Today, dear Reader, marks the end of an era. My well-loved, well-used, oft-abused navy blue and black Saint-Gobain Abrasives duffel bag has been retired from service. This has been my go to cycling bag for the last 4+ years. Though I will be sad to pull my helmet and shoes from another bag, my soul is quieted by the memory of the last few years we've spent together.
This duffel has been with me for most of my competitive cycling career. I started riding seriously in 2002, during one of my financially poorest years of college. In 2004, I took an 8 month co-op internship with Saint-Gobain Abrasives, helping engineer the processes that made Norton Sandpaper. With the money I was making at this job, I bought my first road bike - a Raleigh Grand Prix. It was beautiful: Columbus steel tubing; red, white, and blue paint job; Campagnolo 10-speed. I started riding seriously, but on Tuesdays, when our team would drive to ride in the Tuesday Night World Championships, I would be at a loss for the transportation of my riding apparel.
The answer came out of a hangover haze that August, 2004. It was the last Thursday at my internship, and the other intern and I had been out drinking the night before until 4 in the morning - well past last call. We had been celebrating a successful completion of our gig with Norton. We both arrived late that Thursday, still in the previous day's clothes, stinking like stale beer. We spent the first 2 hours of that work day with our heads down on our desk, only to be interrupted by Judy, a coworker: "Who kicked the shit outta you last night?! Come on kids, we got a nice lunch for ya."
Our coworkers had arranged for a nice catered lunch to say thanks and good luck with your futures. To this day, I don't think I've had a meatball that good. But the finest moment of that day came when two unmarked boxes came out from under the conference room table. One for my colleague, one for me. As I opened the box, a golden light shined from under the lid, and somewhere from behind a sandpaper-maker, a Heraldic choir sang. There, in front of mine own eyes, was the solution to an armful of loose shoes, gloves, and a helmet - the navy blue duffel.
Since that day, I've never thought of going back into the "Gritty Business". But I am reminded of the basic goodness of man. And I've had a place to leave my sweaty, stinking cycling clothes to fester for a few too many days. But the zippers have started to bust. And though I've never said it to my bag's face, I've never been satisfied with her volume.
So when (Desperately Seeking Nickname) Matt Mc. offered up an opportunity to purchase some discounted goods, I jumped. Introducing my new, fully zippered, more-voluminous, but far less charismatic Pearl Izumi gear bag.
Navy blue and black Saint-Gobain Abrasives duffel bag: rest in peace. You are gone, but never forgotten.