I’ve always been a gear hound. Maybe it started when I was a little kid, and the Sears catalogue would show up in the mail. Whether it was toys or camping equipment, imagining what I would do was almost as much fun as the actual adventure.
In college, the gear budget went toward soccer shoes. I “needed” multiple pairs, for natural grass, artificial turf, dry conditions, wet conditions — never mind that I was mostly an off-the-bench player and my time on the field in any of those conditions was limited.
After college, I had a part-time job at an outdoor gear retailer, which is where my gear hounding really took shape. I still have and even occasionally use the tent, sleeping bags and outwear I picked up with my employee discount. The fact that I still have that gear 20-plus years later should mitigate the fact that I spent most of my paycheck from that job taking advantage of my employee discount.
In recent years, my gear hounding has revolved around bicycles. You’ll be happy to know that I’m down to four bikes, not counting the mountain bike I got in college and will keep forever for sentimental reasons. I even sold a bike I wasn’t using, though it was my wife who got the money. I guess that’s payback for blowing my paycheck on all that gear when we were first married.
In any case, my quiver of bikes is at a stable number, at least for the time being. In the interest of full disclosure, I did try to talk my son into taking one of my bikes with him to college. While I had hoped he would appreciate cruising around campus and the nearby trails, I also figured it would be an opportunity for me to replace whichever bike he took.
He didn’t go for it, so my gear hounding is going to have to evolve. Instead of getting a whole new bike, I’ve been upgrading the bikes I have, one part at a time.
On my road bike, for example, I’ve added cushier handlebar tape and a nicer saddle. My fat tire bike has better grips on the handlebars, and a new bottom bracket assembly (that’s where the pedals attach to the frame).
My mountain bike has gotten the most updating, mostly out of necessity. It started with new tires — I got a beefier set after ripping the sidewalls on my old tires on a couple of the peninsula’s rockier trails.
This past summer, I added a dropper seat post, which allows me to lower my seat with the push of a lever when I want to maneuver down a sketchy section of trail, or catch some air on the new downhill singletrack at Tsalteshi Trails. (Again, in the interest of full disclosure, “catching some air” for me is maybe 6 inches. The ratio of money spent to performance gained seems minimal, but it’s totally worth it.)
The list of future upgrades includes things like nicer shifters and gears, and perhaps better shocks for the suspension — you know, to absorb the impact from that 6 inches of air. And I’m thinking I should go with tubeless tires, which might’ve prevented the blowouts that got the upgrade ball rolling in the first place.
Also, the brake rotors are starting to wear out, so maybe a better set of those, and while I’m at it, I could upgrade the calipers, too. I’m sure I could find some other parts to upgrade, whether they need it or not.
I’d like to think that I’ve matured in my gear-hounding tendencies, and reached a point in my life where I’m happy with what I’ve got.
Of course, making all of these upgrades is going to require some new tools. For example, each bike has a different bottom bracket, and I only have the specialized wrenches for three of them. I might need some more gear.
And while my son is home from college for Christmas break, maybe I can convince him to take a bike back to school with him.
Will Morrow lives in Kenai. Email him at email@example.com.
• By WILL MORROW, For the Peninsula Clarion