R.I.P. my Schwinn

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.
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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.
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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.

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10 responses to “R.I.P. my Schwinn

  1. sorry to hear Chris! I heard those noises you speak of .
    On the bright side, you’ve got a really nice new frame and fork to work with…
    This is proof that you just can’t ride aluminum forever. Be glad that it didn’t fail completely on the ride.
    Still trying to find a nice deal on a grouppo.
    Till then, get on that CX steed!

  2. Your tale reminds me of a horse I had some pretty strong feelings for and who finally gave out … Whatever you ride it’s like a partner, a dear old friend you hold in your hands whether it’s reins or handlebars, saddle or seat, and the bond is just there.

  3. Hang her on a wall for a daily reminder of where she took you.

    Speaking of cx, when is your first race?

  4. Ironcross of course! Probably won’t make a Va. series race until No. 4 at Pole Green.

  5. Its always hard to give up a bike, but at the same time with everyone you have to give up means a new one for you. I still have my Schwinn Paramount with a bent head tube hanging in my garage.

  6. Your bi-life-cycle is a good one! You will have to do a post about your messenger days. You did messenger, didn’t you?

  7. Definately hang on to it for old times sake. I wish I still had some of my first bikes.

  8. Dang Chris, you write so well. No wonder you work for the Pilot.
    Good story-can’t wait till next weekend where you’ll have even more stories!

  9. Chad Mantz started me riding as well. I served with him in the Navy on submarines before we came here and he opened up his shop. We were stationed in Hawaii on the SSN-711 and he started me mountain biking. I threw up once trying to keep up with him on a climb. His wife was an awesome rider.

  10. Chad and Christy broke up? 2 bad? Sorry to hear about ur schwinn, but everyone knows that a bikes soul is transfered when the frame brakes. Its just how the road roles.

    good luck w the next one.

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