Thursday, June 25, 2009

Grey Beard Rewards

(Taking a tea break on the way up Monitor Pass with my Nishiki Competition circa 1984)

I've hung onto my old steel racing bike for almost 20 years now, with the hope of giving it to my nephew when he was old enough to be responsible and showed an interest. I bought it at The Missing Link in Berkeley in the spring of 1980 while attending UC Berkeley - in part to rehab a low back injury sustained in a car crash.

A few years ago that hope seemed doomed to end in disappointment as Aaron was suffering from the worst case of scoliosis I have ever seen. He underwent surgery, had his spine straightened, and two rods attached to his back. After this my sister thought it too dangerous for him to ever ride a bike again.

I had a great phone conversation with Aaron last night, and I asked him if he had ever ridden a racing trike. He said "no" with a very inquisitive tone so I recounted my conversation with my sister about his disability. He immediately assured me that he can ride, and quite well, as he rode his bike as his sole transportation his entire Jr year in college until it was stolen. So guess what? My long-awaited dream is going to come true! :D

I am going to fix it up a bit with new tires, brake pads, brake lever hoods, and a properly sized handlebar and we are going riding sometime in August when he gets a break from work. Assuming he likes it, and it fits, the bike will be his. I am keeping the 12-speed drive-train stock, but the lugged construction, fully-sloping fork crown, Superbee brakes, Omega headset, and hand-built Ofmega wheels are legends in their time, so he will inherit a living time capsule.

We were both pretty excited talking about this when I happened to remember that my Ex and I were up from LA to start our long bike trip from Mt Shasta back to Stockton (~ 450 miles) and ended up at the hospital where he was born a few hours later. A good steel bike really is forever.

I hope he will treasure it, and that it will bring him as much joy as it has me. Even when the grey hairs become too numerous to pluck out, there are still some beautiful moments that yet await us in life. I just know I'm going to get all choked up watching him ride it away!


Stephanie Gehrsitz said...

How wonderful Aaron will ride again!

So this picture is you?

Grey Beard said...

Yeah, he's a great kid. Very tenacious and a bit stoic. After his surgery he was on the highest dose of morphine they could give him and he was in so much pain he was moaning in his sleep, but he never complained. True grit.

Yup, that's me. We were touring across the top of the Sierras with 40-65 lbs in the panniers. Did this trip with a 42/28 as my lowest gear. I kept taking weight off my Ex's bike until she could keep up. She had many faults, but I will always admire her sense of adventure and dogged determination on those bike tours. The 24/36/46 front gearing helped her a lot.

Groover said...

What is it about steel frames? Do you reckon someone will experience the same thing in 30 years time: with a carbon frame? Very touching post.

Rachel said...

What a great gift! I love steel. The European frames are very lightweight and oh-so-comfy. Your nephew will love it.

Heard it's HOT up there! Was hot over the weekend but June gloom has returned, thank God.

Congrats on conquering Mt. Hamilton. Great pics, great post!

Grey Beard said...

Thanks Rachel, will read your Polamar post when done with my FDIC assignment. Should be a great read! My outdoor thermometer hit 118.2 on Sunday, and 106 under the covered balcony. Indoor wx. Grea movie day. Let someone else pay the AC bill! :D

Interesting point Groover, and welcome to my blog.

Steel has a property almost unique to ferrous metals, it has a fatigue limit. Like all metals steel fatigues with fatigue cycles, but unlike aluminum (and I think titanium too) it only fatigues down to about 80% of original strength, and then no more.

The reason aluminum frames are so stiff is they are massively overbuilt to forestall inevitale failure. In the end though, all aluminum frames will fail, but steel is forever.

Little known fact. The Eiffel Tower was only supposed to last for 20 yrs after the duration of the Paris World's Fair, but keeps on thrilling because it's made of iron.

Carbon is a lot kinder on this old body though - although steel with CF fork and seat stays is reportedly very nice too. I used to ride my steel Gitane in Levi cuttoffs with that horrible 4-layer seam right in the middle of me privates. I was 17 then, so could have sat on a cactus and been OK.

Gotta Run..Gotta Ride said...

Now.. how cool is that!! He is a lucky guy to get such a gift. I am sure he will take very good care of it.

That is a "feel good" story.