Tales from the Tarmac | Hello Old Friend

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.

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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A few blemished parts and a speckling of rust here and there kept my credit card from going into cardiac arrest and top ramen in the cupboard.

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.”