TBT: My Cycling History

Recently I’ve been scanning some old photos from my childhood and came across some photos that would make for good content. Since it’s been forever since I last published a Throwback Thursday post, why not do it?

Because I grew up in the middle of nowhere, I wasn’t exposed to cycling very much as a young child. Kids didn’t ride a bike or walk to school – you either rode the bus or had your parents drive you.

However, that didn’t mean I didn’t start out cycling young. When I was really young, I’d usually go for spins around my grandparent’s backyard or their basement on the many “ride-on” toys they had.

Me riding a “ride-on” three-wheeler as a young child

Eventually, my parents bought me a bike of my own. I barely remember the green and red Huffy bike in the pictures. However, I remember the red “Next” bike I had as a kid. The green bike has training wheels, but I don’t recall the red Next ever having training wheels.

My first bike, a green “Magna” with training wheels
Here is a photo of me on a red Huffy.
Here is the red Next I remember the most…

My grandparents had a bunch of old bikes that we rode regularly. I recall riding around on this small blue bike. I can remember acting as if I was driving a car, complete with looking like I was tuning a radio. The tires on that bike were super bald, and there was a spot where the inner tube was popping through the tire. I experienced my first blowout/tire explosion when my grandfather used his air compressor to reinflate the tire. (That will come up again later.) I remember smelling the old “fishy” smell of the ruptured tube for the rest of the day. There was also a red bike that I don’t remember riding as much.

Me on the blue bike (left) with my cousin

In addition to the blue and red “kid” bikes, there was a 24-inch Huffy that they still have – but it’s far from operational and is likely to be scrapped. If you look closely in the background of the picture below, you can barely see the pink-and-blue Huffy.

The Huffy can be seen in the top right corner of this picture

At home, my parents eventually upgraded me to a 24-inch Roadmaster mountain bike after I outgrew the red Next. I can recall having some difficulties learning how to ride a bike with hand-brakes, as all my previous bikes featured coaster brakes. At a local park, I rammed into my dad’s truck, and later rode into a bunch of brush after not being able to stop the bike. Most of the time I rode the bikes around the yard, because there really was nowhere to go.

Those Roadmaster mountain bikes never held up well. I remember having problems with the shifters almost immediately after my parents bought them.

In October 2010, our home caught on fire. We lost almost everything, but the Roadmaster bikes survived. We gave them to a neighbor who helped us out, and moved on (literally.)

This is where things get interesting, because I can actually remember the manufacturers and more about the bikes.

In summer 2011, my grandparents took me to a bunch of garage sales in search for a new bike. We came across nothing except kids bikes (like the bikes in the pictures above.) When returning home, my grandparents happened to go down one last street before giving up. And lo and behold – there was a bike for sale in front of one of the last houses on the street.

After hopping out and inspecting the bike, we bought it. The seller said she bought it for her child a while back, and it was sitting ever since.

We brought the 1987 Free Spirit Pinnacle home, aired up the tires and I took it for a test spin.

I instantly started using the Pinnacle, which was pretty much 100% stock at the time. On one of my first rides I popped the front inner tube, probably because it was disintegrating from old age. After replacing the tubes and the front tire, I was back up on the road.

The 1987 Free Spirit Pinnacle today…

Up until the Pinnacle was retired for the first time in 2013, I got a lot of use out of the bike. In addition to regularly riding around town, I would sometimes break out on the Katy Trail – which went right through my hometown of Boonville, Missouri. While the narrow tires sometimes made riding the gravel trail difficult, it held up pretty decently.

In 2013, I experienced a flat on the rear tire on one of my trips on the Katy Trail. Thankfully, it wasn’t too far back into town. Unfortunately, the original 1987 Golden Boy tire was destroyed – although it had given all it could and then some. (Remember, I probably rode for over a season on tires with no rubber on the sidewalls and parts of the tread. Probably at least 40% of the tire was down to the nylon cords.) As I got back to town, thunder started rumbling. I made it to a friends house just in time – five minutes later the skies ripped open and started pouring cats and dogs.

The Pinnacle was eventually back up and running with a new rear tire. Unlike the front tire – a black Kenda – this rear tire was a gumwall Cheng Shin rubber tire. (The same folks who make the Acimut/Bell/CST tubes.)

The new CST tire did not agree with the Pinnacle’s old rims. Like many other bikes of the era, have a different rim design that don’t feature a hook for the bead of the tire to hook onto. This wasn’t a problem when running 70-75 PSI in the tires, but the new tire required 90 PSI. When you inflated the tire to 90 PSI, it wasn’t long before you heard a loud bang.

I found this out the hard way. After inflating the tire one time, I was riding up a hill at a good clip when all of a sudden I heard a bang that sounded like a gunshot. It took a couple seconds to register that my tube had blown out. Thankfully, I wasn’t too far from home – so I had to walk the rest of the way.

However, the problem wasn’t as simple as just inflating to a lower pressure. I had issues with pinch flats on this bike due to running the tires too low. There were other issues with the tires – the first one had a tear in the sidewall that flatted on the trail.

After finding a suitable tire pressure and finally hitting a streak of good luck with the “Bike Gods”, I was back on the Katy Trail. One of the more memorable experiences in the “early days” of the Pinnacle was biting off more than I can chew. One day I was riding the Katy Trail in the opposite direction, which crosses I-70. On the opposite side of I-70, I decided to come back using a series of busy (note: NOT I-70) roads filled with steep hills and cars racing past me going 45-50 miles per hour. Thankfully, the Pinnacle and I made it home without any scratches – although I was definitely thirsty. (Read more about that story here.)

There are many stories I have of the Pinnacle that would derail this topic. If you want to read them, check out this page on my static site.

After dealing with flats after flats, I gave up on the bike. Thankfully, my late uncle had some bikes that were practically brand new. I picked out one of the bikes, which was a Huffy Superia mountain bike.

The Huffy Superia

The Huffy had flat tires, but just needed to be inflated. This is where my grandfather and his air compressor come back into play. I let him inflate the tire since I didn’t have a pump. He inflated both tires using the compressor. I retreated out of the garage in case he had a repeat performance from when I was 6 years old. After he gave me the all clear, I returned to the garage.

I felt the tire… the rear was rock solid. Then I noticed that one of the beads was on the edge of the rim, which isn’t good – I better deflate the tire. Just then, I look down and notice it. It’s too late… one of the beads had already slipped off the rim, and the tube was starting to bulge out. Since it was too late to quickly let the air out of the tube, I ran as fast as I could up the hill. And as soon as I reached the top of the hill, sure enough – the tube blew with a loud “BANG!” My estimates is he had well over 100 PSI in that tire, even though it was only rated for 50 PSI maximum.

After replacing the tube, the bike worked fine for a few years. I did have issues with flats even back then. I had another blowout after your’s truly decided to slightly overinflate one of the tires. (Even though I only went 10 PSI over the maximum rating of 60 psi, it still bulged off the rim and exploded shortly thereafter.)

What killed the Huffy was cheap parts. After a couple years of use, one of the plastic break pedals broke apart. I kept riding the Huffy with the rods the pedals were mounted on, but those quickly wore down my shoes. I tried to replace the pedals but something else happened. Another thing on the bike broke, and then I saw the writing on the wall.

The Huffy even made a front-and-center appearance in a “fail” video featuring the Pinnacle falling on me while changing the tire on the Superia.

The Pinnacle falling on me while servicing the Superia

A friendly neighbor who knew more about bikes helped me attempt to fix the bike. (By this point, our only local bike shop closed down.) The neighbor recommended that I scrap the bike. We salvaged some of the parts off the bike (rims, tires and most notably the seat – which currently lives on the Pinnacle.) Then, the frame was hauled off to the scrapyard.

The neighbor helped me rehabilitate the Pinnacle by getting new tires, tuning it up and trying to work out some other kinks. While he did that, he let me borrow his Gary Fisher mountain bike for the summer.

My neighbor’s Gary Fisher mountain bike, which he let me borrow while repairs were being made to the Pinnacle.

The Gary Fisher bike was my first taste of what an actual modern bike was like. It was a great experience… it rode so smooth and everything actually worked on it.

However, all good things come to an end. By the end of the summer he repaired the Pinnacle with two new tires. Later that fall I got my first car (the Pintomobile), so the Pinnacle was once again placed on the back burner.

The next summer, garrettfuller.org was up and running. One of the first topics I covered on my blog (this site) was the Pinnacle. Ever since, the Pinnacle has been covered multiple times. By summer 2018, I “resurrected” the Pinnacle and started using it on a daily basis again, this time to ride to and from classes. That is until I started having issues again in October 2018. I also found out the Pinnacle was made in 1987, not 1981 like previously thought.

In December 2018, I purchased a 2016 Giant Sedona to replace the Pinnacle. Everything since buying the Sedona has been documented on this blog, including the short-lived transition to tubeless tires and replacing the rear wheel and gearing as the most recent update.