are sometimes smooth and silky, and other times tired and tight.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Those Stuyvesant Days of Summer

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Over this past Christmas I was rummaging through some boxes in the attic of my parents house. One of the boxes was full of old copies of bike magazines: VeloNews, Winning, Bicycling, and Cycling Weekly, from the early 90s. Wedged in-between a few magazines was an old Bottechia brochure. It was like finding a picture of an old girlfriend who you had completely forgotten.

When I first started riding in Central Park, I’d see a swarm of 40-50 cyclists fly past me, so I'd spin the one gear that I had on my rusty single speed messenger bike, with the bent frame, as fast as I could to try and catch up. I didn’t know any better, and fortunately for me, and the pack, I could never latch on. If I did I would have probably caused a crash, considering the fact that I had never ridden in a group, and only had a front brake.

After a few weeks of trying to catch the pack, I gave up. Then it dawned on me: a crappy single speed bike was probably not the best equipment to employ when you want to ride with a bunch of racers. So I started lusting after bikes, going into bike shops, staring at the wares, kicking tires, and reading magazines.

The bike that I fell in love with, that summer of 1990, was a Bottechia, the bike that Greg LeMond rode to victory on in the ’89 Tour de France. Whenever I had the chance, I found myself using any and every excuse to go over to west 14th street to Stuyvesant Bikes, to drool at the yellow and purple ADR-Agriel replica Bottechias, and the ultimate object of my desire: a red and white Bottechia SLX with full record, with those stunning, yet hopelessly inadequate Delta brakes. What a bike.

With that bike, anything was possible. Pack ride? No problem. Bike race? No problem. Who knew? Maybe I had some undiscovered talent, that had laid dormant throughout a youth spent in front of a TV, followed by many a sleepless night, sprinkled with four years of chain smoking in college. Who knew? All I knew was that I wanted it.

Well… I wish I could tell you that it eventually became mine. It didn’t. For some reason I changed my mind a few months later. I got a Pinarello instead, and I didn’t even get it at Stuyvesant.

The following summer, now that I had my fancy schmancy Italian racing bike, I decided to try the Central Park pack ride for real – kind of. I was too shy to show up at the meeting point, so I soft-pedaled a bit, somewhere between the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the reservoir. Waiting for the pack to pass.

I heard the revolutions of 50+ cranks, and 100+ wheels behind me, looked around, and saw them coming. This was it: I was finally going to ride in the Central Park pack ride!

I lasted about 2 miles. Lance Armstrong was right: it’s not about the bike.

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