Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Some history

I don't even remember when I started biking. I must have been a few years old. One of the first bikes I had, was a children-sized road bike I got from my parents for my First Communion (Kind of a tradition in Poland to give kids "expensive" gifts for this occasion). It was a cheap, crap bike, all steel, with steel rims, poor brakes, etc. But it still was a big deal for me, being only 8 years old. The odd thing was its step-through frame. A step-through frame in a road bike for a boy? WTH? The only explanation I have is that in 80's in my country it was hard to find a nice bike so people were buying whatever was available.
Romet Universal. As green as my old one. (Picture from Wikimedia Commons)

Another one I had later was a simple folding bike (Romet Universal) with 20" wheels and a coaster brake. I liked the coaster brake so much that I used it all the time, locking the rear wheel. I never really cared about the tires at that time and after some time they were nearly bald (no tread) and I ripped the rear tire while braking.
Romet Jubilat. Mine was red. (Picture from Wikimedia Commons)

The next one was a 26"-wheel steel commuter, which was short-lived as someone broke into our basement and stole it.
Romet Laura. I had a blue one with white chain guard. (Picture from Imageshack)

Then I had a way too big, another steel commuter with 28" wheels and 5 gears called Laura. It had a step-through frame, which was a real saver as I was too short to mount a diamond frame at that time. The problem with those cheap step-through frames is that they are not stiff enough and much later as I grew up, I rode that bike off a steep curb (Well, actually I jumped.) and the frame nearly folded. Simply, I noticed that handlebars are suddenly too close to the saddle and it was clear that frame was bent. That bike was scrapped.

At that point I basically stopped buying factory-made bikes and started building my own ones. One of my projects was a triathlon bike, with an aluminum frame and some decent Shimano 105/Ultegra components. I am not into triathlon at all but I liked riding alone on the road and I liked the forward-leaning position on the aero bars. The bike was fun and fast to ride but since this was more like my weekend bike I did not find enough time to ride it. I still have it, but I think I just use its components to build something else in the future.

Another one was much more useful and it was my first mountain bike. Aluminum frame, RST suspension fork, Alivio components. That bike did well, was fun to ride, and a couple of times I had a chance to take it to its nature habitat - the mountains. It performed well, although its v-breaks were overheating easily on some long downhill rides. This is the bike that I rode up to the highest altitude so far (around 2000m, in Austria) and the first one to hold my speed record (71 km/h on a long downhill paved road in Poland). I still have it, but I replaced the fork with a regular one and put some city slicks on it. My mom rides it now.
Romet Wagant. Mine was silver and had a bit different components.

Then I started my college so I made an exception and bought a factory-built steel commuter to ride to my classes. It was a simple, cheap, steel bike with poor caliper brakes and flimsy fenders (Romet Wagant). I only added a rear rack to it. It served me well and once I even spent my vacation on Bornholm Island (Denmark) with it. I rode around the island in one day (100km). It became my light touring bike at some point although I had a chance to use it only twice for that purpose.

There were couple of other bikes as well. One was really weird that started as a spontaneous project when me and my brother decided to build something from all the bike parts we had scattered everywhere in the house. It had an old steel diamond frame, 28" wheels and tires from my grandfather's 30 year old commuter, some caliper brakes, 5 speed rear cassette with a derailleur, and some heavy 2-chainring front crankset. We did not have any front derailleur around so my brother built a crazy device to switch between front chainrings. It was an old brake lever, modified with a screw to give it enough compression on its pivot point so it had lots of friction when handle was pressed. It was mounted on the seat tube, so in order to switch gears one had to reach to the bottom of the seat tube and press the "brake" lever. It worked! I sold that bike to a friend looking for a cheap commuter.

After I moved to the U.S. I bought a 2008 Lemond Poprad. I wasn't thinking about building a bike since I had to leave my entire toolbox in Poland so it was easier to buy one. This is easily my most expensive and probably the best bike so far and I really like it. It rides very well and being a cyclocross bike it is very versatile. I can ride it off-road and with some road slicks on it, I can ride on road as well. I will write a better review soon, but so far the bike has been working really well for me. Well, maybe except the stock saddle.

Recently I added another one. I was looking for an inexpensive light commuting bike, and I had two goals in mind: commuting to work in regular clothes (My Poprad is a great commuter but it requires clipless shoes, etc.), and something with a relaxed geometry so I can use it on bike paths and put a child seat in the back of it in the future. I picked Schwinn Coffee since price was right, bike was comfortable (Except, you guessed it, the saddle.), and it is so much fun to ride. A full review of my Schwinn coming soon.

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