autobiography Blog

A Brief History of Bikes: My First Bike

Hello friends, welcome to Bike Week at Falling Rock National Blog. We believe that bikes–not cars, planes, teleportation, catapults, or Acme Rocket Packs–are THE transportation of the future. It is a bold vision, but we at Falling Rock believe it is not antithetical to the American Dream.

This week’s postings will each chronicle a bike I have owned. Today I’ll talk about my very first bike. It was the bike I learned to ride, and when the training wheels came off I rode all over the neighborhood.

My idyllic childhood was spent in the safe neighborhood of a Denver suburb. Before we moved to Arizona, I explored the curvy, quiet streets first on foot and then on bike.

Just like the cliche, I learned to ride in our driveway. I rode tight little circles and, when my parents allowed it, onto the sidewalk (but not too far). I can remember the feeling the first time I rode without training wheels. My dad ran beside me, his hand on the seat of the bike, and then he was gone. I was terrified to stop. Eventually I did by tipping myself over. My dad then showed me how to put my foot on the ground so I could be on the bike, stopped, and not have to fall off.

The bike itself was a Schwinn. It was red and silver. There was no basket, no baseball cards wedged between the spokes. It was a man’s bike, a bike made of steel with solid rubber tires.

The crowning achievement of my first bike was my first bike race. The county set up a race course that began and ended at the local pool. There were age categories, but I was the youngest entrant. My dad decided to ride with me (probably a good idea, since you don’t want your six year old riding off and never finding his way back). I quickly learned the difference between riding up and down my street and participating in a race: a race is hard.

It was slow going. There were hills, and you had to follow arrows to know where you were going. I decided early on that I was not going to win this race. In fact, I came in dead last, but that didn’t really bother me. At one point I needed a drink of water. A man watering his lawn let me drink from the hose.

Here’s where my memory fails me. I don’t remember starting the race with my younger brother, but I clearly remember him with us at the end. Maybe he decided to join us partway through. At any rate, he was there to see my big finish.

My big, awesome finish was actually quite big and awesome. We crested a hill and saw the finish line there below us. I looked at my dad and he gave me a knowing nod. “Go ahead, Son. Do me proud.” I crouched and flew down the hill as fast as my bike would take me. There was a crowd–everybody else had finished the race already–and they stood on either side of the street, cheering me on. I crossed the finish line in a roar of noise and adrenaline.

That race is probably what prompted my parents to get me a new bike. I don’t want to play Monday morning quarterback, but I think the fact that my bike weighed more than I did contributed to the difficulties riding uphill. My next bike did not have solid rubber tires.

I have fond memories of that bike, of the new freedom it gave me. I was suddenly mobile, as mobile as I’d be until I was able to drive a car. When I learned that driving a car is just a lot of rules, I would realize that bikes really are the most freedom a person can have. But that’s for another post.

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