I talk to her. I talk to her on dewy morning outings to our favourite mountain trails. I laugh and joke about the good times, the thrills and spills, while sponging down her angular frame come bath time. I never fail to tap her on the seat when passing, and say, I love you. I’m weird like that. Call me a limp-wristed biker bitch. I don’t care. – By Andy Ellis
My 1992 Cannondale Delta V 900 and I share a passionate history. She belonged to mate of mine. A diamond diver who was always away from home, ducking her attention. Man I perved over that bike for months. In the mid 90’s mountain biking was a relatively new sport in South Africa. Not like now, where every second Mercedes SUV sports a titanium dualy dangling off of a bike rack.
Low on cash, I rode a steel-framed cow. I was itching to enter the cross-country race scene, but knew that I was completely under gunned on the school-and-back sack of cement I was riding. I needed a real bike, and that Delta V’s aggressive disposition looked charged for some proper love action.
Then a stroke of luck. The diamond diver announced an interest in photography. And I just happened to be the owner of a snappy Nikon SLR. “Fancy a swop?” I tossed in a camera bag, a few rolls of film, instruction manuals and a picture of my neighbour’s naked wife on the slip n slide.* You know, for artistic inspiration.
The Delta V slept next to my bed that night.
Next task was to tame the filly. The light, and tight, aluminium frame was itching to climb the steepest gradients and corner through the loose stuff. And the front suspension! Good Lord, the feeling of tackling a drop-off without dislodging my L5 vertebra was euphoric. This bike was rearing to go – but I did not possess the skills to match its reckless abandon. In the months that followed we spilt blood and chipped paint. They say that crashing is the pinnacle inevitability of the mountain biking experience. For us crashing was the norm. Riding a trail unbroken was the occasional pinnacle experience.
With practice, clear runs became common. Heck, we’d even worked out how to bunny hop stuff. By the time we entered our first race the Delta V’s frame looked as old as our category – Sub-Vet. But I straddled her with pride. She was adorned with refinery. Gone were the cantilever brakes, friction shifters, donkey-drawn hubs, rims and tyres. On were the new V-brakes, rapid-fire shifters, and SPD pedals… hm, hm, hmm. We were spec’d, baby. XT top to tube. We got our arse kicked by the experienced riders that day, but we didn’t care. This was round one. We were a validated mountain bike crew, and we’d be back.
And so it went. Week after week we dripped sweat and chain lube onto every patch of gravel we could find. We clocked the bike computer twice before it died. I never replaced it – so who knows how many kilometres I have shared with the Delta V. Enough to build an emotional bond, that is abundantly clear…
Look, can you keep a secret? There is another bike I’ve got my eyes on. I’ve got a picture of her my computer desktop. The 2009 Specialized Epic. A carbon fibre piece of sex on wheels. I stare at her all day. I want her so bad… I don’t know how I’m going to break it to the Delta V. I feel terrible, but I can justify it. The Delta V has worked hard and deserves the break. Besides, she is seriously outdated. I mean come on; her frame doesn’t even have the lugs for a disc brake upgrade. Is it so bad to lust after another? No sir. That’s the beauty about mountain bikes – they get over things. So there you go. After all of that, it’s time to move on and build a modern set of memories. One thing is for sure; I’ll never forget my first love.
*Okay, okay. She wore a cozzy.
Originally published in TREAD Issue 1, 2009 – All rights reserved