I have to laugh when I see kids and adults alike, riding vintage-looking bicycles—like Pee Wee Herman. I’ve seen bubble gum pink with streamers and bells. I realize that the advent of the mountain bike some 25 years ago, put the cool back in fat tires and clunky looking bicycles, but when I was kid (growing up in the ‘70’s) the Lance Armstrong, Tour-de-France style ten speed—18 speed if you were really cool—was the aspired mode of transportation for ages 10 to 16.
My parents both had Schwinn 10 speeds in a beautiful electric blue that were a couple hundred bucks a piece back then. Gosh, I wanted them to say I could ride them! They didn’t though…they hardly rode them, themselves. They just sat in our garage tempting me with their shiny-cool-I-have-arrived-ness.
So my first big kid bike was a used, three speed, girl’s bike. You know the kind, two sloping bars to keep from bumping your nanny-nanny (why didn’t they do this for the boys? Seems much more logical,) wide seat, and silver fenders, the kind that never lined up over the tire making all little OCD children go insane. My brother, Kyle, painted it blue for me, which, even in my mortification about driving such a dorky bike, I knew his efforts were dear. Had I been born thirty years later or twenty years earlier, I would have been on the receiving end of envy instead of constantly feeling envy! In the meantime, I would have to surrender to feeling like the mean neighbor lady that took Toto on Wizard of Oz–minus the basket to carry yappy little dogs.
I rode it because it was what I was given, but, man, I coveted a 10 speed! Finally, when I was about 10 my dad bought a used one from his friend for 20 bucks, and I thought I was the coolest girl ever! (Far from it!) It was an army green, boy’s bike, but since I lived in a neighborhood overrun with boys, I felt that, surely it would make me cooler!
I drove that one for a while, and then, after our dog ran in front of my mom while she was riding her fancy-schmancy Schwinn and sent her catapulting through the air, her bike was retired. That’s when my dad surrendered to the idea that I was old enough to handle and care for such a fine piece of machinery. Wow! I was something else, and I made sure the other kids knew it. I think the only thing they really learned from my bragging and showing off was what a boring ass I was.
At the graduation party for my senior class, about two months before we were moving to Florida, I won the grand prize– a 12 speed mountain bike. I knew they were going to call my name just before they did, it was surreal! Alas, I had a car, and was leaving for bigger and better places, so I sold the bike back to the shop that donated it. Truthfully, after a childhood training for the Tour de France on the skinny tired, curvy handle-barred, lightweight bicycles, I thought this one looked pretty clumsy and guy-ish.
Now we have come full circle! About 4 years into our marriage of 17 years, Greg and I bought mountain bikes, which we used quite a bit in the beginning. Then I bit it one day when I had to swing around somebody on the sidewalk and got my tire caught in the rut between the concrete and the grass. It was so embarrassing and painful, that I haven’t really ridden it since. Just like my mom and dad, our bikes hang from the garage ceiling collecting dust, because you never know when we’ll feel like trying them out again. Lord knows one’s center of gravity, reflexes, and motor-skills only improve with age.