Just over five years ago, Michele, who was pregnant with Millie, and I took Ellie to Colorado to see her brother Michael and his family in late May. We hiked several times, including in Rocky Mountain National Park, and strolled on Boulder’s Pearl Street. There I walked into University Bicycles, where I saw it. It was a black Schwinn Fastback Pro. The Ultegra-equipped bike retailed for about $1900, but was already a year old, so it was on clearance for $1300. I bought it for myself for my birthday and it literally changed my life.
I started riding here and there… 10, 15 miles. I even rode all the way to Ocean View and back for a whopping 20 miles. About a month later in Richmond, I ran into Chad Mantz, who ran a now closed bike shop in Port Norfolk. I started riding with him and his then wife. The first time I couldn’t even hold on when the speed got up to 19mph. Each Saturday, I held on longer and longer and eventually I began playing in the sprints. I started racing, bought a mountain bike, then a cyclocross bike and raced those too. I lost weight, inches on my waist and gained a new kind of confidence. It all started with that Scwhinn.
I’ve piled up about 15,000 miles on that bike in the past five years, each year putting more and more miles on it. One day while riding in Norfolk, the rear shifter/brake lever fell apart in my hands. I replaced it with a used Dura-Ace. I crashed it hard in the Norfolk crit two years ago when a rider went down in front of me and I flipped over him. Last year, the handlebars failed and I learned a valuable (and painful) lesson about replacing aluminum bars. Earlier this year, the hubs started to go on the stock Velomax wheels, so I bought new Mavics rather than overhauling the wheelset.
But as an old bike, it’s had its creaks and groans. A new one emerged on an easy ride around Norfolk on Friday morning. I thought it was just the bottom bracket needing a litle TLC. I rode it again hard on Saturday morning, doing three loops on the Conte’s ride for 57 miles. They were her last. The creak drove me crazy, so I dropped her by the shop. They called five minutes after I got home. The frame was cracking around the bottom bracket.
This isn’t the best photo. (I don’t know how to shoot real close-up.) But you can sort of see the crack in the upper left hand corner. It runs down to and along the weld and around the seat tube on the center right.
I’ve been planning to retire her. I bought a teammate’s Cannondale CAAD9 team frame and planned to build it by next spring for racing season. I’ll be building it a lot sooner. I didn’t want to end it this way. I wanted to put the Schwinn to pasture on my terms. Maybe I’m foolish, getting attached to a piece of welded aluminum, but she’s carried me far and meant a lot to me. She’s made me a healthier person and introduced me to some of my best friends. I’ll miss the old Schwinn.