A Monologue with the Æther

My Bicycle

Twenty Years of Faithful Service

It came to the forefront of my conciousness recently that my current bicycle was purchased 20 years ago. I started working at S•Car•Go Couriers, Inc. during the last week of October 1993 as the first ever bicycle messenger for what was a vehicle only service. At the time of my hire, I was riding a Franken-bike i.e., one that I built from what ever happened to be lying about in and around my flat. That bike served until sometime around February or March of 1994 when I just couldn’t keep it running. Rather than this bike failure being an issue for my continued employment, John Cowles, the 2nd in command at S•Car•Go drove me to a bike shop where I then purchased a new Trek 960 970 mountain bike. It set me back $1500 USD at the time, but I’ve never regretted the purchase. S•Car•Go may have leant me the money; I really don’t remember, but it was the sort of thing that Mike Cowles, the CEO, did for his employees: make interest free loans.

my Trek 990 Singletrack ZX
My Trek 990 Singletrack ZX as it currently is.
my dinosaur warning bell
I inherited this bell when my oldest decided it wasn't cool.

That 960 lasted me about a year. One day during the rainy season, I was riding down 3rd St in San Francisco in the rain with deliveries when the rear of my bike started riding kind of spongy. This feel often means that spokes are snapping. I got off the bike and checked the rear wheel, no sign of snapped spokes. I finished my deliveries and headed into the Start-to-Finish bike shop that was located on 2nd St around Brannan St or Townsend St. Turns out that I had broken the fillet connecting the seat tube to the bottom bracket. So, Trek replaced the frame and upgraded me to the 990 model in the process. I would go on to break the 990 frames twice at the drop out on the rear drive side which is the typical failure point on mountain bike frames. Every time Trek replaced the frame.

Despite the fact that very little of the original purchase remains, I still consider my bike 20 years old. I think that what survives from the original 960 is the hardware, seat and post, handlebars, stem, bar ends, cranks, and pedals. I replaced the original shifters with Grip Shifts. I upgraded the front and rear dérailleurs although the originals were at the high end of the Shimano family. I’ve replaced I don’t know how many chains and chain rings. I replaced the original bottom bracket with a sealed one. I’ve replaced the wheels at least twice although my current front wheel is a Mavic aluminum quick release from circa 1997; the rear matching Mavic wheel started coming apart about 2 years ago.

That is the story of my bicycle. I continue to use it daily. I commute on it now instead of messengering on it.

CORRECTION: doing a little research revealed that I had incorrectly remembered the original model of my bike which was a 970 Single Track.

UPDATE 2014-06-04: added photos.