Goodbye To All That

“For a moment I felt an indescribable, painful, and useless longing for myself: then there was ‘he’ alone, der Unbekannte, the Unknown, there was nothing but him… He was the stronger of the two, and I was the mirror.” —Rainer Maria Rilke, tr. Franco Moretti, “The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture”

Around the time that the above quote was published, and around the time that I read Moretti’s book for the first time as a dissipated, dispassionate sophomore at university, I received a box from a fellow named Bruce Goin. Bruce was the proprietor of the embarrassingly-named “Badd&Company”, and he was the prototypical fat-white-trash-dad-as-would-be-BMX-mogul that all the Nirvana-listening trail-jumper kids loved to complain about. He was also very close to illiterate; the letter that accompanied the box wouldn’t have passed muster in a grade-school composition class. It made me sniff involuntarily in revulsion; I might that very afternoon have plumbed the depths of the most refined literature, perhaps including the Unbekannte and subtle Rilke himself, so imagine my displeasure at perusing an Olympia-typewriter-generated sheet of paper that contained the memorable all-caps sentence “AT FIRST I THOUGHT YOUR CRAZY BUT THEN I REELIZE THAT YOUR NOT CRAZY IM THE CRAZY ONE.”

Bruce was nobody’s choice for the Social Register, but he was a kind-hearted, decent man. The box was on my doorstep because I’d alerted him to a manufacturing error in his “Badd Stretch XXL”. The “stretch” was the longest BMX frame ever made, twenty-two inches from head tube to seatpost in an era where the second-longest frame, the Free Agent Limo, was 19.75″. An utter revolution in the sport, invented by a 350-pound man who couldn’t ride a bicycle at all because his knees didn’t work. There was a sweet irony in that. The “S&M Holmes” that all the dirt-jumper kids loved, the “rider-owned” miracle bike, was nothing but an angle-for-angle copy of the Free Agent Limo with thicker tubing. It was the “fat dad” who changed the BMX game, not the riders themselves.

I’d been one of the first five or six Stretch customers. For me, it was a revelation as well as a revolution, catapulting me immediately to a pair of wins in my local 17&Over Expert races. However, I’d quickly realized that the brake mount was incorrectly positioned. It worked okay enough with the Dia-Compe side-pull brakes that had been in fashion two years previous, but the Odyssey Pitbull cam-pull would not reach to all possible wheel positions. Bruce hadn’t caught it, his framebuilder hadn’t caught it. But I’d caught it. I wrote him a letter, suggesting a different set of measurements for the tubing. He read the letter. Did the measurements. Realized his mistake. And sent me a double gift: a brand-new frame made to my specs, and permission to sell the old one rather than return it. With this generous action, he both funded a spring’s worth of local racing for me and put me on the frame that I would use for most of my (admittedly dismal) professional cycling career.

“I should have known / at your age, in a string of days the year is gone / but in that space of time it takes so long” — Natalie Merchant, “How You’ve Grown”

In my memories, the second Stretch that I owned was my race bike forever. In truth, I used it from the spring of 1991 to the winter of 1994-1995, when I walked away from BMX because I couldn’t a find a job that would give me the weekends off. Less time than that, even, because in the middle of that three-and-a-half-year span I broke my race bike down and rebuilt it on a prototype frame designed by two laid-back dudes named Clay and Erick. It was a two-piece, bolted-together affair called a Hyper HPR-20. My friend and racing idol Billy Harrison, also a college student trying to race professionally but with considerably more success in the undertaking, was the team pro. He managed to get me one of their prototypes. I raced it during my senior year at Miami. It was shorter than the Badd by an inch. Didn’t work very well for me. After three or four races where Big Nick beat me by twice his usual margin of victory, I admitted defeat and went back to the Badd. The Hyper disappeared to the basement, never to be reassembled.

Ten years later, I paid some ridiculous amount on eBay for my childhood dream bike, a 1985 Redline 800p in Construction Yellow. I’d started racing on a Construction Yellow 600c of the same year, one of a thirty-bike batch bought at a discount by Eastland Schwinn in Columbus, Ohio then sold to my long-suffering mother in payments that totaled to $169.99 plus tax. I loved the 600c but it was far too short for me. I wanted the 800p but it was $499 which meant that it was no more within my possibilities than a Lamborghini Countach would have been. Not until I was twenty-nine years old did I ever manage to pay more than $499 for a bicycle. (Klein Pulse Comp, since you didn’t ask.) I hung the 800p up in the basement of my new house, next to the Hyper frame and Badd&Co Stretch complete bike.

Last night, I drove to Dayton, Ohio and met a charming fellow about my age who arrived in a grey supercharged Range Rover. For the sum of $1,290, he took delivery of all three. The bike that capped my BMX career, the stylish but useless two-piece frame that I’d raced for a long fall of disappointing results, and the vintage Redline that I’d never gotten around to restoring or even building up. I think he’d have paid more; I’d have taken less. He was accompanied by a friend who, to my immense surprise, bought most of the number plates that I’d used in my short time as a Superclass BMX pro. I’d brought them along to show off and to put the bikes in context, but he offered to give me actual money for them. I’d have been a fool to say no. That put a couple hundred bucks on top of the deal.

On the way home, Danger Girl saw me chewing my lip and she asked if I was okay. “Absolutely,” I replied, and I meant it. If you’d asked me a month ago, I would have told you that I would never sell. Not that I used any of it. I didn’t even look at the stuff. The Badd had hung nose-down in my basement for fifteen uninterrupted years, causing the headset to freeze and lock in place. The Hyper had an eighth-inch layer of dust on it, as did the Redline. All three of these items would have been better off in some vintage-BMX collector’s museum or display case. But I was unable to let them go.

Let’s return to Rainer Maria Rilke for a moment. He talks about that useless longing, the gnawing conviction that the truest and strongest version of yourself is gone and you are only the mirror of that person, the shadow, growing dimmer and weaker until you finally disappear into death. You cannot reach that ur-self, that perfected younger version of you. He’s gone. You’re here, the unworthy inheritor of your own tradition.

For a long time, I’ve been the curator of a museum devoted to my previous and superior self. I’ve surrounded myself with every object that I could preserve or salvage or repurchase from my youth. From a “Star Bird” toy to vintage Atari computers to the actual bicycle chain that I used in my first BMX race. All of it a tribute to the better, braver, smarter person that I used to be. Before I broke ninety bones, before I hit my head so many times that all the quicksilver wit drained out, before I was forced to bow and scrape to the quotidian dictatorship of daily bread and homeowners’-association dues, before I unknowingly dabbled in the sympathetic magic of adultery and substance abuse only to be caught up in its orbit like a startled meteor promoted to minor moon.

A couple of things happened. The first thing was that I bought my son his first skatepark bike and I watched the intuitive mastery with which he grasped the opportunity. It’s obvious that he will be a far better rider than I was. Better even than my fifteen-year-old self, before all the crashes. If he wants it, and that’s for him to decide. It’s enough for me to see that he has the gift.

Then, of course, Nick died. I started thinking more about the value of living in the present moment instead of yearning for the past or even the future. I thought about the idea that I’d been given the gift of continuance that had been denied Nick. There must be a reason for that.

Rather than stare at my old bikes, I am building new ones. Instead of daydreaming about my old races and epic weekends spent with friends who are now distant or gone entirely, I’m going to ride my bike in the present and be satisfied. In place of a useless longing for my childhood self, I will put more effort into being a father. I’ll take the money that I got from selling my old bikes and I’ll spend it on adventures for me and my son.

Before I loaded that old Badd&Company into the Tahoe for the trip west, I did something I hadn’t done since 2001 or thereabouts. I swung a leg over the bike. Foot on the pedal in the old starting-gate position. Rolled the old A’ME grips in my hands. Twenty-five years dissipated in the space of seconds and I felt the presence of my old self, coiled and furious at the beginning of a race, alive within me for a glimmering moment. The sneer of my youth curled my lip. What a fool I must have looked at that moment, an old man animated by the spirits of the dead. Then I relaxed, stepped off the pedals, and carried the bike out to the driveway.

“His golden locks Time hath to silver turned.
O Time too swift, O swiftness never ceasing:
His youth ‘gainst Time and Age hath ever spurned,
But spurned in vain; youth waneth by increasing.
Beauty, strength, youth are flowers but fading seen;
Duty, faith, love are roots, and ever green.

His helmet now shall make a hive for bees,” — John Dowland, His golden locks time hath to silver turned, 1597

54 Replies to “Goodbye To All That”

  1. Ryan

    I’m not sure how you managed to do it, but this post explains exactly how I felt when I packed my hockey memorabilia in anticipation for my move.

    All of the trophies, medals, photographs, and sticks were a symbol of something I can never get back: my youth. For now, they can sit in a box in my mother’s basement.

  2. yamahog

    This is dynamite Jack! One of the most important things is being in the here and now – suffering can come from living in the past or the future.

    When you swung your leg over the Badd&Company, it didn’t conjure Young Jack, it stirred you. Whatever connected you to the past is still here right now. No HOA fees or nice shirts can mute it – only you can. And I know it’s tough to reconcile tenacity with showing up to work every day and making a difference in your family, but there’s always a middle way. Taking your son to BMX venues and building new bikes and indeed showing up to work are all things that Young Jack would do if he had to put food on the table and pay bills, and if Young Jack wouldn’t have, then congratulations you’ve become a more compassionate person.

    The yellow on that bike frame is spectacular by the way!

    Open question – why don’t BMX bikes use disk brakes?

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      BMX bikes don’t use disk brakes because a BMX race lasts 45 seconds or so and there’s no opportunity to overheat the rim or encounter fade. So the additional complexity and weight of a disk brake is unwelcome. A properly set-up V-brake on a chrome rim will lock a wheel no problem at the max speed you’d see in even a modern BMX race — say 32-35mph.

      I’ve run discs on various mountain bikes but I always thought that the real killer application for discs was on a tandem. It’s well-known that road-bike tandems can suffer from blowouts caused by excessive rim heat while descending long hills.

      • Felis Concolor

        The initial wave of heat dissipating brakes featured cast or machined aluminum cooling fins bonded to highly conductive friction blocks, the better to convert kinetic to thermal energy, then disperse it in the self-generated breeze. As V-Brakes and similar types did not yet exist, they were designed to fit either side or center pull brakes (stacked discs) or then-new wide arm cantilever (fins parallel to the long braking block) braking systems.

        After riding down the switchbacks mentioned in an earlier post, I reached for the fins on the cantilever style pads I had installed for my first – and only – Skyline/Polipoli trail descent. My reflexes pulled my hand back even as my left index fingertip lightly brushed the edge. Over 30 years later, the skin is still pinched at that location.

        I’m still idly musing how I’d go about creating a modern side-by-side velocar: if it can handle the torque input, S-A’s 5 speed w/reversing clutch trike drive would be an ideal transmission, complemented with Schlumpf’s 2.5x overdrive gear and a center differential, but I have no idea what the max recommended torque ratings are.

        I’ll have some photographs of my Linears ready in the next few days for your perusal, honest!

        • Jack Baruth Post author

          We saw that design in BMX too, very briefly.

          The importance of braking in BMX has gone from “critical” to “nonexistent”. Many of the early tracks were stuffed with 180-degree low-bank turns or even raised turns called “Europeans”. Having perfect brakes meant you could pick up a spot on the way in, the same way you can in a car.

          Today’s tracks are nothing but downhills, rhythm sections, and monster jumps, with turns angled so as to make brakes irrelevant. The only reason you’d touch ’em is if there was a wreck right in front of you.

  3. Charlie

    Great piece, I enjoy any perspective on the phenomenon of nostalgia. Found a hiccup that confused me for a few reads; “from seat tube to seatpost” when talking about the extended wheelbase. Does the seat tube go into the seatpost, or is the seatpost where the handlebars attach?

  4. Ronnie Schreiber

    “For a long time, I’ve been the curator of a museum devoted to my previous and superior self. ”

    That brings to mind our discussions of one James Patrick Page.

    If you want to see a museum devoted to oneself, next time you’re in Detroit, check out Jack White’s store down the street from the Shinola store in Midtown.

    OTOH, I have the first Harmonicaster prototype stashed in a safe place, just waiting for the museum that will be next to the custom shop. Hey, a kid can dream, can’t he?

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      The Third Man store? I’ve been in there. It’s pretty awesome if you dig that particular aesthetic but yeah there’s no small amount of narcissism in there.

  5. Don Curton

    Man that strikes a note. I have a vast collection of semi-valuable junk laying around, tributes to all the various hobbies I dabbled in over the past 5 decades. Reloading gear for various pistol calibers, a long dead and crumpled radio controlled plane, wood-working tools, more fishing gear than you can shake a stick at, parts for vehicles long gone, specialized tools I’ll never need again, camping gear, video games for long dead systems, archery, even a box of 5.25 computer disks with a clean version of DOS on them. Every time I go to clear the stuff out, some little voice keeps telling me that someday, SOMEDAY, I’ll actually have the time to do all the stuff I wanted to do, to catch up on all the hobbies, restore all the gear, have all the money necessary to do it right, and that if I throw it out then I’m losing a little part of myself.

    My wife thinks that is nuts, but I’m glad I’m not the only one to feel that way. I recently sold an antique car I’ve kept around for over 30 years. That hurt. Badly. But I realized that getting rid of it allowed me to grow into other things.

    Of course, I’m never going to admit that to my wife, lest she starts thinking she’s right. I’ll never live that one down.

  6. Jodine

    “Then, of course, Nick died. I started thinking more about the value of living in the present moment instead of yearning for the past or even the future. I thought about the idea that I’d been given the gift of continuance that had been denied Nick. There must be a reason for that.

    Rather than stare at my old bikes, I am building new ones. Instead of daydreaming about my old races and epic weekends spent with friends who are now distant or gone entirely, I’m going to ride my bike in the present and be satisfied. In place of a useless longing for my childhood self, I will put more effort into being a father. I’ll take the money that I got from selling my old bikes and I’ll spend it on adventures for me and my son.”

    Random and weird question, but do you happen to be a Scorpio? My astrologist friend would be thrilled to see me ask this.

    The reason I ask is because a few weeks ago I wrote, “I can dream all day about what we’d be doing in Chicago had we stayed, and this year would be our 10 year anniversary there, or I can live life to the fullest in the PRESENT, which is what I choose. Sure, occasionally, it’s hard. Nostalgia can suck the life out of you—if you let it. Just remember to enjoy it for a few minutes and then move on. Choose mindfulness. Choose positivity.”

    It’s a good feeling to be present. But, like I said on IG, I feel for you. Giving up something that meant so much to you and was such a huge part of your life is hard. Props to you.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I am TOTALLY a Scorpio!

      And you’re better off out of Chicago. That place sucks the soul out of people. You and Mr. O are on a solid path just the way you are.

      • Will

        I’m here and I have a soul. I don’t think it sucks the soul out of people, just makes them fat and uninteresting (I guess that is sucking the soul, hmm…).

        • Jack Baruth Post author

          I’m strictly basing my comments on what I’ve seen of people I know who made the decision to move there. None of them have ever been better off for having done so.

          My openly-biased opinion is that if you are psychologically capable of living in an environment like that, you might as well move to Manhattan and obtain all the additional cultural and human benefits that come with living in the world’s capital.

          • Will

            I hate Chicago for what it’s worth, I just moved back to start my business. I actually agree with you, and was just being facetious.

            Minneapolis is a much better city if you’re looking for midwestern cities to visit. Great town May through September.

        • Jodine

          Will: You want to talk about gaining some weight and uninteresting people, move to Kansas City. Chicago did the opposite of what you’re describing for me. Regardless, it did eat my soul alive with a tiny spoon and butter knife. Very slow and painfully. I loved that city, but not sure I’d ever move back there.

          Jack: I had a feeling – I tend to notice patterns of overlapping themes of people whose planets might be close to my own. But, I’m not an expert and I only know what my friend has interpreted for me. Thanks for the kind words! We have no regrets about this place, but I do miss a good Chicago style dog.

          • Will

            I don’t know why people like it here; high crime, nothing to do outdoors really and small town mentality. I moved here in high-school, left for 14 years and came back, yet the small mindedness still exists. It never changes here.

            The food and architecture is excellent, but that’s meh overall. Kansas city does suck.

          • Disinterested-Observer

            My wife used to have to go to Chicago once or twice a year for training. We loved visiting, would not want to live there.

  7. 98horn

    I came to a place in my life years ago where I boxed up the trophies and talismans of my youth. I’ve always been pressing forward, looking for the best version of myself over the horizon. Even when I consider the “best days of my life”-the free college years- I typically think about how much better I could have lived if I knew then what I know now. What would the 21 year old 98horn think of me were we to meet? He’d probably be impressed that 43 year old 98horn drives a 911 S.

  8. Dean

    “Let’s return to Rainer Maria Rilke for a moment. He talks about that useless longing, the gnawing conviction that the truest and strongest version of yourself is gone and you are only the mirror of that person, the shadow, growing dimmer and weaker until you finally disappear into death. You cannot reach that ur-self, that perfected younger version of you. He’s gone. You’re here, the unworthy inheritor of your own tradition.

    Rather than stare at my old bikes, I am building new ones. Instead of daydreaming about my old races and epic weekends spent with friends who are now distant or gone entirely, I’m going to ride my bike in the present and be satisfied. In place of a useless longing for my childhood self, I will put more effort into being a father.”

    A few years ago, I participated in a reunion of my old high school concert band. Our director was there, we set up in our sections, and got ready to play. The first downbeat nearly brought tears to everyone’s eyes. The sound was from 30 years ago, rich, balanced, better than we had any right to expect. For some, memories are visual but sound and smell and touch will bring you back to vivid moments as if you have been flashed back in time. The whole weekend was a thrill, for many, it was a way to reconnect with talent honed in our youth and then lost to life. Many of us had not had the opportunity to play at that level in our post-high school diaspora.

    The week after the reunion, I felt like I had a moment back in time. It was thrilling and some were looking to do it again, wanting to recreate the magic over and over. Subsequent efforts to do so keep falling apart, as if the moment is telling us that it was fleeting and we should have stayed in it while we were there, because the forces and circumstances that created it have now been lost to time again, this time for good. Like you, my mind has wandered through the what-ifs in the past, wondering what might have been if this, if that, if the other thing had happened. While we wouldn’t have present moments without the past, remaining in the past, reliving old glories, is sometimes what prevents us from creating new ones. The past will always be unchanging, the future unwritten. Best to focus on that which you can change.

  9. WheeTwelve

    Having had to leave most of my belongings behind when I crossed the pond, I don’t have the memorabilia of my youth to “worry” about. As I like to say, a civil war will ruin your whole childhood.

    What I *do* have is a feeling of unfinished business. Growing up where I did, consumer electronics were either simply unobtainable, or prohibitively expensive. Ditto for the books and magazines on the emerging (at the time) home computing.

    Thus I’ve recently indulged in getting a few computing items I never could have had while growing up. The fact that they still exist thirty years on, and fully function, is a testament to the designers and engineers who built them. I doubt that the same will be said for the computing items we use today, when they reach similar age. Though I didn’t originally get them for that reason, it is another reason to hold onto them.

    So, a different kind of nostalgia, I suppose. A more “active” nostalgia, perhaps? I’m not sure. Maybe a day will come when I will feel free to let these items go. Maybe. But not today.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Let me know if you’re missing something; there’s a chance that I have it, particular if it’s 8-bit or 68k.

      • WheeTwelve

        I appreciate the offer, and I will definitely keep it in mind. For the time being I’m good on 6502 and 68k. But just out of curiosity, what *do* you keep in your arsenal? Do you use it at all, and if so, how?

        • Jack Baruth Post author

          I have about thirty systems… most kinds of Atari 8-bit stuff, plus a couple Atari STs. Mac Classic, LC, LC580, Apple //e. IIgs, TI 99/4a, and some other things that have probably escaped me at the moment.

          I don’t use any of it right now. In years past I’ve usually had an Atari 800 sitting around to play some old games on it but right now it’s all in the basement.

          • WheeTwelve

            Whoa … thirty systems …

            You know, you’re just enabling people like me with those statements… And here I was afraid that my Commodore 64 and 64C, plus two Amiga 500s (rev. 5 and rev. 6) were too much.

            What games did you frequent on the 800?

            Prior to my first C64, I almost ended up with a 130XE. Friends talked me out of it, because in my neck of the woods (at that time) there was almost no software of any kind for it. I never saw a 130XE, but have ever since been wondering what it was like. Since you sound like an Atari guy, did you ever see/use a 130XE? If so, got any thoughts to share?

          • Jack Baruth Post author

            I’ve touched a 130XE but have never owned it. AFAIK it doesn’t really do anything that an 800 won’t do. Overseas I think they got a few extra peripherals and capabilities; Atari seemed to do better in the UK in the XE/ST era.

            I’m a Star Raiders fan, OF COURSE, but I also spent a lot of time playing the various arcade conversions and Activision games for the 8-bit Atari. I had a tape drive back in the day so I bought a few of the Atari Program Exchange games like 747 Landing Simulator or whatever it was called. I didn’t have a lot of respect for the C64; I thought of it as a pumped-up VIC-20 which was obviously far from being the case!

  10. Eric Daume

    As a car guy/Central Ohioan/bike guy, I’m curious what kind of new bike you’ll end up building. Maybe something nice and peaceful for riding around with the family?

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I bought two Haro reissues: the Master 24″ and the FST 20″. Then I built a FreedOM park bike from scratch; that’s what I’ve been riding at the skateparks.

      Right now, Mike Laird (of “Mirra 2″ fame) is building me a custom BMX bike with a 21.75″ top tube and skatepark geometry, in Lamborghini Verde Mantis. When I look at my build list for that… it’s a bank-breaker, man!

      Eventually I’ll go to a 26” dirt-jump bike, probably around the time I turn 50.

      • WheeTwelve

        Say, I don’t want to be crass, but I’m curious about the ball park on the bank-breaker. I’m an aluminum street rider who occasionally fantasizes about a carbon frame and some exotic light-weight accessories. And there’s a reason why those remain in the realm of fantasy — the aforementioned bank-breaking.

        But I know nothing about the costs (in general terms) of the BMX bikes. How does it compare to a sexy street carbon frame, light-weight shifters, and some fancy carbon wheels? Same price? Twice the price? Again, I’m not asking about details here, just a general idea. Might as well learn something while I have a chance…

        • Jack Baruth Post author

          This is my current build sheet, with approx prices.

          Lairdframe custom frame — $515
          S&M Pitchfork XLT — $149
          Chris King headset — $199
          Profile 60mm stem — $80
          Bars — TBD custom — $100
          Grips — ODI lock — $29
          Seat Post — Pivotal — $70
          Seat — Deity — $60
          Wheel — Profile with Sun Big Baller — $750
          Cranks — Profile Race with Ti spindle and hardware — $400
          Sprocket — Profile Imperial 28t — $40
          Pedals — Deity Decoy — $75
          Brakes — Fly lever, DC Fiesta — $60
          Tires — Demolition — $50
          Chain — Half-link — $20

          So about $2,600 for a children’s bike. And if I decide to redo it as a Ti-Lairdframe next year, the total cost will jump to $5k.

          This is obviously on the high side of stuff. I have about $1,400 in my current Freed bike and I love it. But I’m a grownup and $2500 doesn’t even get me through a single NASA race weekend so that’s how I justify the cost.


          • 98horn

            I’m curious about the Chris King headset. What’s the advantage there? I ride (very casually) MTB, and it seems like the bearings surrounding the fork tube wouldn’t make that much of a difference in feel. The rasta King sure looks cool, though.

          • Jack Baruth Post author

            There may not be much rationale for it. I’m in the habit of using Chris King headsets and I’ve had a half-dozen NoThreadsets, including the Rasta one on my old Klein, without any difficulty.

            On the other hand, I bought a Kink headset for my Freed and so far it’s been exemplary. I feel bad for Chris King because for years they talked so much smack about integrated headsets, ALL OF IT JUSTIFIED IMO, and now they have to get into the business.

          • WheeTwelve

            I see what you mean regarding the bank-breaker. To be fair, fancy carbon street frames go for more than that. Are there carbon frames in the BMX world, or does the geometry of the BMX (and perhaps the sheer cost) make that a no-go?

            Thus far, my one antidote to daydreaming about exotic carbon rides, other than my lack of funds, is what Ansel Adams wrote: “…; it is easy to confuse the hope for accomplishment with the desire to possess superior instruments.”

            A glitzy carbon bike won’t make me any less lard-laden, and no more fit than my aluminum bike does. Instead of day-dreaming about expensive, superior bikes, I should ride more the one I already have. At least, that’s my excuse for not being able to afford a pricier ride.

            Thanks for sharing your build details. What are your plans for this bike, once it’s all together?

          • Jack Baruth Post author

            There are a few carbon frames in BMX. The premier one IMO is made by my friend Bill Ryan — the Supercross ENVY BLK. It’s $1,199 which is a fraction of what a high-end MTB frame costs.

            Because there’s no suspension on a BMX bike you do tend to have many more opportunities for a little bit of the ol’ explosive delamination. Which is why I’d be likely to choose titanium for my next frame.

            When my Laird is together I’m going to use it as my general-purpose park/dirt-jump bike to ride with my son. I’ll keep the Freed as a backup because I really dig the way it rides and I don’t want to cannibalize it for the Laird.

            When I do a 26″ dirt-jumper MTB I’ll likely do a titanium Laird — or I *did* just see that Standard has recently built a 26″ dirt-jump frame with twin top tubes! No matter what I do I’m far more likely to choose a BMX maker over a traditional MTB builder. Unless it’s Litespeed.

          • Jack Baruth Post author

            Define cheap! I’ve been looking at the Lynskey 27.5 Pro. Not cheap but probably worth it. I’m afraid that I’ll buy it and my knees will give out before I can really enjoy it.

  11. -Nate

    Damn Jack ~
    I know/care bupkis about BMX Bicycles but as usual, you hit one out of the park here ~ a good read and thought provoking .
    I have very little from my Childhood but the memories and feeling you describe are the same .
    Kudos !.

    Moreso because you’re teaching John to be a good Man and probably an even better Citizen .

  12. Carl Kolchak

    As a Native Chicagoan (though I no longer live there) I have to stand up for my City, especially in light of this story. The Chicago I grew up with was a city of Neighborhoods, little,little towns a part of the “Big City”. It was like New York, but with some Midwestern leavening. It had, and still does, the most amazing Lakefront and Skyline. It had a vibe unlike any other place I’ve been to , except for NY. As I still live in the Midwest, I see many of these places as “Chicago Wannabees”.
    However, I totally understand your view of it. I moved back to the Burbs for about 2 years. When I would go into the city proper, I would invariably feel out of place, like I was seeing the pre-pre- apocalyptic version of my hometown.
    Thanks for the reflective writing, really appreciate it.

  13. Ken

    Thanks for the read.

    Random side note: Any thoughts on book suggestions? I really dig the weekly round up + the made in USA stuff. Every so often I catch a book suggestion by you in a random post. They are usually pretty good (although the vampires in space was a bit of a stretch).

    Would love to see a book suggestion category.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I agree with you. I should also put up more of the stuff that I’m reading, just to point people in familiar directions.

    • Disinterested-Observer

      “Hell in a Very Small Place” by Bernard Fall is a great book if you are into logistics.

      • Midnight DeSoto

        “Say! Let’s occupy the floor of this valley, beyond the reach of our supply/support/evac chain!” (Translated from the original French)
        I was reading Everything about the Vietnam Wars for awhile there. Herr’s ‘Dispatches’ and a first edition Fall is what I kept to hand down.

  14. nightfly

    A Star Bird! I had one of dems once. And a 2-XL, a bunch of Kenner Star Wars stuff, and the GI Joes (which I loved because they were better-articulated). Of course my Joes settled their scores with Cobra in epic football games, which would invariably end when Destro got mad about the score and took the football home with him. (Since the “ball” was his helmet, this was a simple matter.)

    In short, I can really get behind everything here. Great piece – it makes me remember, and better, it makes me think.

  15. Dirty Dingus McGee

    In the last 18 months, I have started to reduce my collection of old memories/possessions. Some of these items, toys that my mother saved/hid, album collection(983 albums) that was started in the late 60’s, various vehicle projects that I will never live long enough to finish, did sting to see them go down the road. However some have since been replaced with more current interest’s, 130 hp engine for my FXR(yeah I’m gonna go do some time at the drag strip), old vehicles that someone else put the sweat into, wood working equipment to get back into furniture building( that I haven’t had time for in the last 25 years). I think I have less “stuff”(see George Carlin’s bit on that), but in reality it’s probably just different/newer stuff.

  16. Kevin McCarthy

    You may or may not need any boost to your ego – but you’re going to get it regardless. Fantastic courage to so openly talk about your shortcomings and the decision to live in / for the present. I don’t mean to assume that your writing is effortless – but as a style it feels that way. You very naturally blend certain everyday happenings into life lessons and I can’t help but identify.

    On a more selfish / less life-lesson-y level this seriously makes me miss my old GT Pro Performer. I was lucky enough to grow up in Sylvania, OH and we had a plethora of dirt trails / jumps as well as a great flat land / vert ramp setup at the local hockey complex (Tam-O-Shanter I too went through a nostalgic phase in my college years and purchased a K2 DMC Comp. I held onto it for way too long and ended up cleaning it up and paying it forward to a youngster who wanted to try his hand at breaking bones at the local (now Westerville) bike / skate park.

    This was all years ago but it felt so much better to give it to someone who would use it vs. hanging on to it simply because I miss the good ol’ days.

  17. ZG

    “only to be caught up in its orbit like a startled meteor promoted to minor moon.”

    This is a great sentence. Bravo!

  18. DirtRoads

    You speak of Chris King headsets; I used to have David Clark headsets in my Cessna 172. Which tells you how much I know about BMX. Sorry. Let’s talk dirt bikes instead 🙂

    The 172 was another thing of the past I got rid of. After my first divorce, I decided that sentimentality only slows you down. And to some point, as yet unquantifiable, that’s so true. Yet, as with most things, one can take it to extreme. After my second divorce, I couldn’t afford to be sentimental because she basically took me for everything I had. And I’m the one who wanted the divorce! So now I can only afford new stuff, starting over in my 50s.

    The only two wheeler I’m considering is a tandem, and am open to advice from this group on that venture.


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