Cycling love stories: I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours

Valentines Day is when we express our love for those most important to us. For the staff Bike Fed, and we hope all the bike loving readers out there, that means our love of all things bicycle.

Different people love different things about cycling in Wisconsin. Some of us love the exercise we get riding to work. Others love the freedom to turn down any attractive town road that strikes our fancy on a Sunday ride. Still others some get a thrill out of throwing themselves into a sprint finish in a race.

Whatever you love about cycling in Wisconsin, we would love for you to share your story in the comment section below. Feel free to get creative or just give us the basics. Of course everyone wants to hear the sordid bits, but remember this is a family website, not the Penthouse letters section. Try to keep it PG-13 at least.



Here are some topic ideas to get your creative juices flowing:


  • What bike in your stable do you love most?
  • How did you first fell in love with cycling?
  • What is your favorite place to ride a bike in Wisconsin?
  • Why do you love your bike?
  • Did a bike have anything to do with you falling in love with someone?
  • What was your favorite date involving a bike?
  • Anyone actually get married on a bike, include a bike ride in your wedding or honeymoon?

You can keep it short and sweet, or wax poetic. Want to write a Baiku (bicycle haiku) for a favorite ride? Feeling more traditional like you have a bike love sonnet in you? Put your keyboard to work! We have time for long stories or short stories, fact or fiction, as long as they express your bicycle love in any of its many forms.

To get you going, I am going to share the first crush on a bike that I ever had. My story, like me, is (mostly) true, and a bit long winded. Yours can be much shorter and completely factual if your prefer.

Making love last

A long time ago in a land called “The Twin Cities,” I worked as a lowly light monkey for the Minnesota Daily, the U of M student newspaper. Charged with making photographs at the Art Director’s request, I and my fellow dark room rummies would hang out around the assignment desk whenever we were not in class, or whenever we were broke (whichever came first).

Spending that much time hanging around the Art Directors, I picked up some habits good and bad. Bicycling was the good habit. The Art Director was way into cycling, but not just any cycling, he was into lugged steel frames. As an the gate keeper of good design and artistic standards, it was only fitting that he liked Bridgestone bicycles, because they were J. Peterman Company of bicycle industry. Their catalogs remain collectable pieces of hand drawn art and prose.

If you ask anyone who knows about Bridgestone, they will tell you the Molteni Orange 1993 XO-1 was the pinnacle of their line. The XO-1 was different from any other bike made at the time. It was so different, that people either fell in love with it, as I did, or hated it. It billed as an “all-rounder,” a bike as capable of competing in of Paris Brest Paris, as it is lugging loaded packs on a cross-country tour, or racing down mountain single track. It was a 26 inch wheeled lugged steel bike with road bike geometry, but room for mountain bike tires. It had rack mounts everywhere and funky “mustache” handlebars.

When I first saw the Bidgestone XO-1 in the Art Director’s catalog, I was smitten. In my mind, the XO-1 was my ticket to adventure on two wheels. I fantasized about racing WORS races on it (Gene Oberprillar actually won the 1993 Fat Tire 40 on an XO-1 with a time of 2:16:27). I dreamed of riding it hut to hut in the San Juan Mountains. And of course, it would carry me back and forth to work each day in high style.

It took me a while, but I eventually scored a used 52cm ’93 XO from a guy in the Bay area. In order to make my adventure bike travel more easily, I had Waterford Precision Cycles install S&S couplers on the frame. People warn about obsessing over objects, but that XO-1 delivered on the dream. I raced it. I toured with it. I commuted on it.

And then my garage caved in…

Seriously, our old 1920s house had a Model A era garage with a flat poured concrete roof. One day, I was working in my home office (I was still a self-employed light monkey), when I heard a terrible crash. It sounded like a crane dropped a load of rocks outside my house.  I ran outside and saw, to my horror, that the roof on our garage had collapsed, crushing my cherished XO-1 and a couple other bikes we had hanging in it. I was devastated.

Then I called my insurance company, and I got mad. They wanted to give me $45 dollars for the bike!  Always a fighter, I took up the challenge, and in the end, since Bridgestone was no more, they agreed to buy me a new Rivendell Bicycles Atlantis, the penultimate child of the XO-1 and Grant Peterson. Peterson was the former Bridgestone employee who dreamed up the iconic orange ride, and he started Rivendell Bicycles after Bridgestone USA closed.

Me and my Waterford-built replacement for my XO-1 in the mountains outside Durango, CO.

In the end, for peculiar reasons only people who know Grant Peterson would understand, he choose not to sell me a bike. With that door closed, my insurance company claims officer (anxious to have me out of his life), agreed to pay for a custom-built copy of the XO. For that I immediately called the good Sir Richard at Waterford Precision Cycles, who by coincidence, was building Rivendells for Grant at the time.  Richard was only too happy to help me, and I now have a Waterford built version of the XO-1, complete with a Rivendell fork crown. 

 It remains my favorite bike, and the one I would keep if I had to get rid of all the others. I eventually sold the crushed XO to Troy Courtney, a former custom frame builder in St. Charles, IL. Due to the magic properties of lugged steel bicycles and Troy’s talent with a torch, he was able to resort the 1993 bike and some other lucky soul is riding it today. The insurance company was more worried about liability than money, or perhaps I should have fought to have my bike repaired, but they were worried about liability. 

No matter what, I am happy, and I think I learned a lesson. Sometimes, if you get it right and work to keep it, love lasts. My wife Liz, who I still think is as cute as the first day I saw her when she jogged onto my porch to visit my college roommate 30 years ago, will probably agree.

My old XO-1, restored and repainted by Troy Courtney.


So what is your bicycle love story? It need not be as long as mine, but we are dying for you to dish in the comments below.


About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

9 thoughts on “Cycling love stories: I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours

  1. My wife and I have had many dates on our Rans Screamer tandem bike. By far the most interesting was in July, 2010. As typical, we rode down to the La Crosse Riverfest on our tandem to take advantage of DRBC’s bike valet and to enjoy the night air. The music was playing and the beer flowing with many friends attending. We were enjoying a conversatation wiht the Festival Commodore when the Chief of Police walked up and stated that they were shutting down the fest grounds due to an approaching storm. Based on this information, we thought it wise to head for home. We were about half-way home to Onalaska when the storm hit. It was quite a doozy complete with the flash from transformers due to downed power lines. Honestly, we thought that we might be riding into a tornado! At one point, I started to turn the bike around which caused my wife to exclaim, “what are you doing, our kids are on the other side of that dust cloud!” We pressed on, the storm eased and soon we arrived home. As we were riding down our street we passed our neighbors who were sitting on their front porch watching the passing storm. They asked us if we had an enjoyable ride. Our answer, “Oh yes!”

  2. My bride-to-be had a surprise wedding cake couple on a tandem.Took us a year,saved up for a spanking new Motobecane aka “Rawhide” .Years later the reality of an impending divorce hit home when we/I sold it.ouch.

  3. Dave, I wrote the earlier post while taking a shuttle home from the MSP airport. I showed my wife the post when I arrived home and she reminded me that we had a much more interesting weather related ride in 2008 on our beloved Screamer. This time, we were on a ride from Lake City, MN to Cannon Falls, MN. We stopped in Red Wing for some lunch and to replace a bulging front tire on the Screamer. We were over-nighting in Cannon Falls and stopped at a sporting goods store in Red Wing to purchase a swimming suit (I forgot to bring mine). While at the store, the manger told us that we had to leave or join them in the back room due to tornado warnings in the area. My wife, the Screamer and I joined the two employees in the back room. It was quite a storm! About 30 minutes later, we departed on the trail to Welch Village. Soon we encountered leaves and twigs on the trail, followed by branches and then we were lifting the bike over fallen trees. At Welch Village, the trail was completely closed. Trees were down everwhere. We continued our treck to Cannon Falls on local roads where we encountered a youth group that came walking up to us with inner tubes in hand. They had been tubing down the Cannon River when the storm struck. They didn’t seem any worse for wear. Can’t say the same for the chaperones. They looked a little freaked out. It took us a couple of hours to find open roads and make our way to Cannon Falls. On the way, we passed field irrigation systems that had been knocked over by the wind and corn that had been flattened. Quite a gale. We have enjoyed many non-meteorological rides on our tandem, but the memory of these two will be with us always.

  4. Two wheels and four legs
    Pedaling the road of life
    Loving and living

    Two wheels and two hearts
    Pedaling as one being
    Captain and stoker

    Stoker rides with me
    On the bike and all through life
    Love is the reason

  5. A good cyclist can always weave cycling into any occasion; after all, bicycles are forever. My favorite bike is the Paramount that my brother built and gave to me. My favorite rides are the old Saylesville course by Frog Alley and Mill Pond and any ride that ends on Bluff Rd in Whitewater. The love story goes like this: In 1991 I was wrenching in a bike shop in Santa Clarita, CA when this cute little woman came in to get her headset fixed. It was a Shimano 600, you know, the kind with the funky star shaped lock nut. I fixed the problem and proceeded to bug her to go out with me. After two weeks of no,no,no, she finally gave in and agreed to go for a ride with me the next day, the 4th of July. We got married, and it’s been a tail wind ever since. She still brings up the fact that she had taken her bike to a number of other shops, but I was the only one that was able to fix it, and of course I still soak it up.

  6. I was volunteering for a year in Guatemala in 2001, and I bought a used bike from a local bike shop so I could get around town. The bike was a MayaTour, which is like a Guatemalan version of a Huffy. Hey–I didn’t know bikes then! Of course, the tires didn’t hold air, it dropped the chain when I rode it, the brakes sucked. I kept on taking it back to the shop where I had bought it, but they would simply pump air in the tires, tweak the shifters, and send me on my way.

    One day there was a new kid working there–a skinny Guatemalan kid with a nervous smile. He didn’t know I had bought the bike at the shop, and he explained that the bike needed new brake pads and the crank was bent out of shape. He offered to fix these things for a good price–outside the shop–otherwise they would charge me high prices for being a gringa. Sweet! I gave him my address and phone number and we agreed he would come over on a Friday.

    I suspected something was up when he called me on Wednesday evening. “Just checking to make sure you’re expecting me on Friday.” Then, Thursday evening he showed up to “drop off his tools” at the apartment. Friday morning came, and as he worked on that crappy old bike I felt the hormones coming off him like you feel heat emanating from a light bulb.

    I was dating someone else at the time. But then he fixed the bike and invited me to go mountain biking with him the next Friday. He would let me use one of the bike shop bikes. A free mountain bike trip! So what if this kid had a crush on me.

    The rest of the story is a lot longer and more complicated, and if you get Carlos drunk he likes to tell this story from HIS perspective, including more details about the crappy guy I was dating when I had that crappy bike, and it will take about an hour. But I eventually did take him seriously, and in 2003 we got married and he came to the U.S.

    I have him to thank for teaching me about the value of a good-quality bike. If it weren’t for him, I would probably still be riding my old Trek hybrid!

  7. If it wasn’t for bikes, I wouldn’t be with Tristan and opening two businesses with him, including a bike shop this April.
    Back in my first semester of Graduate school at UWM, I liked to study by the Rivertrails by the UEC. If I had to read schoolwork, darn it I was going to at least enjoy the weather.

    I had an older steel Bike Collective bike at the time with lots of hippie stickers on it nearby. Tristan was out for a walk that day, I found out later, he was mad over a girl who he had a crush on and wasn’t responding to his phone calls and needed some alone time. He walked passed me as he walked from from the River Trails and saw my bike and remembered me from Bikesmiths, where he worked at the time and seeing me around town (and of course I don’t…)

    He told me later that he thought I was cool because of the hippie stickers and that I liked to ride bicycles. We had an engaging hour long conversation about feminism, books, school and general geeking out about bikes.

    Four months later, we had our first date after a busy semester. Our first date was supposed to be Sew-to-be-Seeen; however, grad school got in the way and instead we saw that depressing movie about the guy who died in the wilderness.

    Five years later, we are still together and opening Coast in Bikes in April in Walkers Point. We still have a love affair with bicycles of all types and I’m continuing to make bicycles a love affair for other women teaching bicycle mechanics!

    What a great post idea- thanks Dave!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>