Chris with Jeff Archer inside First Flight Bicycles

Old Schwinn Bicycle

A few years ago I’d acquired an old Schwinn bicycle that needed a little TLC. Rather than restoring it to its original state I had something else in mind. Like the pioneers of mountain biking in the movie Klunkers, I wanted to get that bike rolling so I could have a new kind of adventure: take it off road on some gravel downhills! Naturally, I drove up to First Flight Bicycles to talk it over with Jeff. His knowledge of cycling, especially mountain bike history, was second to none in our area.

I met Jeff through the Tarheel Trailblazers, of which we were both members. Although we didn’t always work the same trails together, we did share a common bond through trail-building and riding. Jeff Archer and I weren’t what you would call “good friends”, because our friendship only existed in the local cycling world. He was one of the nicest people I’d ever met.

When I told him my plans for Schwinn, he let out a hearty laugh and, of course, offered to help. The frame was pretty much the only thing salvageable, so Jeff ordered some parts for me. We started with the wheels. His recommendation was to get something sturdy I wouldn’t get hurt (too bad.) Since he was the expert, and obviously had my best interests in mind, I ordered just about everything he suggested.

“He always had an appreciation for the vintage (his dad fixed old cars) and the Museum of Mountain Bike Art and Technology evolved from that love of history. He has said he liked the stories behind the bikes; the stories of the people who built and rode them.”

BY GRAHAM AVERILL

Once all the parts arrived I was eager to put all together. I still needed a few odds and ends, though. So I took another trip up to the shop. When I got there Jeff led me down to the basement. Even though it was your typical basement, it was sort of creepy down there. A sort of graveyard for bikes with old bike parts everywhere. I wondered if that feeling showed on my face? He told me I could search for anything I needed. I wasn’t surprised to have found just that. Everything I needed to finish my epic build. Before I left that day I told him I would take that “old bike” out to Uwharrie and hit the gravel roads. I wanted to experience some of the joy those first mountain biker’s experienced. Jeff laughed again, and said he couldn’t wait to hear all about it.

Gravel Daredevil

Jeff passed away shortly after that. Before I got the chance to ride the bike he helped me finish. The local cycling community suffered the loss of a pillar. Through his involvement in building trails and his shop, First Flight Bicycles, he was instrumental in building the great community we have now. I was able to fulfill my promise to ride on the day of Jeff’s funeral service. I honored him by taking that “old Schwinn bicycle” out to Uwharrie and riding it like I said I would. I thought about him often during that ride. While I was sad at times, I swear I could hear his hearty laugh as I screamed down the loose gravel on that sixty year old bike. From what I know of Jeff, he would have been pleased at my decision.

An Awesome Guy

Jeff was an awesome guy. When I spent time at the shop it was like being around family. I’ve always thought his knowledge of cycling (especially mountain bike history) was second to none in our area, and the museum above the shop holds a vast collection that he was always happy to discuss at length.

Those things made him important to me and, I think, the rest of our local cycling community. There’s one thing in particular that stands out. While mountain biking was our common bond, I realized I was yearning for something else.

Since Jeff has been gone, I don’t limit myself to mountain biking. My rides these days are more adventure-minded, and I’m pretty sure that seed was planted by him the day I dragged that old crappy bike into the shop and asked for his help.

In a way, that was most likely the beginnings of my new love of bike-packing.

Jeff Archer Flight Crew

I’ll take another ride to honor Jeff Archer this December. Follow me as I accept the adventurous challenge to ride 300 miles across Florida.

My goal?
To raise money for the Jeff Archer Flight Crew. A fund of the North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League supporting youth cyclists’ who are on scholarships.

Through the fund the league will cover race & registration fees and purchase loaner bikes for use the whole season.

In the referral section put the name:
Jeff Archer

Be sure to follow me on Instagram by the handle: @TheMutt43

When I begin riding you can use this Tracking Link to follow along on my adventure: http://trackleaders.com/cfitt19

Quote from Bicycling Magazine article on Jeff Archer

BY GRAHAM AVERILL