Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Post #4: Bikeography Part II -- Say Goodbye to Little Boy Bikes

Bikeist here -- blogging from 39,000 feet as I head to Denver/Boulder to do some recruiting and, of course, riding.  Hope to have some good tales to tell about biking again in and around Boulder, but those will have to wait until we complete this forced march through every bike I've ever owned.  Hang in there, loyal reader -- like training on hills, this evolution will make you stronger, give you a sense of accomplishment, and reap benefits for years to come.  When this blog, inevitably, hits it big, and you're sitting around with your buds watching me get interviewed by Jon Stewart, you are going to seem so cool and hip as you casually toss out little-known Bikeist Trivia:

Tom:  "Did you know that his first girlfriend's name was Debbie?"

Carlos:  "Whose?"

Tom:  "The Bikeist's man! The guy on TV -- She had red hair."

Carlos:  "Oh."

Doesn't get much cooler than that!

Now, back to the bikes:

This is the payoff for my earlier allusion to my recurring experience with repeatedly falling off new bikes that were way too big for me.  It was 1976 -- an Olympic year.  I was growing fast, and it was time for my little brother to inherit my 100 lb. banana bike.  Despite its unwieldy girth, I had learned to do lots of tricks on the Schwinn:  wheelies, jumps, bunny-hops, and running into all sorts of fixed objects -- so, I had X-Game type fantasies of what would be possible with a brand new BMX (remember, just like the unimaginary, imaginary girlfriend, I was always ahead of my time).  However, my dad had other plans.  

Perhaps caught up with Olympic fever, but more likely keeping with a strategy of always buying his oldest son things he would, eventually, grow into, he brought home this (spectacular) Men's 10 speed road bike for his prospective second grader.  It was probably the single most beautiful, but intimidating, object I had ever beholden (before beholding my long-suffering wife, of course).  I headed out to the driveway for the obligatory test ride with equal parts excitement and pure dread.  When my dad encouraged me to hop on and take it for a spin, I had no idea where to begin.  I think I would have had more of a clue of what to do if he had tossed me the keys to the station wagon.  I had always mounted my banana bike while straddling the frame, but when I tried the same with this gigantic, unwieldy, device, it was impossible to stand it upstraight -- the cross-bar was about level with my belly-button.  "No problem" declared my intrepid father -- just mount it with a kick-step with one foot on the left pedal and a swing of the other leg over the saddle and onto the other pedal.  Yeah, right, dad -- are you flipping kidding me?  -- I guess not.  What followed was a harrowing display of side-mounting ineptitude.  I tried my best to execute the maneuver my dad had described, but each attempt resulted in a tumbling, screaming, mass of steel and eight year old boy flesh.

Undaunted, my dad determined that the key impediment was the lack of maneuver space in our driveway.  We needed to move up to the crest of Tulsa Trail (which I had surmounted so many times on my trusty Schwinn) where there was room to develop the proper momentum to facilitate the side-mounting maneuver I had failed so miserably at in the driveway.   Bruised and scraped, I bought into this theory,  but was quick to point out the added impediment presented by the recently deployed gravel on our street (rather than asphalt, the roads in our town were formed by the deployment of massive amounts of gravel that were pulverized into pavement by the comings and goings of our various 2 ton, 8 mpg, cars).  I will spare you, dear readers, from a graphic description of the gore that ensued -- it is safe to assume, though, that the precious momentum required to master the side-mount of my Huffy Bicentennial Ten Speed, was never, remotely, approached on the sharp gravel at the crest of Tulsa Trail, and that this little Bikeist returned to his home bloodied and bruised -- in body and spirit.  This was the first, and probably only, time that I expressed outward anger towards my otherwise unassailable dad, who, at least, granted me the space I needed to vent over the sheer, humiliating pain of defeat I felt as I returned to the care (and shock) of my overprotective Irish mother.

Don't worry, Bikeist fans, as you can assume, I didn't let this first, horrendous, attempt at mounting a proper road bike stand in the way of my Bikeist future.  I got up early the next day and WALKED my new bike (by myself) up and over the crest of Tulsa Trail to the friendly confines of the Elementary School parking lot.  There I rode my Huffy, side-saddle, on the smooth pavement for about a half-hour, like a scooter, until I built up the confidence to swing my right leg, smoothly over the saddle, with my right foot landing on the right pedal.  I coasted for a bit, then took my first pedal stroke just as I started to lose momentum -- the first of thousands upon thousands to come throughout the U.S. and the entire world . . .

Up Next:  Part III - Even Bigger Boy Bikes


  1. Hey big brother..I'm enjoying the stories of yesteryear!! did the same thing to me..haha!! I had the same challenges, scrapes, and triumphs too. I remember having to literally pick the gravel from my knees..but I did persevere and enjoyed "many a mile". The bike was so big that I couldn't reach the bottom pedal when sitting. I had to push the top pedal as hard as I could so the next one would spin up so I could push again.

    1. Hey, Bro! So glad you found, and verified, the blog! A true rite of passage! Think we both still have unextricated gravel left in our knees . . .

  2. Dear SDB,
    I started much as you did with a progression from a Big Wheel to a "real" bike. I fondly remember when my father "taught" me to ride. The bike I was given was a hand-me-down, and waaaay too big for me. I could barely touch the pedals, much less the ground. So, I would push the bike against a fence, prop it up, and climb aboard, usually only to go a few feet and fall. Now, you might ask, where my father was during most of this. Magically, he had figured out a way to teach me to ride, while sitting on the porch, reading the paper. It worked out well for him, until one day.... You see, we lived on a hill, not quite at the top, but close enough, and I managed to finally balance on the bike. The problem was, I couldn't stop. I flew down the hill with those mixed emotions of abject fear and excitement, turning briefly to see my dad's paper also take flight as he noticed I was no longer in the driveway. I figure I was going at least 100 mph when I realized I really had no way of stopping. I, fearlessly, pulled off the road and jumped off just before my bike went into the stream at the bottom of the hill. My dad, caught up, panting and pleased. I was slightly wet, somewhat perturbed, but also happy. We pulled the thousand pound bike out of the stream and I proceeded to push it back up the hill, lean it against the fence, rinse and repeat.

    I am also wondering if you offer relationship advice? I want a new bike. My wife, however, is not entirely on board with this particular expenditure. What to do, what to do.....?


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    2. Bikonymous: Thanks for sharing your epic account of first escaping the environs of your driveway! As for relationship advice, all I have to offer is that my long-suffering wife became somewhat more tolerant of my bike habit about eighteen years ago, when I gave up the two-car concept, ceding the lone car to her and, forever, justifying all bike-related expenditures in comparison to the cost of a second car. Good luck!

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