Johnny Walker's bike doesn't show its age or its accomplishments. The skinny road tires are aired up, and the blue paint sparkles. The gear shifters work, and a new compass sits atop the handle bars, tucked between a nest of shiny black tubes that control the breaks and wires that help select the gears.
What it lacks in bright decals and flashy colors - a trademark of newer bicycles - it makes up for in character and in reliability, Walker explained.
"I loaned it to a friend who rode it from one end of the country to another," he said. "Then I took it to France, and I rode it all around there."
The old 10-speed Univega bicycle spent nearly 20 years in Walker's shed. He dusted it off three summers ago, however, taking it to Brock Webster and the crew at Orange Peel Bicycle Service on Yampa Street. The bike gained a new set of straight handlebars, fresh fenders and a new seat. For $100, Walker said he got a whole new bike.
"It was just one of those 10 speeds we all have," he said, thrilled with its comfort and its old-school style. "Riding the Univega is like riding an old Ford Mustang. It's a really comfortable ride, and it's a great around-town bike."
Around town is exactly where Walker and his bicycling-crazy wife, GiGi, have enjoyed taking their bikes for as long as they can remember. They're veterans, but Webster, the owner and operator of Orange Peel, said the around-town biker is joining a growing group in Steamboat Springs.
His shop still is packed with the most high-tech mountain biking gear, but his business has expanded to help cater to more casual customers.
"With Steamboat being a mountain bike town, a lot of people have an old mountain bike, one that doesn't have good performance by today's standards," Webster said. "Those are still super adequate for transportation. They're the perfect Steamboat commuter crossover bike."
Nina Darlington was among those tired of mountain biking. As a yoga instructor in town, she is plenty fit, but now into her 50s, she found herself avoiding the bike because of the pains incumbent with riding it.
She was a longtime and hard-core biker, but she found her solution by ditching the road bike, its demanding hunched-forward style finally too much.
"As we get a little older, injuries and conditions present themselves more," Darlington said. "On a road bike, you're always hunched over, and you develop neck, shoulder and back issues.
"This being such an active town, we all think we can go forever. We can on some levels, but I see a lot of injuries in my yoga class. People kept saying 'Oh man, I beat my body up. How can I still do the things I love to do?'"
Her answer was a different bike, one that did away with the back-breaking style and allowed her to sit more upright. With a little customization, she found exactly what she was looking for. She bought a Kona PHD bike and had new handlebars and a higher seat installed.
"I've rediscovered that childlike quality of riding," said Darlington, who tested her new bike out with a week in Moab, Utah, and since has been relentlessly crisscrossing Steamboat aboard it. "It doesn't have to have all the fancy, super high-tech gear. You don't have to ride with a pack. You can take it easy and go to the post office or the grocery store and do things around town.
"It makes riding easy and fun. By sitting upright, you can see scenery. It's comfy, it's great, and I'm happy."
- To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail email@example.com