There’s something about running into a long-lost friend—you know, the kind you use to spend every waking moment with only to drift apart once high school rolled around. Bumping into them years later though, after just a few minutes of small talk it’s almost as if nothing has changed.
I only mention this because I just experienced it. However, this “friend” I ran into just so happened to be a bike. Not just any bike mind you, but the first bike I built from the ground up. Competing collegiately in triathlon, time to train was much more plentiful than my cash reserves. Having fully caught the bug though, I couldn’t help but lust over the carbon time trial bikes I’d see underneath competitors at races, knowing painfully I’d never be able to walk into a bike shop and simply buy one off the floor.
Instead, my credit card and Ebay became best friends, and over a long, painstaking six months, I slowly amassed, part by part, my first ‘real bike.’ Sure, my current bike at the time was a perfectly fine aluminum-framed road bike, but between it’s relaxed endurance geometry and heavy build kit certainly nothing about it said ‘racy.’
This bike was different. I honed my resolve—and maxed out my internet connection (not to mention my credit card), placing last-minute bids in hopes of snagging a derailleur here and a brakeset there for pennies on the dollar. Placing the winning bid on a Felt B12 time trial frame, I’d never been so excited and remorseful at the same time. I was taking the shortcut over to Debt’s house and I was running, not walking.
Finally, after looking forlornly at the frame every time I opened up the front closet to grab a coat, I had pieced together everything I needed to finally build it up.
But, several yards of cables and housing later, it wasn’t just a bike, it was more than simply a sizeable investment. It was my first real, honest-to-goodness race bike. And I was more proud of it than anything I owned.
Over the course of three more collegiate seasons, several Half Ironmen and two full Ironmen I racked up thousands of miles worth of saddle time. I flat-out rode the crap out of it, loving every single minute of it. Eventually though, I graduated, taking a job as an editor at a cycling publication.
Now, fortunate enough to have been in the position where I was tasked with riding the latest and greatest the bike industry had to offer I quickly became spoiled. You see, riding an überbike that costs more than a fully loaded Kia Rio certainly has its appeal. I took a break from triathlons, riding road and mountain bikes almost exclusively.
Not so much as touching the Felt up until a few days ago, I was in the middle of cleaning out the garage, when my glance caught it hanging lonesomely in the corner. Feeling guilty, I decided it was high time we caught up. Kitting up and taking down my ever-faithful Felt from the rafters, dusting off the saddle and clipping in, the first few pedal strokes felt a bit unfamiliar, but soon the memories came flooding back and I settled into a reassuringly familiar cadence. My fingers felt at home on the shifters I can remember buying in the middle of an all-nighter spent studying. The wheelset I rescued from a teammate’s back yard rolled smoothly, save for an ever-so-slight hop I never could quite get rid of. I smiled at the charity base bars I had taken a Dremel to in order to make them ‘compatible’ with the brake levers I waited patiently through five separate auctions to buy.
The frame wasn’t nearly as light as I remembered—and it certainly wasn’t the stiffest, the components weren’t exactly top-of-the-line—hell they didn’t even match. The brake levers relied more on super glue than their expansion plugs to stay in place, but, none of that meant anything. Instead, all I could do was smile and say, “Hello, old friend.”