I’ve Never Had to Walk a Hill Since

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I didn’t fall in love with riding my bike initially when I got into the sport. That isn’t completely true, but there was a time after I had bought a nice bike that I was wavering on whether it was my passion.

My brother and I mowed lawns for a couple years to save up enough money to order Schwinn Sports Tourers. There were about $220. My bike came in and he was back ordered. In the meantime, a new bike shop opened in town that sold European bikes. He went over there and realized that a Schwinn was not a good deal compared to the lightweight bikes the new shop sold. So, Kris gave up his $5 deposit and bought a Motebecane Grand Record. His bike weighed about 10 lbs less than mine. It came with Campy derailluers and sewup tires.

Anyway, we started going to bike tours to ride. We didn’t ride much between the tours, just at the Tours. The problem was that we didn’t have a car and usually went with our friend Ed Bauman, who owned a VW pickup truck (I bought it from him and own it still). Thus, we were always late. Unless the tour was local, we never got to the start anywhere close to when it started.

One time we went over to the town of Leavenworth to ride a century. It is hilly over there. We got there at least a couple hours late and there wasn’t anyone at the start. Ed immediately took off and dropped us. So we, started the tour and pretty much rode as hard as we could until we couldn’t really ride any more. And that happened to me sooner than Kris.

It wasn’t a uncommon thing back then to walk the hills, towards the end of the tour especially. You’d come up to a steep hill and there would be a ton of people just walking up them. Since I didn’t know any better and since I was completely done, I just dismounted and walked. I’m not sure if people just didn’t know how to shift or were just so unfit they couldn’t ride them, but everyone did it. I probably weighted about 90 lbs then and the Schwinn was over 30. Anyway, towards the end of the tour, Kris and I were riding by ourselves, no one in sight in front of us or behind. Kris was riding the climbs and I was walking them. Kris kept encouraging me by telling me it was the last climb and we were almost done. It wasn’t really working because when I got to the top and saw the next one it just made me crazy mad.

I barely made it to the finish of that tour. I was destroyed. I was at a tipping point at that time of my life right then. I wasn’t enjoying the sport much. I truly took the addition of the competition to add enough more to the sport to keep me involved. I started racing pretty soon after that and that aspect of the sport drew me in like crazy. It was the racing, the tactics and strategy that intrigued me.

Obviously, that isn’t the only reason that I am still riding and racing my bike. But, I very much doubt I would be still doing it without the combination of all aspects of the sport. I have to admit, I’ve never again had to walk up a hill, training or in a race as far as I can remember. And I’ve ridden a ton of very steep hills around the world. From the 30% grades in the British Milk race to the cobbled climbs in Belgium, I’ve always stayed on my bike. I’m sure there will come a time when I revert back to the beginning and have to walk hills. By then, I’m hoping it won’t bother me much.

This was pretty much Kris's Motebecane Grand Record.  It was a pretty bike.

This was pretty much Kris’s Motebecane Grand Record. It was a pretty bike.

Looks like my VW pickup, only mine is in much worse condition now.

Looks like my VW pickup, only mine is in much worse condition now.

I rode this street up and down when I was in New Zealand.  It is pretty steep.

I rode this street up and down when I was in New Zealand. It is pretty steep.

10 thoughts on “I’ve Never Had to Walk a Hill Since

  1. Sean YD

    Great post, Steve. It conjured up memories I had of riding my first RAGBRAI (the ninth edition, in the early 80s) on a Schwinn LeTour. I recall my friend, Ben, and I made a pact to ride every hill. We were only 12 and 13 years old, so it was probably a similar scenario to you and your brother. I remember lots of people walking hills back then as well.

  2. SalRuibal

    I walked a bit on Col de Madeleine and a slew of other climbs. Then I got better gearing to go with my advancing age. Made it up a lot of TdF mountain-top finishes and the TOC Sierra hill climb. I’m not embarrassed to ride a compact, especially if it has electronic shifting. I’m almost 60 and I’m not going to let my ego get in the way of having fun on my bikes. I’m interested in getting a pedal-assist electric bike for some of the really tough Italian and Spanish ascents. Switzerland has some Alpine electric-bike routes with battery-swap kiosks along the route. That’s the cycle of life: you’re born, your learn to crawl, then, run, ride a bike until your legs won’t turn. Then you get a motorcycle!

  3. Calvin Jones

    The Motobecanes of that generation look so frail and fragile now, don’t they. Nice brake levers, those holes certainly helped the weight on the climbs, we know that much. You however were better off and safer with the Schwinn because you had the shifting right there at the stem, and those handy brake lever extensions. No dangerous reaching down to the shifters on the down tube for Schwinn. Comparing the Grand Record to the Sports Tourer, the later comes out more tank like, or more like a boat anchor if you prefer. At least it had a three-piece cotterless crank.

    (ps- bike photo etiquette comment: For bike shots, protocol is (in my play book) big ring up front and smallest for rear. And for collector’s bikes that sit around a lot…don’t forget to pump up the tires for the shot)

  4. Anton

    It’s one of the Tilford legends now known as true, that Kris was originally the faster rider.

  5. biscuit

    Did you have to walk any of the “12 miles of Hell”? (MTB in Lawton, Ok.) I raced it once and remember everyone in front of me walking the last hill before the finish.

  6. John

    Please contact me if you ever decide to sell the VW. I am looking for that exact model. I’m sure you’ve had plenty of offers in the past. Very hard to find one that is not rusted beyond repair. They were cheap workhorses in the day.

    Always enjoy the posts.

  7. tilford97 Post author

    Biscuit-Nope, raced the 12 miles of Hell, Hills of Hell, whatever a few times and other than dabbing a few times, could ride everything. I had a crazy ride down that one steep descent one year. I was riding behind the spectators. It is amazing what you can do on a MTB bike.

  8. Charles Dostale

    Rare yellow Grand Record – the fork looks bent which is typical of Motobecanes. I only remember selling the black with red ones at Barr Bicycle in DSM, and sold many more Raleigh Competitions than Grand Records at Michael’s. I had a Stronglite 49 crank like that on my Peugeot PR-10. So much chainring flex under load I bet you could still hear the chain rub on the front derailieur when Kris was close to the top of the hill and you were walking. Schwinn Sport Tourers were pretty nice with a fillet-brazed cro-mo frame. One step below the Paramount as I remember, at least until the Asian-made Schwinns started coming to market.

  9. eletuiree

    When I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each and every time a comment is added I get four emails with the exact same comment. Is there any way you may remove me from that service? Thanks!

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