Yes, it was a Huffy, a department store bike. I think it weighed about 40 pounds. The brakes were, well, a bit flexy. The rims were heavy steel. Sure, it was kind of a nerdy bike. But I was kind of a nerd.
Growing up in rapidly suburbanizing Maple Grove, my Santa Fe was my ticket to freedom. It meant that I could visit not just the 7-11 a 1/2 mile away, but also the Maple Grove Mall (très chic!) 2 miles away. I biked to Weaver Lake on muddy half-built subdivision roads and through Eagle Lake marshes where no ten-speed should go. I got a paper route and learned how to ride with two huge bags of newspapers on my back. These were pre-internet days, so I'm really not sure how I figured out how to shift gears, fix flats, and grease my chain. I mostly taught myself.
At 12, I somehow learned about the MS-100 ride and signed myself up. I went door to door through our neighborhood trying to collect enough donations to meet the $100 entry fee. My parents helped out a good bit too. I'd never ridden 100 miles in two days before, but it seemed doable. I trained by riding a 3 mile loop around our neighborhood every day.
The event organizers held a training session in Minneapolis where I learned about gear ratios and cadence. I got a cool bike cap. Afterwards, I installed some toe clips and took the suicide levers off my brakes. I felt like I was part of an elite ten-speed club.
On the second day, I cut through some grass and hit a boulder. One of the support team riders stopped to true my wheel and said, "You know, if you're going to go on rides like this, you should really get a better bike." I was shocked. It had never really occurred to me that there were "better bikes". I resented the idea that my Santa Fe wasn't good enough.
His offhand comment had a pretty sizable impact. I never rode another MS event and didn't roll on another group ride until I found Joyful Riders in 2017. My bikes have always been pretty cheap and my riding mostly solo or with my kids. A lot of commuting, always valuing the utility of biking over the sport or the aesthetics. It's not that I'm cheap--well I am kinda--I just never had the desire for a top of the line high performance ride.
Have I been holding a grudge for 35 years? Maybe a little. And maybe it's time to learn to let it go. Objectively, the Santa Fe was kind of a crappy bike. Hopefully, I've learned to be careful about what I say to enthusiastic young riders.
In 1983 or thereabouts, my Santa Fe met its end when I crashed into the rear quarter panel of an AMC Pacer. I flew over the car, flipping head over heels. I'm pretty sure it was the nerdiest possible way to wreck a bike. (Another lesson learned: don't ride on sidewalks.)
The bike shop in Osseo said the Santa Fe wasn't worth repairing, so my parents helped me buy a low end Raleigh which served me well all the way through high school. Today, I'm still riding old 70s and 80s 10-speeds. So are my kids.
Thanks to my Mom and Dad for finding these old pics and scanning them for me.