Although I joined the list last Fall, I never offered up a proper introduction. Now that family matters that have kept me in lurk mode for most of 2005 have abated and after receiving a stern rebuke from Miss Manners off-list, it's time to correct that oversight.
I came to this list and cycling by a rather circuitous route somewhat different from most in that it was born of necessity. In my youth (I turn 57 two weeks from today), I was neither a fan of the sport of an aficionado of the machines. When I got my first lightweight, I hadn't ridden a bike since the days of single speed and coaster brakes because puberty had intervened to lead me to more...ahem, interesting pursuits.
So it came to pass at the age of 21 in late '69, I was faced with a crisis. The State of Tennessee had made me an offer I couldn't refuse, because refusing wasn't an option. They had suggested in a rather strong and forceful tone that it would be a good idea if I were to take a sabbatical from the operation of motorized vehicles to contemplate my approach to same. It would have been simple, so said the State, if I had just followed a basic two-step program that seemed to work for my contemporaries.
First, don't go so g****m fast and, second, try not to run into so many things. It seems so easy from the vantage point of maturity, but in the full flower of my youth, it was altogether another matter.
This was a crisis of the first rank and water. For a Southern male of so tender years to be deprived of his /vee-hick-el/ (and it's back seat) was a disaster. But I had no choice but to make the best of it.
It's good that it was the late '60s, with a heightened environmental consciousness and a counterculture lifestyle that had reached even to such outlying posts of civilization as Chattanooga, Tennessee. Already arrayed in tie-dyed T-shirts and Navy-surplus bell bottoms and with my hair creeping steadily toward a convergence with my waistline (of which I had one at the time), I though "bike". True, it had not the cool factor of my recently surrendered MGB (which the astute will point out lacked a back seat anyway), but it had a certain counterculture cachet.
Now what I knew about these new-fangled "10 speeds" that had reached our shores could have fit in a thimble with room to spare. But being a guy and fueled with that certain "guyness" that leads us all to make asses of ourselves now and again, I did my (superficial) research and headed down to my local bike shop (now LBS in that continuing effort to turn our language to acronyms in its entirety). Armed with my rigorous criteria - I had to be able to stand over it and it had to be red - I surveyed all that was on offer.
Now this /was/ Chattanooga and it /was/ 1970 so I couldn't expect representatives of unstable, communist-leaning Europe to be found. Not that I would have known what a Masi or Cinelli was had I fell over it. But I did find a bike that met my criteria and it was from the Motherland, so that was probably OK. I took home a Raleigh Grand Prix.
Not a great bike, but it did the job. For the next four years of so it was my main mode of transportation. Now we didn't know squat about fancy riding kit. We just rode in street clothes, including those zip-up boots that functioned so well as a place to stash a lid. I rode the bike to my job, which was with one of Lyndon's War on Poverty programs. Folks in the projects got used to the hippie white boy on the bike and, though they thought I might have been a card or two short in my deck, were friendly and welcoming. In the winter, I wore a greatcoat from Sewanee Military Academy that I picked up at the local Sisters of Charity. This was a massive wool thing with a cape that I believe weighed more than the bike and may have outweighed me. So it was work, riding that beast.
Then I met the woman that has been my constant companion and mate for the last 31-plus years, returned to school, retrieved my driver's license and the bike was mothballed. Then it was sold. Graduate school and a career took precedence and, although I've always tried to keep in a semblance of shape, I never returned to cycling. To be sure, I kept a collection of engines of ritualized self-abuse around the house - a treadmill, a recumbent bike, a selectorized home gym - but the penny never dropped on cycling until.../ /
We live on a lovely peninsula that juts out into the Tennessee River/Lake Loudon. It's comprised of settled neighborhoods, woods and ridges and you can ride right down to the water. I was sitting in my home office a couple of springs ago and, while looking out the window, it occurred to me that I ought to reconsider the bike. Yes, I was keeping up with my indoor workouts but you can only watch so many reruns of /Bonanza/. I was beginning to have unhealthy fantasies detailing the various ways I could slowly and painfully kill Little Joe.
So I went bike shopping. O brave new world, that has such creatures in it! These things didn't look like bicycles, at least not like what I remembered. Ugly, garish paint jobs. Seat tubes that looked like someone had chopped off a dogwood tree. Titanium, carbon fiber, aluminum. Why would I want a bike made of guttering?
No shop here in Knoxville had a lugged steel frame or bike. On to the Internet where I learned that such critters were still being made. First I found RBR, and then a list member who posts there directed me here.
Courtesy of Gran Fondo in Nashville, I am currently riding an custom Italian Steed Who Can't be Named due to time line restrictions (hint: it begins with "T" and ends in "ommasini" and is lugged). I have two other rides that might be called KOF, but like Brian, I'm not wild about that terminology. I guess I'd rather think of them as "guys who make bikes I like to look at and ride". One is an Andy Gilmour frame from the early '90s that I'm building up for my wife and the other is a custom fixie/SS that can be seen here <http://www.fixedgeargallery.com/2005/aug/PhilSieg.htm>.
I am currently working on two restoration projects that are on-topic. One is a '74 Raleigh International (which is the bike I really wanted all those years ago but couldn't afford) and the other is a c. '78-'79 Colnago Super. I've got an early '60s Bianchi frame hanging in the basement that I must confess some ambivalence over, so who knows where that will go.
This list has been invaluable. Who knows how long the learning curve would have been without you guys and gals? And how much I would have lost on eBay. If my narrative is a little long, well, I've been a free-lance writer in one incarnation, so please try and understand. I hope it's been a little entertaining at least.
Phil Sieg Knoxville, Tennessee
BTW, if Ted Williams is still reading this list, please e-mail me privately.