Today a ‘Readers’ Rig’ with a difference, not so much a tech description, but a love note to a dear, dear friend. Ryan Hamilton in Wisconsin has fallen head-over-heels with his LeMond that he bought in 2007 and this is the story of his love affair in his own words.
“Why My 2007 LeMond is Better Than Your Fancy New Bike: A Love Note to all Those Things an Inanimate Object Is”
Ryan’s 2007 LeMond
# It has the namesake of one of the pillars of the sport.
# It was designed around one of the original oversized bottom brackets.
# Its geometry fits like a hug from the perfect woman.
# Its ride is plush, just shy of perfect, and understated in its looks.
LeMond minimax tech – Old school now but overtly cool at the time
I ride this bike and I escape. I ride this bike and I am not me; I am that someone I always wanted to be. This bike gives me that. I am not one with the road, the road is not one with me. On my 2007 LeMond, I punish the road, I make it mine. I am nothing but a force of forward momentum and pure ecstasy of child-like enthusiasm and innocence.
It’s simple in its appearance: wet black with wet silver that almost but never gets to an eye-squinting silver sparkle when the sun hits it just right — almost like the bike is telling me it is cool without being pretentious. White pin-striping allows my bike to claim race prestige – although I have never taken my bike on that road – but it subtly hides this prestige behind a geometry and ride that just says, “enjoy the moment.”
That LeMond bottom bracket
On July 14, 2001 I had not yet bought my 2007 LeMond; I was too busy being airlifted to the hospital with a broken wrist, shoulder, and oh yeah, a broken spine. I was doped up to the max so all was good on my end but even now I can still see, through my swollen cheeks and eyelids, the concerned look on friends’ faces as they stood by the hospital bed. This scene was the afterward of a crash on a descent during a road race.
I was not to ride a bike again; I was not to walk again; I was not to move without a limp or a cane or assistance. I was told this by my doctor. I told my doctor to go f*ck himself. The doctor’s medical training did not account for the understanding that many cyclists (or any endurance athlete) come from that philosophy of life that while we have been told “no, you can’t” most of our lives, we punish ourselves to prove this statement wrong.
Battle-wounds from bragging rights battles
Cliché as it is, my 2007 LeMond came to me in a dream. I wanted something new, something bold, something that said I made it through this surgery and this recovery with the (clichés abound) girl I didn’t deserve (super-smart, super-determined, super-dedicated, and just straight-up crazy-beautiful). I dreamed of my future bike as something that was a simple color design, nothing flashy but something bold in technology and frame design. When LeMond wanted to do something bold with the bottom bracket section of the bike, I took notice. Fatten the seat tube to wrap around the bottom bracket, a novel idea at the time. In magazines and websites LeMond ads prostituted that bottom bracket design and I wanted to be its john. Its technology is archaic now, almost obsolete. But when I saw what that section of the bike looked like I was forever hooked.
I could have continued to ride my old frame, the one I crashed. Dedicated fellow employees and friends at my shop put that bike back to right and I will be forever grateful. I was in a time of change and I felt the one thing that connected me to the past me needed to change as well. I will always have my constant back pain, surgical scars, and bike jersey with grass stains and sweat stink (framed and hanging on the wall, stink preserved behind glass) to always remind me of what that means. And in that time of change, just by chance, fate, dumb luck, or all three, LeMond presented his new line of bikes.
Hard as it was, I put my old bike on eBay, minus the original rear wheel; bent beyond salvation with deceased hub and all it hung on my wall for a long time. I let that bike go and spent the winter obsessing over that new 2007 LeMond. I got that feeling a new bike owner gets: salivating over a cardboard box and wanting to touch and embrace every part inside of the near perfection of engineering, balance, seductiveness, and creativeness that goes into developing a bike you get to build. I reminded the manager I wanted to order it, take it home, build it myself; he told me it was a go. Then he forgot. I was pissed beyond measure. Then I realized this was the greatest gift he had done for me.
The LeMond front view
I rode LeMond before; I loved the geometry, the slack race feel helped me embrace the road even as a dedicated late 90s mountain biker. I rode the road only to get better at the mountain. Because I wanted something different (I grabbed a snowboard before they were cool) I devoured cross-country bikes. I look back and realize it was always the child in me that rode the bike but it was the teenager and college student in the late nineties and early 2000s that understood the coolness factor – at least in our magical circle — and how girls liked muddy calves and the bounce-a-quarter-off-this-ass-from-riding-out-of-the-saddle physique and, let’s be honest, fingers that were solid due to gripping the handlebar so hard that grips had to be replaced every month. Somewhere in that time I grew up enough to realize I needed the road and the bike to make the mountain mine.
As you can determine, up to this point in my story and up to this point in my life, I was rather pretentious. I had something that set me apart from the footballbasketballbaseball kids I grew up around. I fooled myself into thinking I was a stand-out on the pedals. I obviously was not. I bragged about what I had done each ride on or to the bike: this tweak, this fast up that climb, or the obligatory I-almost-got-smacked sob story that never really happened.
The B/B again
It was on my 2007 LeMond that I started to grow up. I didn’t worry about beating fellow club riders up a hill or getting first to the city limit sprint sign; I enjoyed the ride and the being with other people. I have and always will enjoy riding by myself, with the quiet we all know and love, but now on my new bike I embraced the friendship only found out there on those two wheels and two pedals. My bike grew up and so did I. No longer did I brag about mostly embellished exploits on the bike, I bragged about how I could get out of the saddle and the bike would just go and go fast – at least fast enough for a guy with a piece of metal holding his spine together. It was on my 2007 LeMond that I took breaks from working on school. It was on this bike that I took a ride around our empty first house, and it was on this bike that I took my first ride on new roads, starting my new life. It was on this bike that I rode, every day, to and from my first job as a teacher. And it was on this bike that I rode home from that teaching job to have my wife greet me with “I either peed my pants or my water broke.”
My 2007 LeMond is probably not as aero as your bike, it is probably not as technically advanced as your bike, it probably weighs more than your bike, the paint scheme probably doesn’t fit with the modern collection. But I sit on this bike and I am young again. I am fast again. I am that something that we all try to find when riding away from whatever we need to ride from.
Like a boob job for a trophy wife, I have made upgrades. The drivetrain is new SRAM versus original Shimano. The wheelset is now lightweight and sturdy versus factory Bontrager; the cockpit is all Ritchey WSC, (I wanted Thomson but I was still working a part time job and, well, Thomson in 2007) and the saddle is and always will be the Concor Light.
When I didn’t get to build the original bike myself, I was pissed. I wanted heads. But my 2007 LeMond was built by the best mechanic I had ever worked with. Again, the cliché, but he was not only a master of technically fixing and building a bike, he was a master of fixing and building an understanding of living. His pretentiousness was nonexistent. He worked through life as smoothly as he worked through a farm kid’s rotten drivetrain. He was much older than any of us but he embraced all our juvenile humor and, even as a Vietnam Vet, was more than happy to laugh at a solid war joke. His self-deprecating humor was typical Upper-Midwestern: funny as hell but still with underlined with that hint of realizing his own early mortality. His name was just as typical Upper Midwestern: three letters in the first name and four in the last, nothing flashy, just a good solid name. He was a good man who understood how to embrace a true sense of reality: just enjoy it and don’t put too much stock in the trivial. When I learned of his sudden death I didn’t go out for a ride, I stared at it and remembered all those things I needed to remember.
Conti Gatorskins – Wisconsin roads are unkind
This man built my 2007 LeMond. The rest of those involved in getting my 2007 LeMond to me built my bike. My bike has the fingerprints and etchings of all those who helped me get off the couch and again ride a bike hard. This bike is what helped me remember that riding a bike is a childhood experience that can never be matched and should never be taken away. I lost that childlike innocence at one point and it took it being taken away and given back to me in the form of a 2007 LeMond to place my bike at the top of any year’s best bike list.
These reasons, and many more, are why my 2007 LeMond will always be better than your new bike. It is the reasons you have as to why your new bike will always be better than mine.
If anyone is interested, I do have plenty of stories about the greatest dog who ever lived; it just so happens he was mine.
The LeMond cockpit – Not flashy, but solid and comfy
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