Aspen on the Hill: Birth of a townie bike
May 9, 2018
A good bike never dies in a mountain town. It lives on – squeakier, rustier, older and weather-beaten – but still well-loved and well-used.
After a years-long run of taking me up and down mountains and through slickrock desert trails, my trusty blue Trek has retired to a mellow life as a townie bike. The most I'll ask of it now, after seven years, is to get to and from work or out to the Music Tent or down the Rio Grande Trail.
Most Aspen townie bikes have a glamorous and exciting past life, I'd guess. These beaten things with PVC piping and a Frankenstein-ian assembly of parts – they all started out as somebody's shiny new bike.
My first few years out here, I rode a bargain-basement Jamis that I'd hauled here from New Orleans. Technically a "mountain bike," it wasn't built for these mountains – it would shed parts and pieces anytime I tried to take it on a single track ride.
So as I was getting into mountain biking, I hunted for a serious ride – serious, for me, meaning shocks and disc breaks and the basics – that I could afford. I found this lightly used Trek on Craigslist – gleaming and blue in the photo, well-reviewed on the web, it glowed like a beacon of adventure.
It had one oddity, which probably contributed to its agreeable price: it had mismatched gear-shifters – the left one a standard lever shift, the right a twist-shifter. The original owner, it turned out, was missing a thumb and had modified the gears.
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To make the purchase, I met the owner – who lived in Vail – on a highway pullout around No Name. (No, I do not recommend readers go meet thumb-less strangers from Craigslist on highway pullouts near No Name, but in this case it worked out and I was not murdered.) I test-rode the thing in the gravel and dirt on the side of the road, wrote a check and took it home.
For the years that followed, mountain biking was my go-to summer thing. My mornings often started with a spin up Smuggler and down Hunter Creek. My social life revolved around this bike: evening and weekend rides to Four Corners and Sunnyside, up Buttermilk and on the Government Trail, occasionally out to the downhill course in Snowmass, with spring and fall long weekends in Fruita and Moab, one epic trip camping and riding on the Monarch Crest Trail and a handful of humbling Xterra triathlons.
I had a good run with this bike.
But by last summer, the bike was largely just a mode of transportation and not the portal to high country adventure it had been. I was barely hitting the trails at all. A college friend was paralyzed while biking in Utah and I had a kid on the way, both of which made me rethink the risk-reward balance of mountain biking. I got skittish about technical downhill rides and couldn't help but think about how many times I'd gone over the handlebars.
Over the winter, my trusty Trek stayed parked outside and I kept riding it through the season's dry spells. It held up well and never failed me, though it is looking worse for the wear now. Heading into summer, I'm converting it to carry a kids' buggy behind it to chauffeur my daughter around town – a development I couldn't have imagined when I started riding this bike but that will, of course, be its greatest adventure.
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