You may have noticed a certain bike showing up over and over again in the photos on this site. That's my bike. It obliges me by being always at hand, easy to photograph, and, if I may say so myself, fairly photogenic.
When I was in college, I had a Huffy Santa Fe ten-speed ladies' bike. It looked good. It was cheap. I didn't know any better. After all, a bike was a bike. I don't think I had ever even been to a bike shop. The bike came from a department store, and my dad assembled it for me. I rode it occasionally between my dorm and campus, using a cheap combination lock to secure it.
Then, someone told me bike theft was rampant in Chicago, and encouraged me to buy a U-lock. For the first time in my life, I went into a BIKE STORE. Art's Cycle in Hyde Park, as a matter of fact. The salesman showed me a Citadel lock (no longer made, and a darn shame!) and showed me how to use it. I was scandalized that the lock cost $35, more than half the price of the bike (note that lock prices have not skyrocketed since the mid-eighties, when this story takes place).
After college, I met Chris, who was a bike messenger. He was also a bit of a bike snob. Not that he rode anything special, but he aspired to a much better bike. Chris eventually got a job at Turin bike shop in Evanston, where he could purchase bikes at an employee discount. Turin carried the now-defunct Bridgestone brand. Though I was not as avid a cyclist as Chris, I let myself be talked into a Bridgestone MB3 mountain bike. I probably agreed to it largely because I thought the $700 purchase (discounted for an employee to $444) would cement our relationship. It was spring of 1989.
That bike turned me into a cyclist. I rode it everywhere: school, lakefront, store, downtown. Later, when I moved to the north side, I'd ride with Chris to his job downtown, and back to my house for exercise. I rode it to work in River North. I rode from my apartment at Montrose to Hyde Park and back. I rode to my parents' on the far northwest side. After getting married, Chris and I went on a 4-week trip with our Bridgestones on the roof of a rental car, and I got to ride my bike in Wyoming, Oregon, California, Arizona and Colorado. I rode it on shorter trips to Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. Riding our bikes in Palos Hills one scorching summer day, we decided to open a bike shop. I think I got my money's worth.
It is now 2007, and I still have my MB3. It seems heavy by today's standards, but it's quiet and it fits me perfectly. It has evolved into an urban vehicle, with slick skinny tires, priest-style handlebars, rack, panniers, and seasonal fenders. The latest modification was a Brooks leather saddle, which I think makes it look particularly handsome.
I think about getting a new bike. But when you find a good thing, you don't let it go.