Riding My College Sweetheart

If you clicked on this hoping it would tell the story of a sweaty hook-up with my college flame, you’ve been cruelly deceived.  This is a post about cycling.  But because this is my first ever blog post, I’m not above using a tawdry and suggestive title to lure clicks.

False advertising aside, this post is a type of porn–bike porn.  And because I didn’t use a professional photographer to take the pictures, you could say this is amateur bike porn. I’m also pushing 50 and the bike in question is 31-years-old, which would make this blog post mature amateur bike porn.  BTW, don’t do a web search for “mature amateur bike porn” while you’re at work.  Still not satisfied?  Then check out my other blog, sweatyonenightstand.com

Last week I bought my third bike, this one off of Craigslist, from a self-described “old guy” with a love for fixing up vintage bicycles.  We met in the parking lot of a nearby shopping mall, and after a short test ride I said I’d take it.

The bike is a 1986 Schwinn Super Sport.  It had been beautifully restored, newly repainted a spotless, powder coat blue.  The Shimano 600EX (aka 600 tricolor) drivetrain was showroom shiny, and shifted quietly, perfectly.  The frame was old-school steel, built in Japan out of Columbus tenax tubes from Italy.


The Schwinn’s only nod to modernity is the pedals.  There’s no way in hell I’ll ever ride with toe clips again, so I replaced the clunker pedals that came with the bike with a new set of Keos.  I’m also leaning towards ditching the Selle Italia saddle in favor of a whitish Brooks Cambium.  I have a Cambium on my other road bike and love it.

But even with the light tenax tubes, compared to my carbon Trek Domane this Schwinn feels like a tank–who knew five pounds could seem so heavy?  But that’s ok, I didn’t buy the Super Sport for the speed.  No, this was a nostalgia buy.

Graduation from high school in 1987 ended my marching band career forever, so I put a classified ad in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader and sold my Bach Stradivarius trumpet for $650.  I took the money and went to Bike Masters and bought the most expensive bike they had on the floor–a 1987 Schwinn Super Sport.


1987 Schwinn Super Sport
This isn’t my actual bike, but it’s the same year, same model, same ugly paint scheme.  The magenta/white design lasted just one year before Schwinn found something more attractive.


The bike wasn’t beautiful.  I never took to the magenta and white paint scheme, and I quickly got tired of people calling the bike pink.  But it was the lightest, fastest bicycle I’d ever ridden.  I never raced or even joined a cycling club, but I loved the light weight–I hauled the bike up hundreds of flights of stairs to and from every dorm room and shitty apartment I lived in during my five years in the Twin Cities.

But just as I dumped my trumpet the day I finished high school, college graduation was the death knell of the Super Sport.  After college I moved to Washington, DC, and then to Russia, while the bike collected dust in my parents’ house in Sioux Falls.  In 1997 I loaded the bike into our rented Ryder truck and drove out to DC, but between 1997 and 2012 I put less than 100 miles on it.  In 2012, I listed the bike on Craigslist for $250, and a week later sold it for $200.


Since then, I’ve always half regretted selling the Super Sport, so when I saw this one for sale last week I decided to take a look.  I’m glad I did.  It’s smooth and quiet and feels good, really good, going down hill, and the steel frame soaks up bumps almost as well as my carbon Domane.  The extra weight and the fact that it’s only a 7-speed make me work harder up hills, and I like that too.  But after using STI shifters for years, the downtube shifters feel clumsy, and sometimes I forget that I have to reach down to shift, and try to flick my brake lever instead.

This beautiful bike will never be as light, as fast, or as convenient as my Domane.  But this bike reminds me of the hundred times I rode across the Washington Ave bridge and over the Mississippi River to class, and the time I rode along River Road all the way to the airport and stood at that spot just past the end of the runway and watched a 747 land just over my head, or the time I got drunk and rode across campus.  And isn’t that the whole point of a nostalgia buy?

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