|From The Early Years|
The Story of My Bike – December 27, 2000
I ate rice for dinner every day for three months to save up to buy my first bike. Well, my first real bike. A bike worthy of the mountains, a bike built to take the abuse I was planning on giving it…a 1995 Candy Blue GT Karakoram. It was my prized possession. Mountain Bike Magazine gave it Mountain Bike of the Year in 1995. I’ll never forget the day I bought her. I used 300 dollars from my tax return, and put the rest on my new credit card. (Sure I ate rice for three months saving, but I only saved about a hundred dollars that way. I figured I could always pay the card off later, at least I could ride NOW. I didn’t pay off that card till 1998!)
I headed straight for the trail closest to my apartment, I had to ride up one mile of the steepest road to get to it, but it was so easy climbing, I wanted more. I hit the dirt and rode till I had stretched the cables so much I couldn’t shift, so then I headed back to the shop for my first tune up. The next day it was raining, but I went out anyway to see how she handled in the mud. I could barely recognize her after that ride. The candy blue I had dreamed about for months was now chocolate. I gave her her first bath, and she was pristine once again.
I started riding as much as I could. Twice a week, three times a week, then after four times in one week, I knew I had to ride a straight seven days. So I did. It still didn’t seem like enough.
Then came my first trip to Moab, (actually it was my second. The first time was with all my biking friends but I didn’t have a bike so I just hiked in Arches while they rode Slickrock. After that trip I decided that I had to have a bike.)
Back to that first real trip to MOAB…We rode Gemini Bridges, then Poison Spider, and then I did the practice loop at Slickrock, but still wanted more. Nearing the end of the day we decided to ride Porcupine Rim. We rode from Slickrock up the jeep trail five miles to the trailhead (this was before the improved road to the TH). Needles to say, two and a half miles up Porcupine, I bonked. My friend Mike bonked at the same time and fell over right into a bush. (Good thing we turned around then, we never would have lasted the ten-mile decent of awesome porcupine singletrack that lay ahead of us. We came back to Porcupine a few months later and tore it up!)
After Moab came the Mecca to Durango. I have hundreds of pictures of the same three guys different locations. The years passed on, all my friends started to upgrade, they went from chromoly LX to aluminum XT, and finally to hand crafted XTR full-bounce Betties as we called them back then. I, in the meantime watched them. I upgraded to new tires, new grips and bar ends, clipless pedals finally… a few new wheels and drivechains, but all the while the candy blue Karakoram persevered.
I watched my friends pass me on the trail. They cleaned wicked descents that bucked me right off my bike. They learned to ride bigger trails. I had gone as far as I could go with my hardtail, I needed to upgrade. But I just couldn’t. There was no money. So I kept sinking nickels and dimes and an occasional quarter in to the Karakoram.
For the last four years and eight months I rode her like she was magic. She lasted through the 5th water Epic with Mark and Tige, the Mad Cow that chased Dave and I for a quarter of a mile, the mountain lion that stared Eric and me down 50 yards away, all the solo rides I went on because none of my friends could go. Six girlfriends! The endo that threw me into a poison ivy patch, the airport loop “trail” in Sedona that bucked me into a full roll over cactus, and the hundreds of near crashes (you know what I mean). She has ridden down the Poison Spider Portal four maybe five times (my head is still ringing from that huge rock that got in the way of a near perfect injury free endo, so I can’t remember).
She was with me or at least near me when I endoed on a steep singletrack up Windy Pass in the Wasatch and was hurled through the sky over a ledge only to be spared by the tender branches of a beautiful pine tree (no one still believes me that the tree saved me from death or at least from rolling down the side of a mountain, but it is true. That’s the only problem with solo riding, there’s no one to back up your miraculous crash stories) Ahh the Karakoram…
So I was cleaning her again yesterday morning, using my toothbrush to get inside the chainrings to clean the chain because I don’t believe in buying one of those chain cleaning thingers, when while gently wiping away the mud from my candy blue glittered with paint chips from various crashes Karakoram I noticed an unfamiliar paint chip array on the top tube weld joint with the head set. She was cracked! How could this happen? Maybe she wasn’t cracked, she just looked cracked…Careful examination revealed it was true, she had had it. I rode her so hard over the last four and a half years, she deserved a break. I had always thought she would last forever, and I would keep her even when I got a new bike, she was part of my soul, she made me the rider I am today. All these thoughts rode through my head…The thought of just sending her off to the junk pile was unbearable. Then I remembered, she had a lifetime warranty…
So I called a few bike shops, they said the red tape could take months…Then I called GT, they told me I needed to take her in to a dealer to assess the damage. Was it normal wear, manufacture defect, or neglect? Neglect? It couldn’t be, I cared for her every day. Sure I pushed her but it was only within her potential. One dealer told me to leave the bike with him while I went home to find the paperwork on my four and a half-year-old bike. Like it was neatly stored away in a filing cabinet labeled “Bike Paperwork”. Get real. Was it was mixed up somewhere in a box of old bike parts that I couldn’t throw away. Or was it with the Mag 21 rebuild kit I bought but never used cuz that Mag 21 keeps on rebounding fine. Most likely it was with all the unaccounted for tire tread rubber that this month issue of Bike Magazine so thoughtfully brings to light.
The dealer said he had to mail the frame to GT, and they had the final say on the condition. No way was I doing that, I needed to find a dealer I could trust and that could trust me, one that cared about me and my passion for riding. And that was the Mom and Pop Bike/Lawnmower shop down the street. To my surprise they were also a GT dealer! The very kind and skilled dealer that looked at her concluded that it was not normal, nor was it neglect. A few phone calls later, GT is sending me a new frame. And not only a new frame, but the Karakoram’s rich cousin the Avalanche. So in my own slow paced way I’m finally joining my friends in tier two with an Aluminum upgrade. Who knows five years from now I just might join the Full bounce Bettie Team.