Way back, sometime in the mid 90's, my parents decided that it was time to get my brother and I new bikes. Our Huffy bmx bikes were too small for us and we needed something with gears and proper brakes. My mother loaded us up with our uncle, who was an avid road rider, and drove us to the big city of London, Ontario to buy new bikes. I was thrilled. The thought of a new bike with gears and knobby tires was very attractive to my budding adventurous spirit. Eventually my mother settled on buying us a set of Wal-Mart bikes.
Mine was a sliver Triumph Sahara. It had 15 speeds, rim brakes, and an oversize steel frame. It was my first "mountain bike". I use the term mountain bike very loosely as it was not well suited to any off road use. That bike took me places. First it was beyond our street, then to the outer limits of town, and eventually down to "Dick's Hill" where the mountain biking bug caught me. At first, the ride to Dick's and back was an all day epic, covering about a 5km round trip. Eventually my friends and I built some new trails in the woods down there, and after piecing together some ATV trails, we had a decent loop.
I did my first bit of snow biking on that rig. I remember putting on a flannel lumberjack jacket and heading into the trails along North Creek. It was cold and wet but I just couldn't stay off the bike all winter. The old Shimano Indexed thumb shifters worked like shit but I didn't seem to notice, or the fact that the brakes would barely slow you down being old sidepull brakes working on steel rims.
I learned how to fix bikes on that old Triumph as well. The gears needed constant adjustment, and cable replacements were frequent as the plain jane steel cables from the local hardware store would rust nearly solid in a few months. It was a constant struggle to keep the wheels running true, I spent many hours with an adjustable wrench turning spoke nipples in all sorts of directions. Brake adjustments were usually done with a nice set of vice-grips. The bike did feature internal cable routing, although the holes in the steel frame seemed to weep rust coloured water all too frequently. Hub, bottom bracket, and chain maintenance consisted of a healthy dose of WD-40 every now and again, the tires got air when they were flat. It was a ghetto maintenance regime but I slowly learned what every nut bolt and screw did on the bike, and how to get odd noises to go away.
As the years went by the bike wore down more and more. Lots of stuff broke and was replaced with whatever I could find that would fit. When it finally died it must have had over 5000km on it. I remember the day it died quite well too. My friend and I rode from town out to a stretch of trails near LaSalette, it was a cold winter day and we were laden with big heavy boots and jackets. Our backpacks were stuffed with extra socks, food, and some screwdrivers and vice grips in case of a mechanical issue. We were having a blast, riding the frozen packed snow when disaster struck. I was riding up a slight incline when the worn out middle chainring finally gave out and folded over at 90 degrees and jammed into the chainstay on its way around. The pedals were jammed and I was going no where. I had pushed the bike out of the bush when my friend and I came up with the bright idea that he would tow me home with a bungee cord he happened to have in his bag. We made it about half of a kilometer when he said "Hey, this is working out alot better than I thought it would" immediately followed by the cord snapping. I pushed the bike all the way home after that, nearly 8km of walking.
The poor old Triumph was done. Worn out and not worth fixing it was put aside to live out the last few months of its life in the back of the shed. The funeral was a sad day for me. My dad was putting shingles on our roof and had rented a dumpster for the cleanup. I lifted that heavy old Triumph over my head one last time and heaved it into the bin. The old girl had been my sidekick for the last few years and was just tossed away like garbage. It might still live way down deep in a landfill somewhere, slowly rusting away into nothing, or maybe it was melted down and turned into a few nuts and bolts.
I was so proud of that bike when I got it and it took me places and showed me things that I would have never seen otherwise. I feel like my life could have turned out much differently if my parents had decided to buy me something else, like a skateboard or a mini bike, but I'm sure glad they bought me that mountain bike. That Wal-Mart bike was a gateway drug, which led to my addiction of all things bicycle that has been a part of me since that bike. I am thankful that I owned it, that my parents bought it for me, and that I didn't know there was anything better out there. That bike was the best bike in the world to me during the time I owned it. It saw more blood sweat and tears than any other bicycle I've owned. There is a reason I'm a cyclist and a licensed mechanic, and I think that bike had alot to do with both. Thanks mom and dad!
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.