2.10.2010

Back in The (Wednes)Day…



I bought my first mountain bike the summer of '85—damn near ground zero for this fledgling category's explosion on the scene. The machine that fueled my dreams of multi-speed cycling was a 1984 Rockhopper, the low-priced sibling of Specialized's iconic Stumpjumper. Four-ninety-nine was the sticker price on the red tri-moly 26er with Suntour components, but the shop's proprietor knocked a hundred bucks off because the CW Freestyle Team and I had just done a trick show in his tiny parking lot for 750 neon-clad teenagers. Never underestimate the motivational force of in-field promotions.

A couple stops down the road on CW's Stylin' The States Tour, our team's headliner ponied up for an MTB of his own. Mike Buff and I spent down days that summer riding our mountain bikes in places like Philly's Squirrel Hill, the fairgrounds in Flushing, Queens andGreenville, North Carolina's backwoods. For as much fun as we had dipping our toes into this new sport, the excitement didn't stick when we returned home. Freestyle newcomer Dizz Hicks stole the show that summer, so we gave Mike Buff the boot and picked up a new kid named Gary Pollack to fill his shoes. With no one on the program to share the MTB experience with me, my red Rockhopper collected dust beneath the staircase in my Fullerton apartment while Dizz, Ceppie, Pinky and I did two more US tours over the next 15 months.

By the time I left CW in late '86 for a product and marketing gig at GT, the fun I had in the summer of '85 on cherry-popping Rockhopper was a faint memory. I wouldn't get another mountain bike until the fall of '87—a GT Avalanche from my new employer's line of All-Terra machines. I wrote the copy for GT's first MTB catalog and TV commercial in those days, so I felt a special connection with the fillet-brazed Toyo-built Triple Triangle frame on that obscenely expensive bicycle. Friends in GT's art department and I rode our MT in Huntington Central Park on lunch breaks, and one of the more enthusiastic artists on staff even convinced me to enter my first off-road race—a 32-mile slog across sand washes from Ocotillo Wells to Anza Borrego, CA. My deskbound ass was ill prepared for the misery of that experience, and I punctured three times with only two tubes in my saddle pack. I bummed C02 cartridges from fellow competitors to fix the first two pinch flats, but when the third one occurred near an orange grove less than a mile from the finish, I threw my Avalanche beneath the trees and ate tangerines until Scott rolled up in the GT rig to save my sorry ass. That was the first and last time I raced a mountain bike, but I wouldn't trade the experience for all the inner tubes in Thailand. My early mountain bike adventures were packed with a sense of the unknown, and the GT people who dragged me into them were as gung-ho as I was. Good Times.

Bill Duehring was GT's recently hired adult line product manager in those days, and it was he who rekindled my passion for serious bicycle design and technology. I'd been to Taiwan on several occasions before I joined GT, but Duehring introduced me to people and technology at companies like Suntour and Shimano. It was an under-grad experience that Bob Margevicius elevated to honors level when I joined Mongoose in '89, but Duehring's eye for design and detail can not be denied. Thanks to both gentlemen for giving me the nuts and bolts and the dollars and sense you need to build a great bicycle.

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4 comments:

Blotto said...

Dizz Hicks was/is my hero

Zito said...

pretty interesting mcgoo. i started riding mtb when i was 10 in 89. my ol man was into it & got me a 24" wheeled diamond back, i later took over his 87' street stomper & turned it into a dirt worthy machine. im still riding mtb 20 years later & planning on doing the 24 hours of allamuchy this summer.

Anthony Berardi said...

Hey MCGoo,

Is it true you tried to drink 5 gallons of milk on one of those CW tours to win back some money from the Hutch team?

AB

Harold McGruther said...

It's true. Some ideas are worth forgetting. This is one of them. Cost me $180 to dodge that one. Woody Itson still loves telling that story.