I think it was around 1970 or 71 when I learned to bicycle ride on a hand-me-down bike from my 2 older brothers. It was missing parts, rusty, and with miss-match tires worn down to nothing. Believe it or not it was a Schwinn Sting-Ray with a banana seat.
Historically, this was the bike that started the whole BMX world. I tore the whole bike down to the bare frame, sanded it down, spray painted it green, and lovingly rebuilt it to make it my own. I rode it mostly on the dirt. Years later, I scoured through the Sears catalog and upgraded to knobby tires, a better small padded seat, and a BMX style handlebar. Over the years, I lovingly tore down and rebuilt that bike more times that I could remember. I still have fond memories of how much fun that bike was to ride and work on.
In the Mid 70’s my family and I moved from Puerto Rico to Boston, MA. When I was in high school and college I rode almost every day in Boston, commuting mostly in heavy city traffic on several 10-speed road bikes. I would rather bike everywhere than ride the subway. I still did all of my own maintenance and bike repairs, tearing down and rebuilding an almost endless number of bikes for myself, family, and friends. That was a big part of the reason why I became a Mechanical Engineer.
After college I did go through several years of moving all over the country. I finally ended up settling in Connecticut. At this time mountain bikes were just starting to popular. I then decided to buy a first generation MTB 700c rigid-frame Raleigh C-30 bike. As it turns out, all the years of riding on the dirt when I was a kid made me a natural for MTB riding. I rode mostly on walking trails, fire access roads, and on some suburban streets. I then found some really nice bike parks nearby where mountain bikes where tearing up the technical single track trails, so I decided to hit those with my rigid frame bike.
That was around 1996. Little did I know that riding that Chrome-Moly steel rigid frame bike at such rough off-road and technical riding conditions, ended up catapulting my MTB riding skills way beyond anything I could have imagined. Even though I also rode a few cheap department store front suspension hardtail bikes on those same trails, I still by far preferred riding the rigid.
How did I get started as a photographer and writer?
Because of years of mountain biking, I was fit and trim and looking good. I met a hot Puerto Rican babe and ended up marrying her. Less than a year later, my wife enrolled me into a Pro Photography class as a gift. This was when DSLR’s were just starting out. I absolutely loved the new digital Pro Cameras. It all started out as a hobby and quickly escalated to stock photography, shooting for several websites, a few magazines, and then I was asked to write up some articles for them. I even started out a photography side business and a couple of websites of my own to promote it. That made me a bit of money to cover for my photography gear purchases.
Taking MTB to the next level…
I got hit by the recession just like everyone else. My photography business came to a complete halt, and I even paused riding for around 5 years and I was “downsized” out of my Engineering job. I eventually ended up moving to Eastern Iowa. I once again found that I really missed riding. Wow! I really love it here in the Midwest. There are some of the best and well maintained mountain bike trails here that I have ever seen in my entire life, and there are so many of them too.
This time around I had a bit more money available and I purchased a full suspension 26er Airborne Zeppelin Elite. I am riding the hell out of this bike, and I upgraded some of the components so it now really fits my style. Bikes sure have come a long way by leaps and bounds. I am now able to ride much more technical trails with almost effortless ease compared to my older rigid frame bike. No complaints; that old bike really upped my skills so that I can now confidently ride almost anything, almost anywhere I that want…
Now-a-days I am focusing more on the fitness side, and the fun of traveling to as many different bike trails as I can. I also really enjoy writing (and photography) for several MTB blogs and sharing my love of the sport. DUDE!! I just hit 50 years old! I am feeling so much happier, healthier, and stronger than ever now that I am riding again.
Latest posts by Tony Cotto (see all)
- The Frugal Mountain Biker: Dude! Lock it down! Part 3 - October 22, 2014
- The Frugal Mountain Biker: Dude! Lock it down! Part 2 - October 8, 2014
- The Frugal Mountain Biker: Dude! Lock it down! Part 1 - September 24, 2014
- The Frugal Mountain Biker: Variety is the spice of life - September 10, 2014
- The Frugal Mountain Biker: Part 10 – Get some mad skillz yo! - August 27, 2014