Born in January of 1964, a month after JFK was killed. I rode my first two-wheeler on campus at Michigan State University where I lived with my parents and family in married student housing. That first bike had plastic tires. The succession of bikes went something like this:
* [still own this bike]
My earliest cycling memories were about things that little kids do like crashing, rolling out into traffic, and taking jumps. Then I had a 7-day-a-week afternoon paper route for several years in West Michigan where I grew up, where it snows. Having that job made cycling an important life skill. I learned about practical cycling, using a bike as a work vehicle, delivering newspapers in all weathers, every damned day.
During that same time when I was in 5th or 6th grade, my dad and his best friend started to do some day touring on 10-speed bicycles. My dad got an orange Velosolex touring bike. His buddy got a strawberry red Schwinn Continental. One sister got a Fuji (Wow! It cost $220! Expensive!!), and another got a Browning. I got a secondhand Schwinn Varsity, because I was still growning. It was the first bike I ever had that I did not like. I really really really wanted to get a 24" wheeled CCM road bike. My dad held me off. I was growing. He knew a 24" bike would seem like a crazy idea almost immediately. In 1974 I finished my first Century Ride, the innaugural Muskegon Seaway Century. I was 10 years old. I did it on that damned boat-anchor Schwinn.
Then I grew a little, and earned some paper route money. I went to Muskegon, MI to a bike shop that sold Italian bikes called Torpados. It was a grimy little hole-in-the-wall shop called Alfred E. Bikes. The Torpado came with Campagnolo components! As I recall, it cost $128 and change with tax and everything. Yellow. I loved that bike!
Then came the gap. High School, a driver's license, partying, and water skiing. Very little cycling. The Torpado was a 21". I still rode it once in a while, but I was 6' tall by the time I was 14, so it was way too small. It was the bike I had until 1986 when I abandoned it in Laramie, WY because I didn't have room to bring it with me when I left there. The bike was a wreck by then anyway. It probably hadn't seen a drop of oil since the Carter Administration by the time I junked it. I left it in the stairwell of my apartment in Laramie.
The resurgance in cycling for me came when I was living in Grand Junction, CO after having walked away from college in Laramie. I was about 23 years old, in medium to crappy condition. I was interested in skiing, but also poor. Skiing has always and will always demand cash flows. Cycling isn't free, but for a shrewd rider and equipment consumer it can be pretty inexpensive. I got back on the bike in '87, riding a second-hand Motobecane touring bike. But then I redisovered dirt in '88. I traded my road bike that year for a brand-new Jamis Dakota 18 speed rigid steel mountain bike.
That Jamis was pretty special. I was 24 years old, and it was only the 3rd brand-new bike I'd ever acquired. It cost almost $600. Seems like nothing now, but I carried a balance on my credit card for several months to pay for that back then.
Mountain biking has brought me lots of joy since then.
©Tom Purvis, 2007-2012