In the early ‘80s, I worked at Whippany Cycle, a bike shop located in Northern New Jersey. Even though I spent plenty of time as a kid riding around on Sting-Ray copies and department store “10 Speeds”, during my era at the bike shop I actually never owned a bike. Strange but true. I did borrow one occasionally for rides, but had nothing I called my own. Between attending community college, dating my girlfriend (and later wife) Lori, keeping my collection of ratty Fiats running, as well as my ‘73 Yamaha RD350 – there was no motivation or extra money to spring for a new bike. Sure, there were bikes hanging in the shop I lusted after – they would have to wait.
In 1984 the wait ended. Having a dirt motorcycle background, I really wanted a mountain bike. We carried Miyata at the time and I had my eye on the top of the line Ridge Runner model. I just scored my first job in computer operations and the pay increase over a bike shop wage was like hitting the lottery. I pulled in with my new Volkswagen GTI, popped for the Miyata Ridge Runner, plus a Miyata 110 road bike for Lori. All that with sick days and benefits included. What a concept. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast working at the shop – but having some extra was dough was a really nice change of pace.
This was the Cro-Magnon era of mountain bikes and the Miyata was a prime example. No suspension, SunTour Mountech derailleurs, 6 speed freewheel, friction shifting, bull moose handlebars, round bear trap pedals and bolt on hubs. I loved the thing. I rode it a fair amount for two years - on the road, exploring nearby woods, playing Observed Trials rider and just general cruising around. Besides cutting the handlebars down a bit and changing the grips, it remained stock and felt great.
At the time, mountain bikes were fairly rare. I remember riding it to watch the Tour of Nutley, a local crit race that I used to check out. People were asking me questions and one guy photographed it leaning against a wall. Another time I was cruising through Branch Brook Park in Newark, when some messenger looking dude rode by and asked me how many gears it had. When I replied 18, he just shook his head and cruised past. Anytime I ran into someone in the woods, hiking or on a dirt bike - they were amazed you could ride the same trails on a bicycle. This was years before land access hassles hit the scene.
This was also before helmets or specific mountain bike clothes. All I needed was a pair of OP shorts, sneakers and tube socks. Winter kit was jeans and hiking boots. Didn’t even use toe straps yet – that was for road bikes.
Near my house in Morris County, hit the woods in Mount Arlington and nearby Allamuchy. Trails I used to ride on with dirt motorcycles, replaced by human power. I never looked back. Hot humid summer rides, changing leaves in the fall, snow rides in the winter. Lori and I also rode the NYC 5 Boro Bike Tour on our Miyatas. Good memories.
I sold the Ridge Runner in 1986 after picking up a new Fat Chance. My old bike shop pal, John Passacantando bought it off me. He later gave it to his dad and from what I hear, still rides it today. As an interesting side note, John later went on to run Greenpeace USA – not bad for a bike mechanic from New Jersey.
Even though I already dug bikes, this Miyata really launched me into being a full on bike nut.