail trails more and more. One of the best that we rode and have re ridden was the Erie Canal trail. With a mixture hard pack dirt and asphalt, it was wonderfull riding.

We also explored other rail trails in NY State and nearby states.

Now that I was riding with the bicycle clubs I was able to ride more miles — though I did need to ride with the slowest group, because of my 35 pound bike.

more later…