Monday, April 8, 2013

Monday Blues: the GT...

circa 1995-1996

Not sure what was more blue this day, my bike or the sky. I'm also not sure why the woman, who a year or two later would become my wife, couldn't take a level photo. Hopefully each of the bikes we buy over the course of a lifetime are good for us, bikes that both fit properly, and that suit our style of riding, and fulfill the purpose for which we bought them. Some of those bikes may go beyond adequacy, and exceed our expectations. Much ado is made about the importance of bike fit (and rightly so), about how a properly sized and set up bike, will add enjoyment and efficiency to a ride. On the manufacturing end, much is made about stiffness, and angles, sizes and shapes of tubes, etc, and how all these various elements of design will provide this or that advantage. 

All those technical aspects aside, I sometimes think there are intangibles, things that can not really be explained with numbers, which can set a certain bike apart. For me that certain bike was the GT shown above. This was just a typical production bike, nothing custom about it other than the way I chose to build it up from the frame. Even so, the GT instilled a level of confidence in my riding and racing, that has never been equaled by another bike. Maybe it was simply coincidence, or timing. In my early 30s at the time, so at my peak anyway but, I could climb with the best, descend fearlessly, and biggest shock of all, I felt like I could actually challenge in sprint situations.

The GT was also my first "American" racing bike. Before it came Benotto, Bottecchia, and Basso. After it came Cannondale, and KHS, two more "American" manufacturers. Interesting trend, which might suggest that GT not only instilled confidence in my riding, but also in the design and/or manufacture of American bikes. I can tell that the above photo was early in the GT's life with me - the mismatched wheel set, and the lack of white paint on the seat stays marking damage and repair, are clear indicators. GT had become very popular at the time, both for their road and their mountain bikes, but that popularity faded as other American manufacturers came to the fore. Interestingly, I noticed an older GT being raced at the recent San Dimas Stage Race, and this reminded me of my own brief history with the brand. I sometimes wonder what happened to my GT - after being broken by a pick-up truck on the way to work one day, then repaired, only to have a water bottle boss pull away from the tube, I decided its best was behind it. The last view I had of it was on top of the trash can - a sad way to end our relationship. I hope someone found it, and that it was able to provide a few more quality rides somewhere, for someone.

Irregardless of the material from which any bike I own in the future may be made, the thin-walled, lightweight steel of the GT, will always set the standard by which these others are judged. So, lets hear some stories - have all your bikes been equal, or was there a standout? And how do you explain what made the one better than the rest? Did it seem like there was a connection that could not be completely explained by applied mechanics, the science of sizing and fit?

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