My Purple Problem

Mountain bikers seem to be obsessed with equipment. At least, more so than their roadie brethren. Sure there are exceptions, but it seems that most mountain bikers yearn for the shiniest, newest, trickest, most expensive bikes and bits. Happily bikes aren't all that expensive (in comparison to, say cars and houses) so people of even modest means can and do have the bike of their dreams.

I too have caught upgrade fever. I did put up a fight, I really did. I got my mountain bike, a Trek 950, in January 1996. It was a nice rigid steel bike with a mix of STX-RC and Deore LX parts; 24 speeds with RapidFire shifters. For two years I kept the bike pretty much as it was. But then, as I got into the off-road thing and rode it more, things started to wear out. By December 1997, it wasn't shifting so well anymore, since the chain and cassette were getting worn. The shop also told me that the bottom bracket needed replacing. And I wanted V-brakes, since I was getting tired of continually readjusting my cantilevers.

The bike shop guy suggested I just buy a new bike. He pointed at the new Trek 950, which had been upgraded to include a suspension fork and V-brakes. It seemed very nice. I thought about it. I looked at my old bike. It had served me well, which is why the drivetrain had worn out. And to throw it away for a younger, better dressed sibling? No, I just couldn't do it.

So I upgraded instead. First I replaced the chain, cassette, and bottom bracket. Then, after careful research, I chose some V-brakes. They were XTRs. I had to replace my integrated shifters/brake levers as well, and I got XT versions. So my bike was as good as new. Better, in fact.

And yet I wasn't happy.

I have always admired pretty colored anodized bike parts. Well, I've admired anodized stuff in general (one of the reasons I own Mag-Lite torches) and have often thought that I would like some on my bike. Since my bike is a sort of dark turquoise, I thought purple would look good with it.

Purple anno. Such an MTB cliche. I couldn't. No, really, it would look just too silly. But, then, gee, it's awfully pretty...

So I did it. Soon my bike featured purple bottle cages, handlebar, quick release skewers, and random bolts. My boyfriend says I have a purple problem.

Funny, I'm still embarrassed to admit to all my anodized parts. I worry that people will think I'm trying to impress them with the coolness of my bike. But really, it's just for me, because I think it looks nice. And I'm the first to admit that it doesn't make me a better rider. Yet I can't help feeling good when someone admires it.

Of course, the upgrades didn't end there. I got a suspension fork and new wheels (which I made myself), and even now I contemplate other new bits. A suspension seatpost? New lights?

I try to make rules for myself about what I'm allowed to upgrade. The replacement has to a substantial step up from the old part for me to justify it. Or it has to be purple.

Perhaps to atone for all this, I've bought a vintage mountain bike. It's a 1989 Fisher AL-1, one of the first alumimum bikes Fisher made. It's got Shimano Deore parts. Yes, plain Deore, before they started putting letters after it. It has a 7 speed cassette, thumb shifters, Biopace chainrings, toe clips. Of course it's completely rigid.

And yet I find myself wanting to change it. It needed bar-ends so I could have a change of hand positions. But, I swear, that's all I'm going to do to it. It's going to stay stock, a real authentic old MTB.

Oh, but wouldn't it be nice to rebuild the wheels with shiny new stainless steel spokes, to replace the slightly rusty ones...?

More bike articles