FORT KENT, Maine — It’s time to face facts, and I’m telling you all right now, it’s not pretty.
I have an addictive personality. There is no one but myself to blame — not my parents, not society, not even all those anvil-falling, coyote-exploding cartoons I watched as a kid.
And it’s time to come clean
Hello. I’m Julia, and I’m a bike-aholic.
The roots of my addiction can be traced back to that first Schwinn one-speed with the balloon tires which got me from point A to point B throughout my pre-teen years. My high school years ushered in a series of 10-speed road bikes — also Schwins — that saw me through my university life.
After that, cycling sort of rolled to the back burner, though the idea of it was always there, just waiting to be re-inflated and rolled back out.
And roll out it did in the late 90s with the purchase of a new mountain bike. Soon after I found myself in training for my first Trek Across Maine — 180 miles in three days to benefit the Maine Lung Association.
I won’t lie, not only did 180 miles on a mountain bike damn near kill me, it gave me the only excuse I needed to go shopping for a pavement-friendly road bike.
Two weeks after completing the Trek, a new blue Fuji 21-speed road bike was keeping the mountain bike company in the garage.
It made perfect sense, at least in my head. One bike for exploring the dirt roads and rocky trails around the farm, and the other to tour the miles of northern Maine’s paved highways and byways.
But soon, two bikes were not satisfying my habit. The mountain bike was old-school, lacking a front suspension, but how to justify a third bike?
That justification came after having a somewhat serious accident with that old bike which I quickly replaced with a new one after the sprains healed and bruises faded.
Since I did keep the damaged bike, the count was up to three — certainly far from excessive, and they took up hardly any room at all in the garage.
I blame the fourth bike on this very newspaper.
In 2001, I wrote a story on the now defunct Aegis Bicycle company which produced the first full carbon monocoque frames used in cycling from its factory in Van Buren.
So impressed was I with the technology and looks of those bikes, I went out and bought one the next year.
This, I told myself, was the last bike I would EVER need purchase.
And I was right… until last year when I decided it was time to replace it given the thousands and thousands of miles worth of wear and tear on it.
The count was at five bikes, but did not stay that way for long when last fall a rusty but super cool looking old Columbia 10-speed came home in the back of my truck.
This, my cycling friend Alan told me, is going to make a great single speed, or “SS” as we sufferers of bikeaholics call it.
Basically, a single speed is just that — it has one speed which is pretty much as fast as you can pedal, which makes it a perfect training bike.
In this case, to achieve this, Alan will strip the Columbia down to it’s core and build it back up with new parts minus the gearing and cables needed for shifting.
Since that fall, things have really spiraled out of control with another single speed, a re-built 1970s era 10-speed and a dizzying array of parts and bike components arriving on a disturbingly frequent basis via UPS to feed this habit.
Oh, and did I mention the accoutrements that go along with bike-aholism?
Specialized shorts, jerseys, gloves, shoes, socks and hats for every conceivable weather and terrain condition. Tools, water bottles, GPS sensors and all manner of energy enhancing snacks, treats and beverages to fuel the rides.
Because yes, these bikes do get ridden. They get ridden a lot.
But, in the end, can a person really have too many bikes?
Not according to my fellow cyclists.
“You need a bike for every purpose,” according to my elite athlete friend Kale Poland, who logs more miles on his bike over a year than most people do in cars. “A training bike, a crappy weather bike that you spent maybe 50 bucks on and don’t care if it gets annihilated by a plow, a racing bike, a mountain bike, a cyclocross bike, a singlespeed, a commuter and a coffee shop cruiser.”
It is a good thing Poland works at a bike shop to support his habit.
There is little doubt cycling is a great way to get and stay in shape and the epitome of fitness cycling could very well be Mark Rossignol, a northern Maine physical therapist and co-owner of Fresh Trails Adventures, a business offering guided bike trips in New England, Canada and Italy.
Mark has — and uses — lots of bikes.
According to Rossignol, a person should have as many bikes as he can.
In his case, that includes two Italian steel bikes, four carbon road racing bikes, three cyclocross bikes — one each in steel, carbon and aluminum — two mountain bikes and “a bunch of spares to loan to folks who may need a ride.”
The latest addition to Rossignol’s fleet is a vintage Italian Cocci steel road bike which he rebuilt to use in this fall’s L’Eroica bicycle ride in northern Italy.
In this ride, where everything old is new again, 5,000 riders will pedal around 120 miles on paved and dirt roads using pre-1970s bicycles and gear.
So popular is the event, Rossignol said, it is capped at 5,000 and participants enter a lottery to take part. This year Rossignol, his brother and an Italian friend all got in.
“I can hardly wait,” he said.
And I can see why — the ride of a lifetime and the opportunity to get another bike. Talk about a win-win.
For now, I think I’m all set with my current number of bikes, though new cycling catalogs are arriving almost daily and it can be hard to resist the siren’s call of new, shiny bike parts and gear.
After all, there is still a bit of room in the garage for at least a couple more bikes, right there next to the six dogsleds.
Like I said, addictive personality. And apparently seasonal, at that.
Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award winning writer and photographer, who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.