Only the good die young
Said goodbye to an old friend over the weekend. Tough duty. Been a steady and faithful friend...providing more joy and entertainment than I deserved...but none of us are meant to be here forever. We get to see, feel taste this place and then...and then...what? Heaven, purgatory, nervana, do the lights just go out? Do we get magically transported to a land where we ride unicorns that shoot Skittles out of their butt, the trails are somehow downhill both ways and every switchback has a plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies?
Whatever happens...my friend is not there. It's hanging on my garage wall.
Yep...my old Raleigh John Tomac edition mountain bike is done. It's been like that pair of jeans you can't let go of. Holes here and there? You patch them. Pocket is coming off? Sew it back on. Cuffs are frayed? Trim 'em. They just feel so comfortable...it's ridiculous...they're well beyond their prime and now relegated to only getting worn around the house or out on walks in the trees. They don't see the coffee shop anymore...but man aren't they the perfect pants at 6 AM when you're having that first sip? Then you realize it's not the room that's drafty...it's a huge hole in the rear of your pants and the folks aren't laughing at your joke...they're laughing at your He Man underwear.
My Raleigh was like that. It was my first real mountain bike. Not my first...but the first bike I ever lusted after, ever. When I saw those gawdawful tan Tioga tires...anodized bits and Tomac's signature...Oh man oh man! Had to have it! I found reasons to go into Board and Buckle (quaint little bike shop in Grand Junction ran by a rad family) almost weekly just to look at it. Damn...had to have it. It took a year to save up some dough...and at least a year to convince my Ol' Lady (not so old at that point...but still my Ol' Lady) I *needed* that bike and the loan to augment my savings. But, that day came and I rolled away from Board and Buckle with that shiny new rig in my truck...and straight to Gunny's and Holy Cross...wow! What a ride!
That was my rig...my main squeeze for a long time...we did *every* trail in GJ...Gunnison...Moab...all of 'em. The ones the rags now proclaim require 6" of travel and the latest in hydraulic damping to ride. Whatever. I abused that rig...and it came back for more. Loved that bike...and it rewarded me with horrible traction, skeery steering precision from the Mag 21 and some serious pucker factor performance out of the DiaCompe centerpulls. But...we owned what is now called Lemon Squeezer...before it was legal. The views we saw...the blood we saw...awesome.
The upgrades came...first: Shimano XT v-brakes...legit. Stopping was no longer a proposition my hands made to the levers. Finally...Marzocchi came out with their Bombers! Z2 BAM? I think I will thank you! Speed springs upgrade? Heck yes, I'll rock 100mm and own the DH! Then...oh yes...some years later...the Ultimate upgrade: Spin's three spoke wheels! That was my gift to myself when I finished college at Mesa and we were packing up the wagon and heading west young man...Oregon or bust! Speaking of bust...those awesome wheels lasted about 30 miles until the hub shell exploded. At least they gave me my money back.
Then...well...the top tube died in a semi-tragic accident. Bent.Dead frame I was told...stay off it. Good news: Brockelman gets a new full suspension, a Santa Cruz Heckler, brand spanking new: 1998's finest rig. The old Raleigh pined on the shelf...collecting dust. Kept only as a token of the good old days. Then...that fateful meeting with a framebuilder who says he can fix it! Really? Done! Tomac lives!
All is well. I have my Raleigh back as my secondary bike...awesome. Singlespeed, disc tabs added on the back and back from the dead. Then the upgrades continue: disc brakes...new suspension fork...yep! Still killing it, but the SS conversion isn't awesome...too much fiddling and skipping. Framebuilder, add Paragon sliders please. Done...and awesome. No more skipping or fiddling. Great winter SS rig. But...the party can't last forever. The long loved and steady companion was fading...time was short.
I took the Raleigh out for one last run. A slog around Whypass. The short classic XC layout and geometry and ride of it was painful. Not suited for my nu-Skool habits and mannerisms...preferences...demands. The bike was clearly asking me to slow down in the berms...wanting to back off on the lips of some gaps and tables as I pushed it through. "Please...please...it's OK Brock...let go...I'll be OK...I need to rest. My time is over. We've had our fun. Let me have peace in my final moments, please." rang clear as I rolled down Tree Hugger at 30% of normal velocity. So...we went home. I washed it down. Carefully rubbing the dirt out of the creases in the paint. Running my fingers across the faded paint...I remember that ding! Oh my gawd...that was the best day EVER! Buffing the bike...finding a long scratch in the paint: Ah...my first gap jump...man I was pissed I stacked and scratched my bike. It was almost ritualistic...primal. Saying goodbye the only way I know how to say goodbye to a mountain bike.
It's in the garage. In a place of honor. Able to watch as new bits go on new bikes. Bikes with more aggressive angles, longer forks, stronger tubes shinier bits and fancier whatever...none of whom will ever match that lust factor the Old Raleigh had for me.