June 2: It’s not precisely motorcycle-related, but I’m wandering the magical Coventry area of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, on a brief photo recon for a dear friend — photographing scenes of distant memories for her — when I stumble across a memory of my own.
It’s a 1970s-era Raleigh Grand Prix bicycle, white with black trim, the exact same bike owned by a couple of my high school riding buddies, Tom McCray among them, I believe1.
It sits there like a thunderclap from the past, loosely chained to a bike rack. I circle it in delight, thinking, “McCray has got to see this.”
It has the same three-armed cottered crankset, DiaCompe centerpull brakes, chromed front forks, high-flanged hubs and Simplex derailleur group. I can’t get a good look at the rear derailleur without moving the bike, which I’m loathe to do, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a Prestige2.
It has to be someone’s daily commuter bike, and — aside from some surface rust and the handlebar tape starting to unravel on the left drop — looks pretty good for being 40 years old. The brake cables even have clamped metal caps on the ends, to prevent the cables from fraying, a nice touch.
That was the highlight of the day until, searching the location of the former renown Coventry restaurant earth by april3, I walk into the Bottle House Brewery and Meadery on Lee Road and find a beautiful Colnago on the wall.
Ah, Colnago, the high-end Italian racing bicycle. And this one, a 12-speed Nuovo Mexico from 1982, is perfect. Hand-made steel frame, all Campagnolo components (rear derailleur looks like a Super Record) chrome front fork, tightly-spaced Regina 13-20 freewheel, flawless paint job, just beautiful.
Just beautiful. Seeing it clamped to the wall as a decoration is revolting, but this is a seriously expensive and relatively rare bicycle. Maybe it’s safer inside. Still, it seems a shame it’s not being ridden; that’s why it was built.
As I’ve noted elsewhere, bicycles were a precursor to motorcycles for me. Both are vehicles of freedom, taking you farther than you thought possible.
So I remember our bicycling days with gratitude, to the extent that if the Grand Prix owner had appeared on Coventry Road, I would have made an offer for the bike, for the memories of where we’ve been, and the promise of where we’ll go.