Not sure about you, but I’ve always enjoyed a good read that’s related to something I’m interested in; never miss a chance to get into it.
This story begins at a college town in Southwest Missouri in the mid-90s, with a couple of po’ folk buddies who somehow came across a hole-in-the-wall bicycle shop. I remember we were still living in the dorms and were broke as shit, able to get by but always looking for a cheap thrill and therefore just working for the next whatever-came-our-way. One weekend day we were down town touring the old markets for amusement and cheap furnishings for storage space. We came across the aforementioned shop that had a sign immediately announcing “Schwinn,” a blast from the past brand that I immediately associated with as my first bike back in homeland Colorado, a Stingray complete with ape-hangers, banana seat and training wheels. But this shop had a Schwinn “mountain bike” on display in the window? In Missouri, of all places? The whole situation was, well, so mysterious. “Bah,” we said, “let’s go in.”
Historically neither us of had any real interest in searching out a bicycle shop, so I’m pretty sure I know exactly what happened next to me and my pal.....
We were seduced.
This joint would have been like an art museum, had everything not been for sale. The showroom ceiling was HIGH creating a roomy space, light was bouncing everywhere so the frame colors erupted! The aroma was fresh and sterile, the floors polished clean. The walls were covered with what could only be described as bike art, but you could only see it if you managed to break free from navigating through the treasures on high display, like mounted statues of hero generals. New tires full of tread begging to be worn were everywhere and the staggering placement of the bikes was nothing less than choreographed.
Above that, two things:
1} The patrons.
Some customers were mesmorized as well, almost creating a panic (wait, what’s he looking at so intently? Hurry up, I want to see but if I go over right now and it’s the only one, I might scare him into buying it!) Others were obviously serious about cycling and were there for a reason, which added credibility. Subliminal thought process was something akin to “next New Year’s Resolution, man, I’m going to be just as serious as that guy, at the very least!”
2} The sounds.
Like most bike shops, the mechanics are right there exposed and wrenching on a different bike for a different reason, every day. The dry Q&A on the floor could usually be dismissed by strolling close enough to eavesdrop on the mechanic’s banter, that’s really where it was at. A variety of news and cycle gossip could be aired, anything from an upcoming event or new product, down to what NOT to do (or have done) to your bike. Plus, the tools! Watching a naked frame get draped in bling? Kinda sexy. Hearing the spin of a fresh chain clicking through the gears and the cling of well-cared-for tools in action? What a tease...
We were hooked. A couple of dudes too young to bar-hop but who saw an opportunity for a cool recreation, as well as get around like a bad ass. We started saving loose change, “donating” plasma, borrowing from student loans, taking old text books off of friend’s hands at semester end just to resell them. Nothing too original, haha! We made a religion of consistently making weekly rounds to the bike shop and so, we slowly were introduced to the unicorn... Yeah, the Homegrown popped in now and then. Never for long. Two years available to the public and it was already a legend, even back then. We knew it was out of our league but we weren’t blind, when we got tired of looking at the HG pictures on the pamphlets and brochures, we would actually read what they had to say. And they said pretty much all we wanted to know. Probably a little different for everyone, but for us, the Homegrown literature read something like, “ THIS is a real mountain bike. With it, rainbows can be ridden, molten lava traversed. Anything else with two wheels may as well be a plastic Big Wheel with 2 sippy cup holders, one for you and one for your babysitter. And that’s OK. As far as you know.”
That’s really the only time I thought things were a little shady. But, it could be all in my head.
Eventually, we were ready to purchase for the 96 models. My buddy opted for a suspension, black .2 I think, with a yellow Judy. I wanted a hard tail and came home with a .3 because I loved the color. I could afford to upgrade, barely, but the components weren’t as important to me as was the sleeper brown paper bag skin of my chosen.
That’s it in a nutshell. We had our bikes and knew our place. Just out of reach from a tomato (which translated to Well Out Of Reach) but we had our connections and knew our business and we were ok with that! So we went on to be wreckless and have fun and got dirty and experimented with the dangers of clipless vs gravity, played with shock settings, mastered balancing stairways and stop signs, always foreshadowing the inevitable trip back to the shop to collect decals and ponder the new HG paint schemes, livery and RockShox evolution...
And so it’s about time to revisit that old bike that has stayed with me through so many moves. At this point, I don’t ride enough to justify dumping a lot of money, just want to freshen up a bit. I had neglected for years, took on the occasional spin but nothing real regular; just this last summer threw about $50 in cheap tires and tubes plus a set of pedals at it, then hit the asphalt bike lanes on the work commute. Front hub finally gave out and the OEM crankset teeth are about done, high torque would be bad news. I thought heavily on just finding a new-to-me homegrown but at the end of the day, more enjoyment would be had showing some love to this young-at-heart Schwinn.
This project is something of a build, I guess. But as any project goes, a sequence of events is gonna take place. Something most of us can identify with and appreciate: reaching for and grasping at, more NOT than often getting a grip on the elusive. An old bike, not a Homegrown, but the spirit is there!