April 2009 Archives

"Breaking Away" and Jumping Off
April 3, 2009 9:27 AM | Posted in: ,

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Breaking Away, the movie that launched a million wannabe bike racers. 

I wasn't one of them, but I was still captivated by the story, the characters, and, yes, even the cycling. In 1979, my wife and I were living in an apartment in Richardson, Texas (on Prestonwood Drive, near the intersection of Spring Valley and Central Expressway, for the benefit of those who are familiar with that area). While that location at that time wasn't saturated with development as it is now (we had a huge pasture just across the street), it still wasn't a cycling paradise. We had a couple of 3-speed cruiser bikes, and we went for leisurely rides perhaps once a month. I felt like a high-tech cyclist when I bought a water bottle cage and a matching screw-top metal bottle. 

We didn't become serious about bicycling until a couple of years after we moved to Midland. Our first "serious" bikes were a matched pair of Fuji touring bikes which we purchased for the princely sum of about $350 each. The state of consumer cycling technology at that time included toe clips (upgrade to nylon from steel to save precious grams) and straps (the most coveted were leather, with the imprint of an Italian company), non-indexed shifting with the levers on the downtube, 12 gears (a vast improvement over the 10-speeds that, admittedly, I never had) although our touring bikes actually had 18, thanks to the triple cranksets, and solid chromoly steel frames (Vitus was making those exotic aluminum frames; titanium and carbon fiber were only props in science fiction stories about bicycling, not that I've ever actually read one of them). Our Fujis were, we thought, state-of-the-art because they had "triple butted frame tubes," whatever that meant. Suntour was the big Japanese name in componentry, while Campy was still the standard by which all others were judged. 

Over the years, I upgraded a few components on those bikes, like the seats (remember those ghastly gel-filled touring saddles that made you feel that something weird was going on down there?), derailleurs (I invested in a rear shifter that had a couple of Ti parts, and at gatherings of cyclists, I always tried to turn the conversation in that direction. Yeah, it's got titanium in it. No big deal.), and pedals and aforementioned toe clips. Nothing changed the basic fact that the bikes were still heavy and we were still slow, but we had some great adventures in cycling. 

Cycling technology has changed dramatically during intervening years, but at its core, the act of riding a bicycle should still be about adventure and making memories. That's something that transcends technology. 

By the way, Breaking Away was nominated for Best Picture in 1979, as well as for Best Screenplay. It won the latter Oscar. The movie that won the Best Picture award was Kramer vs. Kramer, proving that Hollywood was, even then, out of touch with the really important things in life. Like bicycling.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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