So here it is. This is the first bike I ever had. Mine is long gone; this is someone else’s from the internet. I have actually gone my entire life without knowing exactly what it was. All I ever knew is that it was, well, a Huffy.
It’s a 1977 Huffy Thunder Road, and mine was rather anonymous; no inspiring characteristics really. Black or silver or some combination thereof, the frame had been crudely re-welded in a few spots and summarily painted over. Certainly something left for dead by whoever totaled it, my father must have had it repaired (or done the work himself), and the castoff junkyard Huffy became mine.
The last time I saw this bike was at least 25 years ago, but I remember some of those details like I saw it yesterday. The “loaf of bread” seat (a pain in the ass to adjust), the sweep of those bars, the graphics on that chain guard. I am fascinated by this picture. I can’t really articulate why, so I’ll give up trying for now.
Despite my nostalgia, there were no epic or inspirational tales associated with this bike. It was just a bike, and I was a very young kid. It never ventured too far out of sight of wherever we happened to live. The only two salient memories I really have of riding that bike are:
-When I jumped it off a small ramp in the front yard, wrecked, and one end of that handlebar nearly punctured my lower abdomen as I fell on it. That was probably the first time in my life I ever thanked a higher power for sparing me injury.
-The other, when I rode it for the very last time – having wound up a head of steam, laying an AMAZING skid patch on the pavement in front of the house, and blowing the tube as the tire finally wore completely through.
So while we’re on this stroll, there was a another bike to tell you about. It was the one just after this; my first road bike. Gifted to me by our landlord, George Lapan, unfortunately I remember little more about it. Only that it had ten speeds, and that it was white. I think it was Italian, but that is impossible to prove. I’ll never be able to find a picture of it on the internet with that little to go on. What I know for certain is that the drop bars had these positively uncomfortable textured grips; these raised sort of teeth that left impressions in your palms.
I would haul that bike down the two flights of stairs from our apartment and ride around Enfield Elementary School, which was only a few houses down the street. Fueled by viewings of American Flyers, I would ride lap after lap around the building, which, admittedly there was no criterium racing in AF, but I was hardly old enough to be on the road by myself like that. Third or fourth grade. So this was what I had to work with.
But the Ross Eurosport though…that was really my gateway drug to a present-day cycling addiction. This one, another internet find, is exactly like mine, sans speedometer.
The Eurosport was something my grandfather had eyed in the Dartmouth lost-and-found for who knows how long. Ultimately it came to reside in a shed at my grandparents house in Lebanon, where I’d spend most Sundays riding it around the yard. No doubt too large a size – seems like every bike back then was too big – I had my hands full with it for quite a while. I wasn’t particularly comfortable high atop that thing. I flipped through the stem-mounted shifting, rarely a cause to find the big ring, unless I was permitted across the road to Florence Patch’s house. She had a sizable paved driveway with just enough real estate and gradient for a miniature crit. It wasn’t the open road by a long shot, but it served as an adequate training ground as I grew into the size of the bike. For a long time, this was all cycling was to me. Minutes at a time around the yard, and a hundred feet of driveway.
One day, it was time. One of those times my grandparents drove me back home at the end of a long Sunday, into the trunk it went. The venerable Ross would now live at my house on Jones Hill, and that’s when it was time to start riding for real. And you know what that led to.
Along the way there were a myriad of other bikes, at least another Darmouth lost-and-found road bike (that one I recall was Japanese), and as my mechanical curiosity grew, Italian Bike and Japanese Bike became parts donors.
Now that I think about it, my first mountain bike was a Big Green pickup as well. I’m just now realizing how good my Grandfather was, always keeping an eye out up there. I wouldn’t have had much of anything were it not for him and some Ivy league kids who left their crappy bikes behind.
So that mountain bike; a Huffy Scout as it were. The one above is exactly like mine, except the black foam grips are missing on this one. Replete with the cheapest feeling pair of thumb shifters; I couldn’t stand them. I had seen a mountain bike with drop bars in a copy of Bicycling, and now with a small fleet of parts donors, I went to work. The finished product I was pretty impressed with, and I rode it, but technical riding was pretty interesting. The level of control was definitely reduced. We call that “cyclocross” today I guess.
I would leave all of these bikes behind when I left home, and wouldn’t have a bike again until 1996, when I saved all summer to buy the purple Super V from Wheel Power in Exeter. Too small, but I didn’t know any better or care for that matter. I loved that thing. I rode it all over campus, and down every set of stairs I could find, including the ten-story stairwell in Christensen Hall. It only raced twice; once to a third-place finish on homecoming weekend, and then that fateful other race.