Bikeriding: A History

July 14, 2008 at 3:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 11 years old. Which is pretty old, I’ll admit. But I have a few excuses: 1) I was small for my age and my parents didn’t have much money, so when my mom found a reasonably-priced garage sale bike that was entirely too big for me, she went ahead and bought it. I was 8 at the time, and once the bike was affixed with training wheels, I practically had to mount it like a horse. My feet barely reached the pedals, much less the ground. 2) My teacher (mom) didn’t actually know how to ride a bike herself, so she consulted Parents magazine, which said if you start to fall to your right, steer right. And if you start to fall to your left, steer left. Which is exactly the right way you ride a bike, but to my eight-year-old logic, that sounded like suicide.

So picture me on what in retrospect was a pretty awesome bike (it was hot pink with a faded floral banana seat, long handlebars, and a white wicker basket affixed to the front, much like
this bike) wobbling left and right onto my training wheels, going about 2-inches per second, terrified I’m going to skin something on the concrete. And I did. A couple times. After about a week, I was done with bike riding. The bike went into the garage for 3 long years. And due to the increased popularity of scooters, I adeptly hid the fact that by age 11, I still couldn’t actually ride a bike.

Enter serendipity. Our neighbor gave us a bike the summer between fifth and sixth grade. It was a small, red dirt bike, one both my sister and I could fit easily. This time, remembering all my skinned knees on the sidewalk, I insisted we learn by riding down a grassy hill at my elementary school. My dad took us this time, and within an afternoon both my sister and I were ready to take our bikes on the road. This time I could actually touch the ground on my supercool banana seat bike, and I rode it with confidence from that day forth.

Eventually I upgraded to a 10-speed with the curly handlebars (oh-so-cool at the time) that got stolen right before I went to college. My junior year, all my housemates rode bikes, and one of them, who worked at Kmart, managed to hook me up with a huffy freestyle that was perfect for my size. It had pegs on the wheels and handlebars that could turn all the way around because the brake lines ran inside the frame. Really, it was a kids bike, but it was perfect. I rode that bike about a mile and a half to and from school for two years. Then one day, on my way home, I spied a little boy riding toward me down the street, and he was riding the same damn bike I was. He even yelled it out, “We gots the same bike!” Yes, little 10-year-old boy, we do. Needless to say, after graduation, I decided it was time for another upgrade.

I managed to snag an 18-speed women’s street bike at a garage sale for $15, and that’s the bike I started riding to work. It fared well on speed, but precarious in the mud that often collected under the overpasses. Upon hearing we were moving to NYC, I regretfully added that bike to our giveaway pile. But by some miracle, we had more money in NY than I had anticipated, so I was able to pimp my ride substantially, upgrading to a titanium, 21-speed Trek hybrid. I did lots of exploring in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Silver Spring, Georgetown, Kansas City, and Johnson County on that bike. It’s still serving me well.

So when it came time to buy my sister a birthday present this year, I decided what better gift than a bike! I hunted craigslist and garage sales to no avail — I think that $15 gem I found seven years ago was a fluke. Plus these days bikes are more popular. So I settled on a seven-speed Schwinn Cruiser I found at Target. I took it for a test drive, and what do you know, it brought back all of these memories about my first bike. I brought it over to Jill’s on Saturday, and she loved it. It felt like old times, Jill and I cruisin’ down the street on our bikes. And once Evie’s old enough, we’ll have her in tow, too. Doug brought home one of those kid trailers for Jill’s new bike, and we immediately tested Evie out in it. We got her all harnessed in, but when we towed her around briefly in the driveway, she started sliding, and sliding, and whoops! Yeah, she’s gonna have to grow into this one.



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  1. Bike

    Ask your husband how old he was when he learned to ride a bike!! Boy you guys were really made for each other!!!

    James, loving mother.

    • Re: Bike

      Incidentally, I did ask him. Here’s his reply:

      “Don’t remember exactly but I would guess about 10 or 11 years old. Apparently we ARE retarded for each other.”

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