A Rascal's birthday

I remember the energy in the air in 1993, it was an exciting time to be a high school senior.  America had a young, charismatic president.  The New York Knicks were actually good.  There was loads of fantastic music coming out:  Blur’s Modern Life is Rubbish, Pearl Jam’s Vs., Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream, the Wu Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers, and Slowdive’s Souvlaki.  And in a small factory in a nondescript town in Washington State, an engineer from MIT named Gary Klein was producing the most amazing bicycles the world had ever seen.

 This magazine advert summed it up well.

This magazine advert summed it up well.

This was a golden age of mountain biking.  The sport was exploding around the country and I was caught up in the rush.  I had fallen in love with it a few years earlier and by 1993 had started racing.  In East Lansing, Michigan, I walked downtown after school to the Velocipede Peddler bike shop where I stared in awe at the luscious, candy-colored Kleins and their eye-watering prices.  They were stunning bikes – to ride and to behold – and I would have one.  I had been working for two years, forgoing nights at the movies with friends, and saving up for my dream bike:  a Klein Rascal.  When I got sick of mowing lawns, working at a summer camp, toiling in the yard, or shoveling snow, all I had to do was imagine my future Klein.  The fantasy of flying through the woods on my fleet aluminum steed erased the drudgery of labor.

In September of 1993 I got the call from Velocipede.  My custom-painted, custom-built Rascal was ready for me to collect.  The dream had come true.  It was a work of the highest craftsmanship.  The paint scheme, called Moonrise Linear Fade, flowed from orange to pink to purple as you changed your vantage point.  It weighed less than 25 pounds.  And it went like hell.  The handling was telepathic – before you even thought about where you wanted to steer it, the bike was already there.  The rigid frame transferred power so efficiently that simply by exhaling you would rocket forward.  Okay, maybe that is a slight embellishment, but I had never felt such exuberance and jubilation in my life as I did when I was pedaling through the woods on this Klein.

 1994 Michigan state championships at Pando ski area.

1994 Michigan state championships at Pando ski area.

My Rascal remained my trusty mountain bike of choice.  I rode it on three continents:  through the limestone landscapes of Cezanne and the in the rich, red dirt of South Africa.  Mountain biking technology continued to evolve but none of it mattered to me anymore.  I had found The One and it was perfection.  The joy of riding this bike never abated.  It also turned heads.  There was nothing else, before or since, that looked like a Klein.  It had elevated the bicycle to a work of art, made all the more elegant by its unsurpassed function.

 

This month my Rascal turned 25.  It’s a dinosaur ridden by a relic.  It is scratched up and shows the wear of thousands upon thousands of miles.  I am scratched up and have less hair than I did in 1993.  But this Klein has other secret properties.  It’s a time machine.  Every time I hit the dirt on my Rascal I feel 16 again.  Slicing crisply through corners with laser precision I experience exactly the same joy and delight that I did the first time I rode the bike.  I laugh out loud as I weave through the woods.  It is that much fun.  I can’t contain myself.

 On this day Klein beat Trek, but in the long run the behemoth swallowed the little guy.

On this day Klein beat Trek, but in the long run the behemoth swallowed the little guy.

Everywhere I ride I feel like a celebrity.  Strangers come up to me to express their admiration for my bike, or to tell me about the Klein that they used to own and how much they loved it.  This has become a point of annoyance for my friends who ride with me.  One day another rider chased me down to tell me he was the painter at the Klein factory who had invented Moonrise Linear Fade.  My passion for riding this bicycle has not dimmed during the quarter century I’ve owned it, even if the paint has lost a little luster.  If I’m lucky we’ll both make it another 25 years together.

 This morning’s ride. Happy birthday, you Rascal!

This morning’s ride. Happy birthday, you Rascal!

 Nothing like transporting one artifact inside another. Two rare machines from 1993.

Nothing like transporting one artifact inside another. Two rare machines from 1993.