What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

– the Fuji Steed, part one

on April 8, 2015

Thirty years ago, I entered a pawnshop in Bloomington, Indiana, intending to buy a bicycle—not my first bike, but the first I purchased myself, as an adult. I’d decided I had to have a bike because my Pontiac’s transmission had shredded its innards in tiny shiny steel bits and the car looked to stay sidelined for at least a month.

I spent $100 for a maroon Fuji. the best-looking of the mostly sorry lot chained to the bars over the windows. A couple years before I’d visited a local bike shop which sold Fujis, so I recognized the manufacturer’s name and reasoned it must be a good one. As ignorant as I was, I was fortunate in my choice (though I probably paid too much).

It was a Fuji Gran Tourer with a 25” frame (tall, as I am). I know now that the Gran Tourer was a mid-level “sport-touring” model, aimed at casual riders who nevertheless wanted a fairly good bicycle. Mine was stamped with its serial number in December, 1977. The original dealer sticker is peeling, but I can still make out “Schoops Bicycle Sales” in La Porte, Indiana. They likely sold it sometime during 1978. I wonder sometimes about its first six years and how it came to the pawnshop.

scan from a 1978 Fuji catalog ... original at http://www.classicfuji.com/GranTourer_1978_PageB.htm

scan from a 1978 Fuji catalog … original at http://www.classicfuji.com/GranTourer_1978_PageB.htm

I’d grown up riding in southern Indiana on single-speed bikes with coaster brakes—had loved riding, but like so many North American males suddenly quit as soon as I got an automobile (or the car got me). So I had to check books out of the library to decipher the mysteries of derailleurs. Some of our first miles were a mutual struggle. But the bike got me into town to work and back to the farmhouse where I cooked and slept. A friend joked that it was my “Fuji steed.” The name stuck.

When the transmission shop finally released my car, just three gears no longer enough seemed enough. I kept the Fuji Steed and kept riding it. When I left Bloomington for Chicago’s south side, I managed to stuff it into the Vega that replaced the Pontiac. I reasoned it would be easier sometimes to ride than find parking for the car. But really, I loved the promise of seeing the city from its seat—a promise both the bike and city kept.

Down through years, wherever I moved, the Fuji Steed went too, and got me around my new home at least occasionally. But less and less as its condition deteriorated. I’d had to park it in damp basements and unheated sheds, and hard knocks took their toll. One day I realized the Fuji Steed wasn’t safe to ride. I told myself I’d eventually acquire the skills and special tools to make it right. For then, however, I just leaned it against a wall.

Then another wall. Then another, as years passed … sad times for the Fuji Steed.

But ten years ago, my friend David (appearing in the role of the Fuji’s fairy godfather) invited me to ride with him. “I would,” I said, “but my bike’s in terrible condition.” “Let me take it to my mechanic,” he offered. “Huh,” I said as the sun of insight dispelled the darkness of unknowing. “I guess bike shops do work on bikes, don’t they?”

Replacing the rotting tires, fitting new brake blocks, oiling stiff pivots and generally making everything serviceable cost as much as I’d originally paid for the Fuji, but it was worth every penny. We were riding again! I rode with David. I rode by myself. I rode with my associate Diane, who’d made cycling the foundation of her “get fit” program. We started holding our staff meetings on bicycle, and they instantly became more productive. —A happy ending, right?

It’s coming. But not before a plot twist.

Comments welcome … would you shed cliffhanger endings if you could?

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5 responses to “– the Fuji Steed, part one

  1. Can’t wait to read more!

  2. revdarkwater says:

    Coming soon, thanks!

  3. Anne Lene says:

    Please, please…pretty please..!!! ;)

  4. […] – the Fuji Steed, part one Apr […]

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