For a six-year-old, there probably isn’t anything that presents as much freedom as liberating your bike from its training wheels. I remember having a tough time getting the hang of riding a true two-wheeler, although it probably had more to do with my confidence than anything else. I would pedal for a few feet before putting my feet on the ground. My dad would swear that I did it, but I was equally adamant that I didn’t. My friend across the street had gotten the hang of it, and he was a year younger. That lit the fire of determination for me. Nothing like a little bit of peer pressure to get you going. What finally got me going for good was our slanted driveway. I climbed on in the garage, stood on the pedal to get me going, and have never looked back.
I can remember each bike that I have owned. The first was red and white. My sister had ridden it before me, so I had dad take the necessary measure of removing the basket in front. Instead of tires, the wheels were made of hard plastic. But it did its job taking me up and down our street. As I became more brave I learned that those plastic wheels could make really cool skid marks if I got up a good head of steam and hit the brakes.
My next one was a true beauty, and looking back as an adult, a classic. A Schwinn Stingray. Red again, with ape-hanger handle bars and a red banana seat with a sparkly finish. With real tires, this baby could take me around the block with no problem whatsoever. All these years later I wish that I still had it so I could pass it on to my kids. I don’t think that I am alone in my Stingray nostalgia.
I was getting a little bigger, and my next bike was a light blue mountain bike. The tires were nice and wide, to take me off the beaten path. Speed wasn’t much of a concern. The best part about this bike was multiple gears and hand brakes. I’ll never forget the day I went riding with my friend and he informed me that we rode about nine miles. Nine miles!? How cool was that?
Next up was a blue Diamond Back hybrid type bike. Not a mountain bike, but certainly not a road bike either. This was the first bike that I took on a sanctioned bike ride. Riding 25 miles with my dad (and many others) was so fun. Although in a couple of years I would be getting my driver’s licence, I didn’t think driving could be much of a step up in terms of freedom. I could disappear for a summer afternoon if I wanted to. When I was 15, my trusty steed did buck me off. I knew that I broke my arm because I heard the pop. I walked it about a mile home, informing my parents that we needed to make a visit to the hospital, but first we had to go find my glasses, which I hadn’t realized until then were missing off of my face. We got to the spot and looked and looked. Finally we rang the doorbell of the nearest home. The gentleman that answered was apologetic–apparently this all took place while he was mowing the lawn–he hadn’t seen my glasses until the were a tangled mess of wire. My bike and I weren’t on speaking terms for about a year, but we did eventually make up, and it still holds a place of honor in my garage. I did learn one important lesson from that mishap. Before that day I never wore a helmet. Even though no company in the world can make a helmet that doesn’t make me look like a complete dork, I always protect my brain now.
My current bike is a road bike that I have had for three years now, I think. Purists would probably scoff, but it is a Schwinn that I bought at a department store. None-the-less it is lightweight, fast (at least for me) and nice to look at. Now that I have kids, my mom bought me a trailer to take them on rides. Trying to coax them in the first time was a little difficult (along with getting them to wear helmets) but once we were finished there was an equal if not more amount of coaxing needed to get them out.
This year I have set a goal to ride in our local Bike MS ride. 150 miles over 2 days, by far the most for me. But truly I love to ride, and knowing it is for a good cause helps with motivation. Click on the link on my sidebar to learn more.
Until then, I will be seeing you on the trails.