1979 was beginning of the end of my short lived amateur racing career. I was a first year Junior racing in the USCF. 1978 had been a great year. I had made it to National Championships in the Intermediate Boys age group. I finished 13th. I had big hopes for my first year as a Junior. A move from Pittsburgh in the late summer of 1978 to the Chicago suburbs changed the way I trained. I didn’t realize it till years later, but I never adjusted my training to make up for the loss of the high quality club racing I had done in Pittsburgh. I became frustrated and it was no longer fun. By time 1980 came around I decided to take a break from racing. I never went back.
This picture was taken in January of 2006. I had lived in Duluth, Minnesota for a little over 4 years at the time. I had been car free for several years. I was learning how to ride through the harsh winters we have here. I was becoming weary of replacing drive train parts every Spring. Six months of salt and sand on the roads was drastically shortening the life span of many of the components on my bicycles.This Surly Cross Check was my first attempt at simplifying my bicycles and trying something that might work better in the winter.
I decided a fixed wheel (fixed gear) bike was the way to go. No gears, no deraileurs to gunk up. I bought the frame new from a local shop. The shop then worked with me to set it up as a fixed wheel with durable mid range parts. It had Surly hubs. Sugino Cranks. Bull horn handlebars with one brake, a front brake. The drive had a double cog in the back, a Surly Dingle Cog with a 17 tooth and 20 tooth cogs. The front rings were a Rocket 41 tooth and a Surly stainless 38 tooth.
It was a wonderful experiment. It didn’t pass the “ideal winter bike” test with our hills. I could ride any hill in Duluth with the gearing, but….I needed to stand on the pedals to do it. When there was snow on the roadway I would lose traction as soon as I stood up. When seated I couldn’t turn the pedals over on the steeper hills.
Although I discovered I enjoyed riding a fixed wheel bicycle, it didn’t work for some of the winter conditions I faced. I owned this bike until 2010. I would eventually buy a Nexus 8 speed wheel to use in the winter. I would switch it back to fixed wheel for the summer. This was a period of time in my life where I put on more miles than any other time. From 2005 to 2010 I logged more than 22,000 miles on this bike with it set-up as a fixed wheel.
When I replaced this Cross Check with a new Cross Check project bike, I stripped down the frame and Derrick in Kentucky bought it. I’m not sure if he still has it or not.
My biggest adventure did not involve a bicycle. On March 6, 2001 Susan and I shouldered our backpacks and walked to the peak of Springer Mountain, Georgia. On Springer we took in the view, took a few pictures, took a few deep breathes, and took our first steps north. For the next six months we continued north until we reached the summit of Mount Katahdin. Six months of hard days, incredible experiences, and the time of our lives. By breaking out of my comfort zone I found how to feel completely free and have experiences I thought I’d never have.