So, just a little about the bikes I grew up with.
I remember having a red tricycle when I was in first grade or so, I probably had it before then but I don’t remember. What I do remember of it was after I really was too big for it, and I’d stand on the back and push off with my feet on the ground. So it was more like a scooter that required me to lean over a lot.
My first actual bicycle was also acquired in first grade. My memories are fuzzy, but I believe it was a Strawberry Shortcake bicycle pulled out of a dumpster that had some rust on it. I loved Strawberry Shortcake, so I was thrilled. I remember my dad had to buy training wheels for it. I had that one for several years, and by second grade we’d taken the training wheels off. My dad did the whole “hold on for a bit and then let go” bit. It seemed to take forever to learn and I skinned my knees a lot. (My balance never has been all that great…and it still isn’t!)
My next bike, I received on my eighth birthday. I’d already unwrapped a Space Barbie (and being a space nut at that age, I thought her outfit was rather impractical), and my parents told me to get something from my room. I walked in and there it was! A new bicycle! I think it was a Huffy. It was mostly purple and it had a banana seat and a white plastic basket with big fake flowers, and it was a single speed with a coaster brake. For Christmas that year I got handlebar streamers and little plastic beads for my spokes that made noise if I was going slow. Oh man, I loved that bike. For a while I was given a very strict area I could ride on alone, a few houses down in one direction, and to a telephone pole the other way, and I remember riding back and forth, looping in a driveway at one end, turning around on in the grass on the other, over and over. I remember standing on my pedals to go super-fast on at least one occasion, and that the speed was exciting.
I got my next bike when I was eleven, and I definitely remember that it was a Huffy. It was orange and turquoise, and it was (gasp!) a ten-speed! With drop bars! As it turns out, the drop bars were wasted on me; I tried riding in the drops once, panicked, and never rode in them again, always riding on the tops and using the suicide brakes. For that matter, I never used the front derailleur, so it was effectively a five-speed. It had friction shifters on the stem, and I’m glad I learned the basics of friction shifting as a kid, since I now tend to ride older bikes that use friction shifting.
I rode that Huffy until I started driving, even through high school, although I didn’t ride it very often. I do remember that around the time I got that bike, that my parents purchased helmets for me and my brothers, and we were the first kids in the neighborhood to own and wear helmets. I don’t remember ever putting more air in the tires or lubing the chain. I don’t remember how high my saddle was, either. My dad did some road riding when he was a teenager in the late 1970’s and knew a little about bikes, so maybe he took care of that stuff?
When I eighteen I got my driver’s license, and within the first year I got in two minor fender-benders (both times I backed up and hit parked cars), which caused my parents’ insurance company to boot me off. To this day their insurance contract says I’m not allowed to drive their cars! Well, I didn’t own the car I was driving, my parents did, and I couldn’t afford my own car yet, so I just stopped driving for a summer. I lived with my parents, and they were a mile from the Fred Meyer where I worked, so what was the big deal? I got out my mom’s bike, a department-store Magna. The tires were flat, but that wasn’t that big a deal, I bought new tubes and tires and tire levers at work (I didn’t know tires leak air even if they’re intact, and didn’t try just inflating them), and proceeded to figure it all out via trial and error on the front lawn. I remember that at one point, a tire lever popped out and flew across the lawn! I also figured out how to tighten the brakes, but realized it was near-impossible without another hand–I laughed years later when I found out that the tool required is indeed called a third hand. But I was very proud of myself, considering that I’d never been mechanically-inclined.
And so I rode that bike back and forth to work all summer, and got rides from my boyfriend almost everywhere else. In retrospect, I know I had the saddle too low, and I never topped off the air in the tires. And then I wondered why it was such hard work to bike that one mile! At the end of the summer, I was very glad to get a 1991 Hyundai Excel (the only car I ever owned), especially since I was moving out to my boyfriend’s house south of Hillsboro, in a rural area twelve miles from work.
I bought that car in the late summer of 1998, and it was pretty much the only biking I did until….2006! But that’s another entry, of course.