Back in part 1, I mused about the first few bikes I rode, up to the point where I started racing.
Scott Axis XT (1987)
This was my first performance-grade mountain bike. Built from Tange chromoly steel tubing, it was lighter than the Bianchi, weighing in at only 28-or-so pounds. It was painted a pearlescent white with black forks, and had the full Shimano Deore XT 6-speed indexed drivetrain. It was a big step up, to say the least! It was bought directly from our local Scott USA rep, Barbie Patterson, who was also a local ski coach.
Assembling the bike was a fun challenge for my dad and me, as it arrived in the same kind of shape as any bike arriving at a bike shop: partially disassembled. The bike rode well, though it was of the “classic” construction, without a sloping top tube that would give more crotch clearance (essential on a mountain bike). It also had one of the then-fashionable Shimano U-Brakes in the back, which often got clogged with mud, sticks and other debris. And until I fitted it with a “shark tooth” post cap, the chain would often wedge between the brake, chainstay and chainwheels – ugh.
When I got the Scott, I also joined a local bike racing team: Team Flowerchildren, the mountain bike squad for Wild Rose Sports. Tim Metos, the shop’s owner, sponsored a lot of the SLC-based races in the then-new Utah Mountain Bike Championship series, and he was happy to have me race for his store.
The first team jersey we had was a tie-dyed t-shirt jersey. It had the full assortment of rear pockets as any jersey, but was made of cotton t-shirt fabric. It suited the team perfectly, though, and I raced in some fun races that year: the Iron Horse Bike Classic NORBA race, the Blue Mountain Bike Chase, and the Tour des Suds. I finished that first racing year in 1988 as the top junior mountain bike racer in Utah.
Marin Eldridge Grade (1989)
Eventually, I felt the need for a lighter, more nimble and race-worthy bike. This time, I had Tim and his folks at Wild Rose help me find a suitable bike. While I’d had my eye on the Fisher Procalibur, I ended up getting the Marin Eldridge Grade. Like the Scott, it had a Tange chromoly steel frame. However, it also had more compact geometry and a sloping top tube for more clearance. Its paint scheme was a gloss white base with a splattering of red and blue bits – very hip for the day. It had a full Shimano Deore 7-speed indexed drivetrain with the vaunted Hyperglide rear cassette, which meant downshifts under full power. (Of course, it also meant going through three chains in that first year, as Shimano had yet to iron out the durability issues with such torque-laden shifting.)
But the bike was good and fast, both on-road and off. I took it with me to Rowmark’s Yuba Lake conditioning camp, where I rode the second-fastest time on the 42-mile biking circuit. I did well with the bike in the 1989 Utah Mountain Bike Championship series, again winning the overall championship for junior racers. I rode the bike to school, rain, snow and shine (it even appeared in the 1990 edition of the Rowland Hall – St. Mark’s School yearbook, in the class photo for that year’s graduates, locked to an unused fire escape). I loved my Eldridge Grade, no doubt – it was a great bike.
And then it was stolen from the garage at my parents’ house in the late spring of 1990. So I was back on the Scott for a while as homeowners’ insurance processed the claim for the theft.