My love of bikes began in the early 70’s with a Schwinn Stingray Lil Chik. It was a beautiful yellow with a flowered banana seat and basket with plastic flowers. I loved this bike. It even had a bell. I loved riding it up and down my street to visit my friends. There was a sense of freedom when riding even though I was confined to a quarter mile stretch of sidewalk. Unfortunately, my lovely Lil Chik ended up like other childhood toys…I outgrew it and moved on to other things. I wish I still had this bike or just one like it.
My next bike was a Schwinn Varsity 10-speed bike. It was a beautiful powder blue. This was my transportation until I was old enough to drive. After I got my first car, I lost track of the Varsity. I think the bike may have been stolen. It didn’t matter, I now had four wheels. I could drive. Life continued and eventually, I got married and had daughters of my own. My daughters were active in swimming and water polo, so getting out for a ride was the last thing they wanted to do after hours in the pool. Their childhood bikes ended up rusted and tossed away.
After my daughters graduated college and moved out on their own, I needed to find something to do with all my extra time. There were no more afternoons driving back and forth from the pool. Weekends were wide open too now that there were no swim meets or water polo tournaments. I started competing in local fun runs and eventually, I signed up for a triathlon class. The triathlon class introduced me to a new kind of cycling. Something almost even more fun than riding my Lil Chik up and down my street.
My triathlon coach loved swimming, but in my opinion, he was a much stronger cyclist or at least he was much better at explaining how to ride. Our training rides were relatively short in the beginning. None of us in the class had bikes made for any kind of distance and most of us needed to be taught the basics like bike safety and group etiquette. We would meet every Saturday during the class for our group cycling class and ride. The favorite part of my triathlon training was definitely the group rides.
I started the class with a cheap mountain bike that I bought because I loved the pretty light blue color because it was very close to the color of my Schwinn Varsity. Before my first race, though, my husband decided to buy me a real road bike. The road bike was an aluminum store brand from a nationwide bicycle retailer. I wasn’t thrilled with the silver and orange color scheme, but the price was right and it had Shimano Ultegra components, something all of my experienced cycling friends approved of. This bike ended up being a stepping stone to many more bikes and the start of my collection.
Once the triathlon class was officially over, everyone wanted to know, “What’s next?” Thankfully, the coach decided to extend the group training–and a new tri club was born. The next weekend, my husband and I joined the coach for my first post class ride. I still remember that ride. The three of us chatted and got to know each other better. The coach continued to give me cycling pointers and got me more comfortable riding on the open road. I fell more in love with cycling as the distances got longer and my confidence on the bike grew. I also grew jealous of the coach’s S-Works Shiv and I decided I needed a new bike. A triathlon bike.
I bought a used Planet-X off eBay for what, at the time, seemed like a lot of money. It wasn’t as flashy as the coach’s bike, but it was carbon fiber and had Dura-Ace components. I was never truly happy with that bike and ended up replacing it with my own brand new Specialized Shiv. The Shiv was matte black with a hot pink stripe. It was love at first sight. I spent the first year after getting that bike almost riding it exclusively. I rode it on the trainer, I rode it on rides with my hubby, and to the chagrin of my tri coach, I rode it on all our group rides.
The coach would often make little comments about how it wasn’t good etiquette to bring a triathlon bike to a group ride and that some groups don’t allow them. I didn’t care. I wanted to be comfortable on this bike and truth be told I just loved riding it. I felt like I could ride forever. That sense of freedom I had as a child had returned. I wished I could ride every day. Eventually, however, I took the coach’s comments about bike etiquette to heart and bought a used Trek Madone that I found on Craigslist.
The Trek was quite a change from the Shiv. It was lime green and pearl white with a touch of gray and flowers reminiscent of the seat on my Lil Chik. The price was right and the bike was amazing. It turns out that this Madone was once on display at the annual Trek show. I bought her and named her “Beauty.” She is now my go-to bike for group rides and anything hilly. I gave my aluminum bike to my youngest daughter because no one needs three, actually four bikes, right?
Wrong! We recently bought a cabin and my powder blue, cheap mountain bike just didn’t seem to cut it on the hills and trails. I started an informal search for a “real” mountain bike on the tri group’s Facebook page. Long story short, the coach ended up selling me his Specialized Epic. He has a bike problem too. I haven’t had much time to get acquainted with this bike, but I can tell I am going to have a lot of fun with it and I have already signed up for my first mountain bike triathlon. I am also eyeing several other bike races.
I posted pictures of my new addition on social media and was asked by one friend “How many bikes do you need?” Another friend came to my defense and said that the correct answer is “N + 1. With N being your current number of bikes.” Sounds right to me. Actually, at this point, I can’t think of any other bike I could possibly need. That is of course unless someone is selling an early 1970 yellow Schwinn Stingray Lil Chik.