Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy Birthday.

My dad got one of the very first mountain bikes in Spearfish, SD.  Heck, it was one of the first mountain bikes in the Black Hills...maybe even South Dakota.  It was a 1983 Cannondale, with a 26" front and a 24" rear wheel, Shimano XT "Deer Head" components and Mafac brake levers that could have easily worked on a motorcycle.  That frame, oh that frame, made of aluminum (back when a good chromoly frame was the only choice) and it had a downtube about the size of a beer can.  Painted in a dark charcoal grey with chrome bullmoose handlebars, that was one cool looking bike. 

I suppose that is what sent me on my path of mountain biking, even though my dad didn't ride his off-road a ton, mostly on gravel roads and such.  Back then, Cannondale had a really cool upgrade program that allowed the original owner to send their old frame in, regardless of condition, for a new model for only like $50 bucks.  So, somewhere around 1992 or so, we did trade up for a new, shiny red C'dale frame.  With a Rock Shox Quadra fork on it, it was about as technologically advanced as my pops would ever need for a new bike. 

I think that this is the exact look and gesture he gave me after the
Now with his new bike, after much cajoling from my brother and I, we persuaded him to ride up Lookout Mountain with us.  He made it to the top and actually did pretty well considering he was, well, old.  Nah, actually looking back on it, he was not any older at the time than I am now, but when you're only 20 or so, 40+ years old seems old.  After taking in the views we descended the mountain, with my brother and I pulling way ahead of him.  Unbeknownst to us, he had crashed somewhere along the line, getting himself tangled up in his bike while we blasted on down the trail, back to my waiting vehicle and off we went, thinking the old man had stopped off to take a leak, smell the flowers or was just taking his sweet time.

Needless to say, that was probably the last true off-road ride with him, for multiple reasons.  One, he didn't trust me anymore to take him on a trail, even though I promised him I'd always wait for him.  Two, just a short while later he would be diagnosed with Hepatitis C and since he was on some sort of chemotherapy for the next 10+ years in a futile attempt to control his unusually aggressive form of Hep C, it left him too sick to do much physical outdoor activity.

The "frankenbike" SS.
Somewhere around 2005, I finally bugged him enough to get his C'dale from him, as he knew he'd probably never ride it again and if he was ever able to get back to riding a bike, a nice cruiser/comfort bike would be the most he'd need.  So, I took the bike, stripped the cherry red paint, had it painted flat black, and turned it into a singlespeed.  In a stroke of genius which turned out to be paying homage to that original C'dale of his, I had a custom 29'er fork made for it, with as low axle to crown measurement as I could make to keep the handling somewhat normal.   So, now it is flat black (looking somewhat like the original bike's charcoal grey), with a 26" rear wheel and a 29" front, giving a similar profile to the original 24"/26" configuration.

The 29th would have been my dad's 63rd birthday, so happy birthday Pops.  I hope on that day, wherever you are,  you got that replacement cruiser and went for a spin.  Or better yet, I hope you got a cherry red Cannondale and went on an off-road ride.  I just hope if you crash, whoever you're riding with waits for you this time.

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