It threatened to ruin my back every time I hung it in the garage. Friends laughed at the sight of the perpetually malfunctioning contraption. And, toward the end, I couldn’t even sell it for $25 at a garage sale.
I called my first mountain bike the Beast because it weighed a staggering 44 pounds (twice the weight of my current bike) and had a bulky frame only its owner could love.
The silver Mongoose was an impulse buy at a warehouse store long before I got serious about cycling. It looked kind of cool and was classified as full-suspension even though a bike mechanic later told me the rear shock was little more than a glorified mattress spring.
In cycling vernacular, it was a department store ride. The bike was just fine for tooling around town and cruising community paths, but not made for the rigors to which it’d eventually be subjected.
Still, I loved the behemoth. In fact, I thought I’d loved it to death until last month when an interesting message showed up in my inbox.
Details were scant, but I was thrilled to see the Beast had found new life roaming the South Sound thanks to a Browns Point organization called Bikes for Kids.
As I scanned the email, my old bike’s first life flashed before my eyes.
I recalled the day it came home as a box of parts. My wife and I hadn’t been married long, and after hours of work in the rec room she pointed out her dad probably would have finished in half the time.
She was right. The brakes probably would have worked better, too. I nearly crashed into my own car on the first test ride.
Despite good intentions, the bike spent considerable time in the garage until I was offered this job writing about the outdoors. My editor asked me if I would ride the annual Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic and file a story along the way. “Sure,” I said. “I have a bike.”
The Beast was just about the worst bike for the job. I was seriously contemplating quitting by the time I arrived in Spanaway (about 40 miles).
Not only was the bike slow, but I hadn’t bothered to train enough to accustom myself to 200 miles on the one-size-fits-some bike seat. It’s been more than a decade, and I still struggle for words that adequately describe the discomfort but are still appropriate for a family publication.
I finished the ride and not long after I took the bike to the shop.
“You rode the STP on this? Why?” the mechanic said, as he picked it up and hung it from a scale. “Forty-four pounds. You’re crazy.”
He didn’t say this in the way that conveys a respect for doing something genuinely challenging. His inflection implied “I have torque wrenches that are smarter than you.”
The bike was there for my first mountain biking trip. Despite our lack of experience, a friend dragged us to Skookum Flats, an expert-level route along the White River. Without the benefit of proper pedals, I was bleeding from my shins after less than 100 yards.
It bucked me over the handlebars on the ashy Plains of Abraham near Mount St. Helens. We logged thousands of miles and made hundreds of memories.
As it aged, I kept placing it in situations for which it wasn’t designed and then put up with the results. But it put up with me, too.
I nearly lost it overboard when my friend’s boat hit a wave and took flight during a trip to Blake Island. The Beast was my guinea pig as I learned the do’s and don’ts of bike maintenance. I bent tires and broke spokes.
It paid me back once when the rear brakes broke during a 1,000-foot descent on a forest road near Eatonville. Clearly it was time to upgrade, but it seemed nobody wanted my old bike.
Then, in 2014, I made arrangements to visit the Old Spokes Home.
This is the nickname for the Browns Point workshop for Bikes for Kids, a Marine View Presbyterian Church community outreach program started in 2000. Volunteers take in used bikes, fix them up and donate them to organizations that make sure they find their way to people in need.
While most go to kids, larger bikes go to adults. Most bikes stay in the community but some have found their way to places such as Vietnam, Ghana and Sierra Leone.
When I handed off the Beast to co-director Bill Peterson I spent the day watching the men work. He told me about 55 people volunteer each year. In 2015 they received 1,310 bikes.
In spite of their skill and dedication to getting bikes to anybody who needs one, I was pretty sure they’d turn down my raggedy ride. But there are no lost causes, Peterson said. If the bike can’t be salvaged, the crew sells it as scrap and uses the money to buy parts for other bikes.
When I didn’t hear from Peterson I figured this must have been the Beast’s fate.
Then, almost two years later, an email arrived. Peterson wrote, “On July 12, 2015 your bike found its new home with a client of one of our contact outreach workers who is with the Metropolitan Development Council, Support Services to Veteran’s Families. A veteran in either Olympia or Tacoma received your bike.”
Just as I hoped. The Beast is in a better place.
Donate a bike
For information on donating a bike to the Bike for Kids program, visit mvpbikesforkids.webs.com.