Being that I just purchased a brand new Specialized road bike, I thought I would give my personal history of road bike ownership. It's not a long history with tons of bikes, so no need to worry.
I grew up in a small town in South Dakota where we rode on gravel as all of our streets were gravel and the farm roads were gravel. This is where I learned to ride a bike for the first 9 years of my life. Then we moved to Rapid City where there were plenty of hills and the Schwinn Sting Ray was the youth bike of choice. Somewhere between 1976 and 1979, after we had moved to Williston, North Dakota for my final 3 high school years - I acquired my first official road bike. It was a Browning 10 speed and featured a new drivetrain system. That's right, the same company notoriously known for their guns also made bikes in the 70's.
How weird is this data? Bruce Brown was riding a bike developed by Bruce Browning. Wow! I didn't really know that at the time, but pretty odd in my opinion as I found out later in life. I don't even remember where we bought the Browning 10 speed bike. Used at a pawn shop, in an ad we found in the paper, from somebody my Dad knew, or if we bought it new. I just remember getting it. And loving it. Although the color of mine was different, it looked something like this Browing 10 Speed...
Mine was sort of a red/rust color, but featured the same cool dual brakes (could brake from the hoods or the flats), had the nice paint job, white handlebar tape, gum wall tires, etc... . What I liked about the bike had a lot to do with the riding experience available in northwestern North Dakota. I would head out on pavement on these roads that had nice rolling hills, that were straight for as far as the eye could see and rarely see more than a car or two while out for a ride. In other words, it was pretty safe to ride out on the open road. And I liked it. It was a way for me to escape, enjoy the scenery and enjoy some solitude. This was the era of the Sony Walkman, so I always had that along and was listening to Spyro Gyra, the Doobies, Styx, Boston, etc... - typical 70's stuff. No helmet. No jersey. No kit. Just me with shorts, sneakers and I would usually ride shirtless in the warmer months to get the tan. It was open road riding at its best in a very sparsely populated area.
I also learned a lesson about interfacing with traffic on that bike. Although I never had a problem out in the country on open roads, in the town of Williston istelf - I noticed that cars would not notice me. Or if they did see me, they didn't know what to do traffic wise. One time, frustrated with this, I was riding along on a street where I had the right of way and a Jeep Wagoneer was stopped on my right at a stop sign. He saw me, stared me down and just as I was about to enter the intersection, he pulled out in front of me. Luckily, my brakes worked and I managed to stay upright and not hit him. Without thinking, and since his window was down, I gave him the double middle finger salute and yelled the same words to match what my fingers said. He heard and saw me, and quickly did a U-Turn to come run me down. Crap! I booked it into a neighborhood and saw a house being painted by a group of painters that had just finished painting our own house. These painters were a group of high school teachers that would paint houses in the summer for extra income. Most of them I had as teachers, so I rode over to them and quickly told them what was going on just as the Jeep pulled up into the driveway with the guy getting out of the car to confront me. The teachers, which included 3 coaches, took over and quickly the guy retreated back to his Jeep and drove off. The teachers told me about life and advised me to be careful. Lesson learned.
In talking to my folks about it, I started thinking about being visual out on the road. Since our high school colors were orange and black, and my bike was sort of a red/rust darker color that was not highly visible - I decided to strip the paint off of the bike and rattle can paint it an orange shade that matched our high school color. Too bad I destroyed that beautiful Browning paint job and decals, but my hope was the brighter orange color would help cars notice me more. I had no idea you could do that with clothing, but that was then. I also got a big orange flag to stick on the bike which looked really nerdy, but it did improve my in town visibility. The problem was that a calm day in North Dakota means that you only have to use 1/2 a bottle of hair spray to hold the locks in place. So the "safety flag" was a wind magnet and I may as well have been riding with a parachute behind me!! So the "safety flag" came off shortly after purchase and installation. Great for a recumbent trike, but no good for a road bike. Not sure what happened to that bike after I went off to college. But it was my first official road bike filled with memories.
Fast forward decades later to 2006. After college, any biking I did was on a mountain style bike. Whether it was pavement, mountain biking, gravel, bike paths, commuting in Vienna, etc... - I did it on some sort of a bike that would qualify as a mountain bike. Getting ready for RAGBRAI 2006, we needed another bike for the family and I picked up a closeout Specialized Allez entry level bike from Rasmussen's Bike Shop in Des Moines. Carbon fork, lower end Shimano bits, but a good price (I think it was $600-$800, but can't remember the exact cost). It would fit my son (eventually) which is why I bought it and I could get away with riding it, and was a bit of a compromise for me fit wise (too small). But I could flip the stem, put the seat back on the rails and sort of stretch out in a position that I could tolerate. The white color stood out as being visible and the memories of my Browning bike and the visibility issue helped me settle on the white one.
Here is that bike...
Or better yet...
This bike has pretty much been ridden on the paved bike trails here in Iowa - Summerset Trail, Great Western Trail, High Trestle Trail, etc... . When riding bikes in Vienna and in Europe, cars are really used to cycling traffic because there is so much of it, there are bike lanes in the big cities and there are very few altercations between bikes and cars. The same was true when we lived out in the East Bay of California. Bikes and pedestrians rule and everybody stops and gives them space. The same is true where I grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota and my folks retired. It's a blast to ride there because traffic stops for you (as in California and Austria). When we moved to Indianola in 2003, I was shocked at how cars and trucks pay no attention to bikes (or pedestrians). I pulled out my double middle finger salute and yelling when moving here because now that I'm older and probably could care less, I let people have it if they don't stop for me when I have the right of way as a bike - or as a pedestrian. It hasn't worked all that well as I pretty much have somebody pull right out in front of me no matter what day it is. It's probably a bit better in summertime when people are more aware of cyclists out and about. Most of the time, I just assume they are not going to stop and 9 times out of 10 - that's the usual scenario.
I guess tolerating a road bike that I feel cramped on for 8 years was enough. I know how comfortable I feel on my properly sized mountain bikes, and it was time to do the same on a road bike. I am spending a lot of training time on the road bike and we are riding RAGBRAI this year. We also have plans for a bike trip in Italy (one of those posh-posh tours where they haul your gear and you eat your way through gourmet Italian evenings). So the investment will be used and now Zack gets his bike back in time for nice weather outdoor riding.
My search for a new road bike of my own is chronicled in previous posts, but in addition to getting one in "tall size" for myself, I am interested to see if the bright red color helps a bit on the visibility issue and makes cars more aware of me when out and about. Although the white color of the Allez was brighter than my old original Browning, it wasn't enough. There is something about bright red, bright orange, bright neon green to garner a bit more attention. I move pretty quickly on a bike on pavement and I don't think Indianola drivers are aware of how fast a bike can be traveling. I guess that's normal and I am coming to accept it more. So my yelling and middle finger salutes have tapered off to only the most blatant judgement calls these days. It's the end of March, and I haven't used it yet in 2013. ;-)
Here's the new 2013 Specialized Roubaix in Fire Truck red. It's in size GIANT or HUGE with a 64cm frame, super long 260mm headtube and is only the 3rd road bike in my history at age 51. I hope it lasts me a good long time and does what I want it to do.
I will follow up with a report on how it rides after the Easter weekend of testing it out.