Since sometime around 1970 I’ve been interested in bicycles. My little brother had a Schwinn Varsity 10 Speed that weighed a ton. He’d long since stopped using it. It was in parts out in my folks shed. For some reason I got it into my head to get it back into running condition and I did. It probably cost me as much as a new bike by the time all the new parts, repairs, and the tune-up were done. I used that bike for only a little while. It ended up sparking my interest in bicycle racing and I started paying attention to what was published about bicycles and bike racing.
I ended up getting a better bike and riding it a lot. About that time my wife and I were married and I got her and I new bikes. But I wasn’t really interested in just bopping around with her through the neighborhoods. I was interested in training and going fast. That bike didn’t last too long. I traded up to the bike that I want to tell you about.
It was probably 1978 by this time. We’d been married for about six years now and I would be about twenty-eight years old – not a kid. I’d been through my college years by then and I had started work the year before in my first management job.
Throughout all this time from about 1970 − 1978 I’d been reading about bicycle racing in Velo News and Bicycle Magazine. I started to train on the bike that I’d bought with my wife for touring the neighborhoods. It wasn’t a bad bike, but it had heavy clincher tires, and was never intended for racing. Through my interest in the sport I found that there was a bicycle racing club in Western New York and that they had rides on certain nights each week. I showed up one night and get started. Well I was dropped almost instantly. I had no idea about training it turned out. I was not in condition and my bike was way outclassed. I learned quickly that the wheels and tires that I was riding were the main problem, that is besides my lack of wind and muscle conditioning.
At some point soon thereafter I resolved to build a bike. I didn’t want to buy one off the rack. I wanted one that was sized and built to just my specifications.
I put in a lot of time going to various bike shops about that time looking at frames and bikes. In the end I drove to Rochester, NY and found what I wanted. The shop there in a suburb called Greece was a dealer for Serotta Cycles. This was a company that built custom bicycle frames in Sarasota Springs, NY. I wanted what they called a club frame in those days. It wasn’t radical. I wanted a frame that I could ride in road races, time-trials, and on century road trips. So it was a compromise in that sense. One thing that I didn’t want on my custom bike was the name of company. I asked that the frame be manufactured and have a head-tube logo, but I didn’t want any lettering on the top, seat, or down tubes of the bike. Serotta was kind enough to comply.
The frame was a work of art to my eyes when it arrived. I had selected black paint, but what they used was a new epoxy paint called Dupont Imron and it had a fleck of metallic in the black coloration. It was subtle and beautiful to me. Also, this was the time when frames were made from steel tubes and bronzed lugging. The lugs on my frame had cut-outs in the shape of a heart. Within the cut-out the frame makers had painted the hearts a deep red. It looked great. One last feature that the shop had recommended was having my frame pump painted with the frame using the same paint. We did that and got that further custom appearance. All-in-all, the frame was a masterpiece.
After that the component selection was from the Campagnolo Record Group. This was one group down from the epitome of the Super Record Group which I couldn’t afford. It was nevertheless very high class and the parts were beautifully finished and worked with a fine precision that I’d never know in my previous bikes. I ordered reasonably light racing wheels with Campagnolo Record Hubs. Even the spokes, the headset, the seat tube, and items like the cables were all selected item by item. It was a wonderful experience and of course expensive. I ended up paying upwards of a thousand dollars. Back in 1978 that was serious money for a bicycle. You could buy a car or motorcycle for that much money in reasonable shape. In fact, we insured the bike and the insurance agent thought we were talking about a motorcycle until my wife clarified the facts. The agent was appalled but ended up insuring the bike.
I never got to be a great bike rider. I trained for a couple years and that in itself is a story. But starting to ride at that late time in my life was too much to overcome. Younger and stronger riders were always there to dominate the pack. In fact, my efforts were never enough to ride with the top riders for more than the first miles of the race. They simply were stronger and had better wind than I. That’s not to say that I didn’t drastically improve – I certainly did. My strength and endurance were significantly improved after a couple years of training. I would go out on training rides in the evenings two or three times each week. Those rides would last for two or more hours and take me through the back roads and the hills of Western New York. I was extremely happy with my efforts and the condition that I was in at the time.
Reality had to come into it though at some point. By this time I had two little boys and a wife at home. Taking that much time each week, while also working at a job was too much. They needed me to put in more time at home. I ended up selling my wonderful bike. If I couldn’t ride it in a serious way it just didn’t make a lot of sense to have it around. It wasn’t a bike to use for tooling around the block.
It was an enjoyable part of my life – that bike and those training rides. I enjoyed training undoubtedly more than racing. It was a pleasure having so fine a machine on which to enjoy those summer nights.