Little did I know in 1988 that a chance encounter with a college friend would lead me here . . .
As previously chronicled, my later high school years were a dark period in the arc of my Bikeism. I attended a regional Parochial High School (too far to bike to), and was obsessed with baseball (vice bikes), which wound up paying for my college education at West Virginia University. My Freshman year was spent adjusting to college classes and D-1 pitching, so bikes still weren't on the radar. However, everything changed at the beginning of my Sophomore year. I was walking up High Street in downtown Morgantown, when I ran into one of my buddies. He was on a brand new mountain bike, and was biking up the hill in the granny gear with zero effort. Having struggled up many a steep hill with maximal effort on my 10 speed Huffy, I was instantly intrigued. Mountain Biking was still a fairly new activity on the east coast, so his appearance was much more exotic than a mountain bike in a college town would be today. I stopped him and we chatted about his bike for a while, with him going on and on about all the great trails around Morgantown and how West Virginia was going to be the Colorado of the east. I needed no further convincing -- he triggered an immediate longing in me for my very own mountain bike -- I simply HAD to have one. The bike void in my existence that had gone unfilled since I bequeathed the paper route needed to be filled!
So, I strolled about half a block to the bike shop on High Street where they had one of these in the window:
So beautiful! However, the price was somewhere in excess of $500 -- way beyond my starving college student budget. So, I went home from the bike shop with a bunch of catalogs (that's what we did in the pre-internet days, folks) and pored over them until I identified this one for under $300!
The Schwinn Probe, with an entire 15 gears! It's triple chain-ring gave me the amazing granny gear I had witnessed on High Street, and its sturdy frame and knobby tires made it the perfect go-anywhere bike. While I had a car, I had to park it on the street, where spots were hard to come by. I instantly started planning trips around town on the bike, if for no other reason than to save my parking spot. I immediately became the only member of the Mountaineers Baseball Team to bike commute to all practices (great warm-up!). Weekends were spent exploring the, hilly, country roads around Morgantown, and, once my buddy Chaz got his own Stumpjumper, heading up to Cooper's Rock State Forest in his VW Bus for some fabulous mountain biking.
The bike came home with me each summer where we tackled some amazing trails in upstate NY's Shawangunk Mountains, and, throughout my college years, it pretty much became the same appendage that my Huffy's had been in my youth.
Except for the tragic period after my beloved Probe was swiped, I haven't been without a bike since . . .
Next up: The Cannondale Years