Sunday, August 23, 2009

First Bike

What was your first bike? I grew up in a largish family, last. This means that while I may have been the 'baby' (a moniker and reputation no self-respecting sibling would cotton to), almost everything I ever had was a hand-me-down. I think, actually, I got my first new NEW bike in my 2nd year of university.

But, back to first bikes. Your very very first bike? What was it? Did you dream about it, have a Sears catalog cutout that you kept under your Star Wars pillow case, know every minutae and every word of the sales copy? Was it a Schwinn ten-speed? A Mongoose BMX? A, heaven forbid, Huffy?

I don't recall ever really wanting anything for an inordinate amount of time (the hope I'd get some newest-fangled thingamadoodle was quashed pretty early and often), and a bike was no exception. I saw BMX Bandits, sure, but I don't think I ever thought of having one of those. I wasn't cool enough or adventurous enough, and besides, turning on the TV to watch Electric Company got me winded.

My first bike was some sort of banana seated ... fixie? Is that what they call them? It had coaster breaks, so you could do wicked skids with them. The tires were a type of cheap foam or solid rubber so you NEVER had a flat tire. Of course, it had all the smoothness a sliding town a gravel road infested with speedbumps on corrugated iron sheet during an earthquake, but that was besides the point. The banana seat made me feel like I was riding a chopper.

The next bike that I can remember, I'm sure I had many hand-me-downs in between, was a 5-speed cruiser that me and my friends called "The Red Elephant". I was 12, 13ish, the Elephant was built for an adult man with an overactive pituitary gland. It had these enormous wheels that I swear would not seem out of place on those turn of the century high wheel bikes. These things turned and it didn't so much roll as MOVE THE EARTH UNDER IT. It was quite easily the least cool thing I had ever owned (which is, well, saying a lot). The plus side was that, since this was during the height of the mountain bike craze (and nobbly tires), and owing to the aforementioned enormous (and, actually, road slick, razor thin wheels), it was harrowingly fast. The route from my house to the elementary was down a street/highway workaround. There is no sidewalk, just a paved shoulder. While it was dangerous, it was super fun to go screaming down that road to school, going indecent speeds at a height that would immediately get me three tickets or a fast track career path if I worked for a medieval sultan.

I don't ride bikes anymore. The thought of getting on one makes me sleepy and the thought of trying to learn all the new lingo makes me almost comatose.

But damn, bikes sure were fun, weren't they?

2 comments:

Chris B. said...

I had a Green Machine until I was old enough to ride a proper bike, and my folks got me a Huffy. I wasn't much for brands back then, and I liked it just fine. Unfortunately, I left it out in the yard one night and someone took it while I slept. We were going on vacation the next day and my dad asked me to get my bike so he could load it on the trailer. I thought he was messing with me when it wasn't in the garage or in the yard. That was a long, long ride to northern WI.

With a promise that I'd be more diligent about bike security, I got a Team Murray bmx. We got it from the hardware store if that tells you anything. At this point, I met some guys who were more into bikes than me and started learning tricks and stuff, so the Murray quickly became an albatross. I started reading BMX Plus! and Freestylin' magazine (photography by a young Spike Jonze) and eventually hand-picked out the parts for my dream ride. I asked for the parts for my birthday and Christmas two years running, and finally saved up enough money for the frame and forks after all that time. Finally, at age 14, I built the beast. I rode it all the time. Winter, summer, to school, to bmx races (didn't qualify to race w/freestyle platforms welded on), forest preserves, etc. I was more adept on my bike than on my own two feet, I think.

Eventually, when I graduated from college, I got a mountain bike as it seemed like the next progression (plus - RockShox!) and I was riding distance more than jumping and doing tricks. I stored the old Free Agent for a number of years, then found the BMX Archives site where other guys like me were posting pictures and love stories of their old rides. I posted mine and immediately got hit up to sell it. I figured I'd never ride it again, anyhow, so put it up for sale. Amazingly, I got >$1000 for it at a time when we were kind of scraping for cash. It got me through my youth, then helped me out one more time before parting ways. Awesome bike.

Anyhow, first bike? Huffy. Best bike? No question - Free Agent freestyle bike, custom-built by yours truly in 1984. :)

Niteowl said...

Hot damn, now that's a comment. So you are one of those bastards who knows how to do all those crazy tricks and knows the ins and outs of the most obscure thumb shifters eh? I can't believe the patience you had to slowly build the most optimal bike EVER. Your geek cred was showing through, even then.