Nothing Beats a New Bike!



There is nothing like new stuff. Don’t get me wrong. I take care of my things, and am proud when something lasts well. I have an old ski parka from when I was a teenager that I still wear when working outside during the winter. And my 1998 4Runner now has in excess of 260,000 miles.

But getting something new is nice. You get all the new technology, it is attractive and unmarred, and it makes you feel good. And of all the new things you can get, nothing beats a new bike.

The current stable. Photo by David Ward

My first new bike was a gift from Santa back in 1956, a beautiful red and cream colored Schwinn Spitfire. I put a lot of miles on that bike, and had many adventures, including nearly having it confiscated by the Fort Hall Indian Reservation police. Thanks to my tears and pleas, I managed to hang onto my ride.

I purchased my next new bike, a French made Motobécane, 15 years later when serving as a missionary in France for my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Bikes were how we got around. This bike was purple with white trim, and had a headlight and taillight powered by a small generator with a rotor that, with the flip of a switch, pushed against and was propelled by the wheel as I road. I went through a lot of rear tires that way.

In 1973, just off my mission and a student at Brigham Young University (BYU), I purchased a bike (brand unknown) from some entrepreneur who had managed to buy a bunch of these bikes really cheap. And though he sold it to me cheap, I soon realized it was way too big for me. Still, it sufficed for my commutes to and from campus. I was relieved of that bike, however, by someone who permanently borrowed it from a bike rack on the BYU campus later that year.

Up next was another Motobécane. The year was 1974, I was newly married, and my wife and I were taking a cycling class for PE credit at BYU. I scored a great deal at $125, and rode, toured and commuted on that Motobécane Mirage for the next 9 years. It was white with red highlights, and came equipped with double brake levers for each brake, the standard one on the front curve of the bars, and a second one just under the top of the bars. That was a bad idea and a safety hazard as they never worked well. It also had the shifters on the bar stem, also a bad idea. I modified both of these by eliminating the under the bar brake levers, and replacing the shifters with standard (then) down tube shifters. I loved that bike, and it still hangs in my basement, a nostalgic reminder from the past.

Around 1984, I learned that they actually had bike racing in Salt Lake. After scoping out a couple of races, my competitive instincts flared. That was when I made a huge leap in bikes. I purchased a marvelous Trek 760, made of Reynolds 531 steel tubing, and equipped with a Campagnolo Victory gruppo. I remember after picking the bike up and taking it home, I got on to go for a ride. It was so light and responsive that at first I had a difficult time riding along smoothly. But it only took about a mile, and I was on the sweetest ride I had ever experienced.

The years get a little fuzzy here, but I trained and raced, and won quite a few races, on that bike for the next 8-10 years. It was stable yet responsive in the fastest, tightest crits, and accelerated like crazy in a sprint. I loved racing on it.

But the buying bug hit again, prompted by the new line of LeMond bicycles. I bought a LeMond Maillot Jaune with a blue, yellow and pink color scheme that took bike beauty to a new level. I remember in one of my first races after I purchased it a fellow racer remarked, “That’s the prettiest bike I’ve seen.” And it was pretty. But I soon realized it was not quite as responsive or as fast in a sprint as my old Trek. Still, I rode and raced on it for several years.

Then came along carbon fiber. I gave it a couple of years to develop the technology and then purchased a Trek OCLV 5200. Naturally, it was lighter than my LeMond (or my Trek 760 for that matter), and also very responsive. A sparkling copper color, it was my ride and race steed till 2003.

That’s when I started itching for a true Italian made racing machine, and Colnago was producing the most beautiful ones around. I opted for the CT1, with a titanium frame, carbon fiber forks and seat and chain stays, and a Campagnolo Record gruppo. Silver and yellow with decorative painted artwork including a racer with his arm up in a victory salute on the top tube, it is a work of art. On top of that, it is the most comfortable bike I have ever ridden, while still being very responsive.

Of a truth, by this time, I was no longer racing much, just the LOTOJA each year. So this purchase was more for my own pleasure and to satisfy my new bike urge. But Jeff Louder was racing on a Colnago CT1, so you know it was a true racing machine.

Well, I thought that might be my last new bike purchase. I was 52, and I could see myself riding this bike till I rode off in the sunset. But in 2012, the bug hit again, and this time it was another Italian stallion, a red and white full carbon Bianchi Sempre equipped with a SRAM Red gruppo. I immediately noticed how quickly it responded, even better than my Colnago, and probably better than my old Trek 760, which I feel was more responsive, but my aging of 30 years between the two bikes likely skews that perception.

Somewhere in there, probably around 2005, I got a screaming deal on a black with red trim aluminum Wilier Lavaredo which I purchased specifically for use, and had it set up, as a time trial bike. It is not nearly as smooth a ride, but I love getting down on the TT bars and cranking it up. Again, I don’t race it, I just ride it for fun.

About 2010, I also bought a Felt Curbside fixed gear bike. Man, what a different experience. Since it was mostly flat between my home and office, I commuted on it a lot. I have to say, I really came to love riding it. A fixie has a technique and feel all its own. Now that I live up a canyon, I rarely ride it. I commuted on it once, and the ride back up the canyon was so painful, and left me so sore, that I did that no more. But occasionally, I take it down in the valley and ride it around. I still love the sensation of riding my fixie.

Around 1990, I also bought a Santana tandem. Riding a tandem is like driving a 1960s Cadillac, big and heavy. No fast corners, and you have to learn to coordinate with your partner. It really takes time to perfect that. But we have had a lot of fun on our tandem. In fact, I have ridden the Seattle to Portland (STP) event on a tandem with my wife and each of my five children. It is a great equalizer when you and your partner have different levels of strength and fitness. You can both enjoy the ride, rather than having one of you trying to be patient and the other feeling like he or she is holding you up. I really recommend it to couples who want to enjoy riding together.

Well, that’s it. All my new bike purchases. (Except for my mountain bikes, but I’m not going there. Anyway, there were only three of those.). And where are all these bikes now? Except for my original Schwinn which disappeared sometime in my teenage years, and my missionary Motobécane which I sold to another missionary when I came home, I still have them all. My Trek 760 also still hangs in my basement along with my Motobécane and nostalgia warms my heart each time I see it. Who knows? I may tune it up and take it out for a ride again.

The LeMond is at my daughter’s home in Texas, and my Trek OCLV 5200 is at my daughter’s home in Phoenix. Very convenient for when I go to visit. The Colnago, Bianchi, Wilier and Felt all hang in my garage, waiting to see which of them I will choose for my next ride. I alternate regularly between the Colnago and Bianchi, and occasionally get out on the Wilier and Felt. Nice to have a good stable.

I am pretty sure I am done now with new bike purchases, though my wife doesn’t believe me. But at age 66, and with a Colnago, Bianchi, Wilier and Felt to ride, each of which like any good bike can last forever, I think they will do me till I can no longer ride.

But who knows? New bikes are pretty, they have all the latest tech, and they make me feel good. And I have always wanted a Bianchi painted Bianchi green . . .


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