I've been mountain biking since the mid-80s and since we were newlyweds at the time (read flat broke) every bike I'd owned was a compromise between what I wanted and what we could afford.
The first bike was a Schwinn Sierra (1985 I think) and it was my prized possession. I remember saving for months to get it, scraping and diverting precious dollars from our already over-strained budget until I had the 289.00 to make it my own.
Not long after though, it was stolen. We lived in an apartment in a less than great neighborhood and I left it on the patio one night to find it gone in the morning....I was crushed but immediately began raiding the budget again until I saved for my next bike. A 1990 Giant Iguana which at 349.00 took a pretty big bite out of the meager savings.
When I was shopping for this bike, front suspension was starting to be a lot more common on bikes. I unfortunately, having 2 young kids was forced once again to settle for something less than what I really wanted. The giant though was leaps and bounds ahead of the sierra as it had 21 speeds and the "new" rapidfire shifters which were a big leap over the friction thumb shifters on my Schwinn.
I rode this thing all over the place, rigid fork be damned. Chabot, Garin, the Hayward Plunge trail....nothing was too tough.....It's too bad I didn't save the money to move to a nicer neighborhood because I still had to keep the bike on the patio. Even though I had installed an eye bolt in the concrete and locked it up, my cable lock was no match for the commitment of our local hoodlums.
Ok, upgrading again....this time to a pretty nice 1996 Diamond Back. Still no front suspension, because after all, that was at the $500.00 level and only pros spend that kind of money on a bike...right?
It was about this time that my life and career were taking more time and riding was getting less attention...to be honest, the bike pretty much sat after that first year....
In 2003 though, I was fat and out of shape and although I wasn't healthy, my savings account finally was. I began to shop in earnest. Deciding I would no longer cut corners and settle for a bike that wasn't what I wanted. The problem was, I had no idea what was available any more and no idea what I wanted.
The good news is that when it comes to bikes, I actually enjoy shopping....and shop I did. Finally ending up with a full suspension, disc braked aluminum bike made by K2. It wasn't a common brand in the bike industry, but I figured I'd get more bang for my buck..and I did. Of course when the minister of finance found out I spent almost $1000.00 on a bike, she considered having me committed....I mean what kind of lunatic spends that kind of money on a bicycle???? (those of you reading this and knowing what my current stable of bikes looks like are probably laughing right now but that's why I discourage her from going in the garage)
It's on her that I finally became a regular cyclist and she eventually became a gateway drug for me, leading me into road biking, singlespeeding and as of a couple years ago, 29ers.
Sadly, over the last several years she also became a donor for some of my other bikes until last year, with nothing left but a frame I rebuilt her to her former glory. New front shock, crankset, F&R derailleurs and wheels and tires.....and there she sat in my garage....having only been ridden twice since and now hanging from the rack and gathering dust.
Well, today all that changed.... A friend of a friend is a newly married guy that wants to get into mountain biking. He has a limited budget and a kid on the way....and as of this afternoon now owns a very affordable, better than average, entry-level mountain bike in almost new condition.
Hopefully she'll do for him what she did for me. Introducing him to the joys of time spent together, pushing him beyond his comfort zones and if he's not careful, she may show him how tough she is as she lays next to him on the trail unscathed while he wipes the dust and blood off after she enticed him to try something he should have known better than to attempt...
Good bye old friend...hopefully I'll see you on the group rides....