New Bike Day (father-son adventures’ edition)

It is three decades ago since I purchased my first MTB.
At that time I thought it was the best looking thing I had ever seen. It was the end of the Eighties so the Giant Track came in all black with turquoise accents. When first shown to my granddad he called it in Dutch a ‘heuvellandschapsrijwiel’ or hilly-landscape-bicycle instead of the then common All Terrain Bike.

I thought this was funny, especially because where I lived no hills were to be found. I raced it at a local BMX track and collected some medals while doing it. I spend a lot of time riding and at that time didn’t know much about proper maintenance. My dad suggested to give the entire bike a full overhaul so we went to our LBS and purchased a good amount of parts needed to get the bike back in good/safe working condition. We spend a whole day fixing it up and the result was (in my eyes) a brand new bike. I loved it but sadly a few days later the bike we worked so hard on together got stollen out the shed.

Gladly after this bike-theft I was able to replace it through insurance with a more modern bike. I forgot the name of the model but it was a darker red rigid steel Jamis mountain bike. The bike store tweaked it on my request to a more ‘hybrid’ configuration with slicks and road gears. Again I fell in love with this new bike. One day I parked it somewhere outside, locked safely while inside for just a few minutes it was long enough to disappear. I liked the ride so another Jamis replaced the stolen one and this bike had front suspension. While being a more low-end model it was the first serious/trail-worthy mountain bike I owned. Over the years It had a good amount of mileage on a nearby artificial MTB track. After a few years it lost all of its stiffness. Funny enough my LBS had the exact same frame as some old stock with the frame-number being only one apart. I got it and re-build my bike with more updated parts.

As parts wear under the constant grinding of riding in muddy conditions this hobby/sport can quickly become massively expansive. At that time, as a student I thought I found the perfect solution and started working in bike stores. This way I could get the necessary replacements or upgrades for less. In these years, as part of the job I frequented the various Europeen bike expos and it kept me in the loop of what all manufactures were up to.

The next few bikes I got became more serious, and so did the riding. The company that owned the LBS I ran as a manager organized seasonal bike trips for the employees in the Belgium Ardennes and the German Black Forrest. My weapon of choice on these rides was a capable and stylish Commencal full suspension. It was off-white with gold, and had gold hydraulic disc brakes. Both the black Jamis Paragon and the Commencal Sub represent an older style of bikes and both are sadly collection dust on a different continent than were I live.

Soon after moving to the U.S. I found a straight forward, second hand Schiwnn road bike. It has a steel black frame and over the years I have put on some serious mileage driving it to and from thousands of assignments. It lives outside on the porch and is at the end of its long life. At the same time Zane grew out of his aluminum Woom 16 inch kids bike he got for his fourth birthday.

With the ongoing pandemic it took more than a year to find a bike that would fit my (riding)style. My wife found a nice 24 inch Specialized for our son and my eye was caught by a — what I would describe as an understated — brand new Cannondale Trail 5. A simple 29-er hardtail with 1×10 drivetrain, 100mm front suspension and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. The bike looks and feels right for me. As a dad I am simply not interested anymore in fancy machines to tackle the biggest drops.

I think my new ‘heuvellandschapsrijwiel’ will offer a way more responsible ride since now i’ll have my son in tow. I am looking forward on shredding our local trails together and teaching him how to maintain his own bikes to come…

Published by Bastiaan Slabbers

Independent freelance photojournalist. Philadelphia, PA based Dutch citizen. Producing multimedia content for local, national outlets and wire services. Available for assignments in Greater Philadelphia area and abroad.

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