Monday, January 24, 2011


One of my friends received a $1500 (!) full-suspension Trek mountain bike for his birthday last August, and coaxed me into going out with him. My first impression was that $1500 was a hell of a lot of money to be dropping on a vehicle sans motor, my bicycle experience heretofore limited to the selections at Wal-Mart and Toys R Us.

My bike was a ten-plus year old fluorescent orange Huffy that a coworker had given to me back when my kids were sprogs. No suspension, rusty gears/chain, disintegrating handgrips, and a steel (read HEAVY) frame - but hey, it was mountain bike styled...

Not knowing whether I'd like this new found midlife crisis activity masquerading as a sport, I was understandably reluctant to drop that kind of money on a new bike, so I figured I'd hop on the Huffy, grit my teeth, and try it out.

There's a canyon nearby that is a favorite haunt of mountain bikers, so we started to go there, trying out the terrain. I'm out of shape, so these excursions into the canyon were very tiring... but I discovered that they were a lot of fun, too.

Going up the hills was a lot (a LOT) of work, especially on a steel-framed toad, but coming down was for me, just as exciting as riding a dirt bike (even more so, perhaps, since the Huffy had cantilever brakes, as opposed to the disc brakes that grace the modern bikes). An hour out in the canyon would find me exhausted, but happy, and looking forward to the next ride.

As I said, it's quite the popular spot for mountain biking, and over the weeks I saw plenty of people out there of all ages, and all sizes.

As well as riding the canyon, I persuaded my friend to come out to the Santa Ana river trail - a bike path, that when complete, will run alongside the Santa Ana river from San Bernardino all the way to the ocean in Orange County.

Although not as strenuous, a 20 mile jag along that bike trail is still a good workout and a lot of fun.

Bottom line, I was enjoying myself. I wanted to get a better bike, but I knew next to nothing about what I should get, and I balked at the potential price tag. Like I said, I had no idea about this whole "other world" of biking, other than the occasional sightings of spandex-clad riders on the weekends as I was out and about.

My friend's father-in-law has been into the sport for a few years now, and I hit him up for advice a couple of times - what to look for, how much I thought I could get away with, etc - and I resolved to save for a decent bike.

I had looked around on the Internet and had an idea of what I wanted. Disc brakes were a must - that Huffy had NO stopping power on the steep hills. I also wanted as light a frame as I could afford, and as much suspension as I could afford (full suspension bikes cost significantly more than hardtails - bikes with front fork shocks but a rigid rear frame).

After Christmas, I'd saved a fair bit - had some help with gift money - and decided to go to the local bike shop after a run through the canyon. The guy there was very helpful and showed me their full line of mountain bikes. One in particular caught my eye, a full-suspension Haro that was marked down 50%, as it was a 2008 model, although still brand new. It was the last one there in my size - and also about $400 more than I had planned to spend...

Well, lookit that! They had layaway! They even knocked off the tax - a not so insignificant sum at that price - so I pulled the trigger.

Every ride after that, I got more and more resentful of the Huffy, faithful beast though she had been.

I couldn't stand it any more; and this weekend, crushed some cans, made some sacrifices and paid the new bike off.

Saturday found me astride my new steed, and let me tell you - it is a world of difference. Better gearing, WAY better stopping, easier to pedal, lighter and more comfortable (once I got the seat height correctly adjusted, that is). I'm still having to get used to the suspension - after riding a rigid for so long, it feels distinctly springy - but it's a lot easier on the body slamming down a rutted trail.

So, after four months or so of riding my old bike, I think I showed myself that I was enjoying this new activity enough to invest a little more into it. No regrets riding the Huffy - it kept me humble, as well as kicking my ass. I'm going to keep it, too - so I have a back-up in case the Haro needs to go into the shop.

Oh, and my new Haro? It's orange too :)

The Huffy:

The Haro:


DirtCrashr said...

Oooh! I spent so much time riding bad bikes, building up resentment and anger, when I finally got a good one It was like floating on air. Forks and a shock! My Kona "Dew" only has a fork to keep my neck vertebrae intact, but it also has teh Diskz! I need the exercise.

Kevin said...

Oh yeah, DC - disc brakes FTW!

DirtCrashr said...

Check it out for making your own cheap bike workstand.