I bought the frame four decades ago, when I was still racing. This was a bike that comes from the era of five-speed rear blocks and a period where riders discussed the merits of large and small flange hubs. Pure seventies gold. I rode this in Newfoundland, up and down the southern shore highway, where cyclists have two choices. Ride up a hill or down. Settle in to a 40-21 combination, get out of the saddle and hurt. At the top of every hill, sprint past the crest and get the legs needed to cause pain to everyone else come race day.
And riding that bike taught me that legs are always more important than the bike. A good bike is essential, of course, but legs are what matters. Too many people think they will be so much better if they have another bike. The latest model. The largest gear choice. In my mind, get in more miles and the change will be far greater. Even on my vintage, I was kicking the butts of people on carbon fibre when out for a fun group ride.
I rode my bike through the seasons and the years and, when I gave up racing. It became my hardcore weekend ride – until I was hit by a drunk driver while crossing a pedestrian district, and the down tube was badly cracked.
I actually did a make-shift repair, strapping a piece of metal as a cast, held together by plumbers ties. I rode that for a few years, until it broke when on a long club ride. By then, I was on the mainland and friends with Mike Mulholland, the owner and builder of Cyclops Cycles (one of the best people ever involved in Canadian cycling). He did me the great favour of rebuilding the frame. It became a “painted by” Cyclops frame instantly.
The bike then transformed into a touring bike and I rode it from Kenya to South Africa, panniers and all. And then it was my commuter bike in Jo’burg for the next decade.
When I returned to Europe, I had a limited weight allowance, but the bike was never a question. Its was coming along. While here, I have added a number of bikes to my stable. So many, the now vintage cyclops was sharing rides. The frame had another hit and the rear stay was damaged, but a welder made a makeshift repair on the thin metal stays and it was good to ride again.
In its last life, It had been made slightly hipster. Carbon fibre straight bars and I was considering making the final change into a fixie and joining the rest of the vintage reincarnations. That was delayed when it had to pull extra duty as a bike messenger ride, my other bikes out of service. It was a great ride, climbing hills steadily and easily.
But it all ended the other day. I was gently riding about the city, a lazy day, perfect for the vintage, when I heard an odd sound. It was the rear stay. Broken clean through. The bike had simply passed on, quietly and peacefully. It was done and had its last mile.
It is in the house now, as I think about its final place. I might get lucky and find a frame builder who wants to take on the challenge and it might find itself on the road again. Otherwise, I will clean and polish the complete bike and hang it in the living room as an objet d’art from my past. I am far from ready to send it to the recycling bin. That can happen when I get cremated.
Meanwhile I am still trying to understand that the bike will not be on the road again. I also know I will never get this attached to any of my other rides. I have great affection for the Frankentein hybrid and enjoy the Ribble. But riding something for decades, well, that attachment is something different.