The Huffy heads to Valhalla

Anticipating the first installment of my whopping $8000 graduate assistant stipend in 1991, I trolled the bike aisle at the local Farm and Fleet looking for a styling wheel that fit my budget. Among the Schwinns and Murrays, it stood out with its 18 gears, splattered paint job, and triangular utility pouch: the Huffy Stone Mountain. BMXmuseum.com describes the cycle thusly:

1991: The Huffy Stone Mountain climbs to the top of the market. This 18-speed mountain bicycle features 26″ knobby tires, dynamic color finish, and consumer-preferred features.

$99.95 later, I stuffed the Huffy in the back of my 1984 Buick Skylark and headed home to the pretentiously named Amber Manor apartments with my prize.

The Huffy served me well. No effete bike snob, I knew nothing (still know nothing) of “derailleurs,” “chain rings,” “cassettes,” “gears,” “cages.” I wore no special clothing (no “diaper shorts,” as PA quaintly calls them), toted no mini-pumps, spare tubes, energy gels. I entered no races, joined no clubs, undertook no “centuries” (hell, no nickels or dimes until much, much later).

Nope.  Purely utilitarian, my rides served no larger purpose. Exercise? No. Adrenaline rush? No. A spiritual experience? No. Book bag slung over my shoulder, I rode the two miles to school, went to class, and then rode the two miles back. Done.

I rarely thought about the bike, its presence and reliability a given. Occasionally, it might call attention to itself, like when I rode home in an unexpected rainstorm and, after dismounting, discovered a perfect tire-width mud streak on the back of my white shirt, or when the chain popped off mysteriously as I cruised along Normal Road. For three years or so, I hopped on the Huffy five days a week—until I moved miles away and drove to school.

Virtually forgotten, the Huffy sat, collecting dust, for years, placed on to this truck or that as I moved hither and yon.

As A and S aged, though, the Huffy experienced a renaissance as I followed two little girls as they tooled around the park or snaked through the subdivision. With E, I put the Huffy through its paces, 5, 7, even an unprecedented 10 miles, never realizing that the bike lacked pizzazz, wanted smoother gears, true tires, working brakes. No, the Huffy now meant fun in the sun with my babies, who didn’t care that dad’s bike sucked, who maybe even thought that it was kind of cool. Ah, childish adulation.

Flash to 2010. I fall in with a set of hardcore bikers—SGS, SP, SH, JZ, NT, CT—who speak in a hushed tone of Cannondales, Pinerallos, Masis. Suddenly, the Huffy’s mystique fades, as wobbly tires, garish paint, childish accessories, rusted gears, ill-fitting seats, spotty brakes become painfully obvious on 20-mile, 25-miles rides. The Huffy represents, keeps up, but it scares them, these real bikers, and they talk of poor cadence, back injuries, sag wagons. SH tries it for a few seconds and then, echoing earlier good-natured taunts from SGS and SP,  declares that she “wouldn’t ride a single km on that piece of shit.”

Out of pity for the novice, SH and JZ offer up one of their dozen bikes, a 26-year-old Mishiki, for a song. Admitting my cycling ignorance, I try it, buy it.

SP made me buy a helmet, too, and, in a moment of weakness, I bought some fingerless riding gloves. Fuck a duck.

The Mishiki’s got cages, fancy handles, and a multi-position seat. It’ll ride true, won’t fall apart, won’t frighten the bona fide cyclists–but it’ll never be the bike that shepherded giggling kids past growling dogs or hauled ass past a skunk at 3:00 am after a shift of stocking shelves at Brown’s Country Market. It’ll never be a Huffy.

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~ by Moldorf on April 22, 2010.

4 Responses to “The Huffy heads to Valhalla”

  1. Yes, in the hard-core circles, they say the first “ride” is always the best. I still remember my three-speed Raleigh bike I learned to ride on when I was 10. That Raleigh bike ended up in an art exhibit because the artist found it so classic and ancient.

    Your ode to the Huffy was focused, funny, sentimental and a damn good blog, JFD.

  2. Dying to have my 1991 18 speed mens huffy stone mountain bike back, I came across your story. It lasted me a good ten years, from childhood to adulthood. I never took it to a shop, never replaced a thing on it, so when it finally busted (some irreplaceable metal part snapped off), I took it into my snobby local bike store. The highminded hipsters there called it a piece of crap, said the only thing that didn’t need replacing was the metal frame. I felt like someone had slapped my child in front of me. Anyway, I was bullied into buying one of their bikes to start college with and it’s been in the shop six times in the first two years of owning it. Now THAT is a piece of shit. Huffy4ever! –Siri

  3. currently in the process of restoring my “prize!” Bought $50 worth of tubes, tires, ajax, and a cable; and thought to myself gee this is almost half of what I paid for the damn thing in ’92! My how time flies, and an old, creaky relic can bring back your childhood. Cheers!

  4. $119 in 1991 (IIRC) and after riding it around a few short 1 mile rides I set off ona 26 mile ride with no water or training. It was part of rehabing a back injury.

    20+ years later, semi-retired and I’m looking to get back to pumping the pedals!

    PS: Before that I had a 15 speed Huffy “The Wind” when I was in junior HS.

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