RenoThis is an opinion piece by Reno Toffoli. Reno’s opinions don’t necessary represent the opinions of Your Group Ride or its advertisers but I always enjoy his rants. If you’d like to write an article for YGR, please email me at

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away I worked at Pizza Hut. The time was 1990 and the galaxy was Duluth, Minnesota. It was kind of a squalid grey-brown dump of a galaxy, at least at the time. This was especially true given the fact that I had been stuck there for 2 years of college and it was toward the end of a particularly bad Minnesota winter on the shores of Lake Superior.

Another thing you should know about all of this is that I like cartoons. There’s a certain thing about animation, especially good, edgy, well drawn animation that gets me. I have a soft spot for everything from classic Warner Brothers Looney Tunes to The Simpsons and Futurama to my current favorite, The Venture Brothers. On top of all this, I have always dug the mid-century modern aesthetic, especially as it applies to illustration. Think hip, stylized 1950s and ‘60s advertising copy. One artist that comes to mind off the top of my head is Charlie Harper…he was good.

I’m telling you that story so I can tell you this story:

In 1990, in Duluth Minnesota, working at a Pizza Hut while attending college at UMD and being pissed off at the world, I found my first bike mascot.
The crazy thing was, I didn’t have a bike, and I didn’t look at it as a mascot. It just happened to be a sticker sheet from a kid’s meal kind of thing that had a bunch of really cool cartoony dinosaurs on it. I thought it was cool as hell and took it home with me, put it away somewhere, and forgot about it for a couple years.
At some point, I moved and discovered mountain bikes. At a slightly later point, I decided the stem of my new (used) mountain bike looked a little bare. I must have been going through some old stuff and come across that bunch of Pizza Hut cartoon dinosaur stickers and figured that putting one on the stem would give my bike that little something it had been missing.

The dinosaur I picked out was, of course, the best one. I loved his goofy overbite expression and his rearward glance as if a little unsure and vulnerable. I guess I identified with him, and that dinosaur graced the stem of most every bike I owned from 1992 until 2014.
I’m not usually goofy about things like this but something about having that sticker on my stem made it feel like MY bike. It made a new bike feel like an old friend and an old bike feel more like a part of me. I don’t know how many thousands of miles that dinosaur went with me over those 22 years but it was a lot. That mascot saw me through countless commutes, riding an all kinds of weather, my first MS 150, my move to Colorado, my first mountain bike race, right up to last year. He was on exactly 5 bikes in all that time: a 1990 Trek 850, 1992 Cannondale Killer V, 1996 Giant ATX 890, 2003 Specialized Epic Pro, and a 2009 Giant Anthem X2.
The dinosaur is very beat up and faded now. He’s lost his tail, part of his nose, and was always stuck to my stem with his original adhesive. He was in such bad shape that when I sold the Giant last summer, I decided to retire him. He now sticks to the pegboard on my bike parts wall in the garage, still with his original adhesive. Nobody really knows he’s there except for me and nobody knows what he means except for me and I rather like it that way.

While the dinosaur was always on my #1 bike, as I acquired more bikes through the years, they all tended to get a mascot. The second mascot that I found was a very cool cartoon ghost. I think I found that one not too long after the dinosaur. Who knows, I may still have been working at Pizza Hut. Starting in the mid 1990s, I tended to have 2 bikes so the ghost always adorned the stem of my #2 bike. The ghost has also traveled many thousands of miles with me and I am happy to say, is still going strong sitting atop the Thomson stem on my Niner EMD9.

He’s actually in remarkable shape considering his age although he long ago lost his original adhesive and these days is stuck to the stem with a protective overcoat of clear packing tape. He’s been on a lot of #2 and #3 bikes including the EMD, a Sette Razzo, BMC Trailfox, Haro IBOC (the first and last steel mountain bike I ever owned), and a Klein Pinnacle.

The only non-sticker (yet still cartoon) mascot I ever had was Powerpuff Girl Buttercup who was strapped to the handlebars of my Standard STA 500 when I was riding BMX in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s. When people would ask me what she was doing there, I always said she helped me fly. I have no idea where I got her; probably from the keychain display at the checkout line at King Soopers. Buttercup is also beat up and faded and witness to countless crashes as well as first times I landed new tricks. She indeed helped me fly and is now retired and sits in my music room in one of the Terrible One pegs that once adorned my Standard.
As the years have gone by, I have developed this subconscious habit of always looking for new mascots. Usually in sticker packs from various kid’s meals and places like that. Since I actually have a kid now, this is a little easier although it’s not like I was buying kid’s meals just to see if they had stickers in them; I’m a little weird, but not that weird.

Kids have all kinds of cool stuff now, including really cool sticker books that have a zillion stickers in them that you’re just supposed to plaster all over everything, I guess. When my daughter gets these kinds of sticker books, I tend to look through them to see if there are any worthy mascots inside that would like to accompany me on my various cycling adventures.

One of my more recent mascots is a very cool mid-century style cat that is stuck to the handlebar on my Niner Jet 9. The cat has been with me through just over a year and 1200 miles on that bike including a whole season of racing and a Laramie Enduro. My daughter loves the cat because it’s sparkly. I love it because it’s cool. I’m a little worried about the cat though because it’s only a paper sticker and it’s already fading. I hope it can hang in there a while, though, because I like it and the Jet 9 isn’t going anywhere.

My most recent mascot sits on the stem of my newest bike. My daughter got a cool Halloween sticker book from grandma last October and it had a zillion cool stickers in it. When I got my Niner Rip9 RDO in November, I found a laughing skull that fit the personality of that bike to a T. I’ve already gone nearly 500 miles with the skull mascot on the RIP and the three of us are a good combination…I see many more years and many many more miles in our collective future.
For whatever reason, these goofy little stickers make a bike feel like home to me. I don’t know why, it just works out that way. I have had a few bikes along the way that never got a mascot. They were (probably) still good bikes and I still had a lot of good times with them but for some reason, they were never christened with a mascot. I actually do have a bike that doesn’t have a mascot on it right now: my cross bike. I’ve just never felt it, I guess. Maybe it’s because I only ride it when the trails are muddy or snowy and I can’t do any ‘real’ mountain biking. Maybe it’s because I just don’t feel the connection with it. Now that I think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever had a mascot on a road bike…not that I’ve had that many (exactly 3 if you count the cross bike) or spent that much time on them.
It’s silly and irrational but a goofy little sticker on my bike connects me with it. Maybe it’s because it’s something that nobody else will have. Perhaps it reminds me of who I am. Sometimes it takes my mind off of the suffering I’m putting myself through. Whatever it is, it works. In the end, it makes my bike feel like home and I can’t ask for anything more than that.

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