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Cycling #1

2010 November 30
by Mike

“Learn to ride a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live.” – Mark Twain

I still remember the moment. My extended family — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — was gathered at our house on Reid Road in Neosho, MO. It turned out to be the day that my one-month-older cousin and I would learn to ride our bikes. I can remember my dad holding the back of my bicycle as he pushed. The speed was terrifying and thrilling.

This one's being stored for grandkids!

Then he let go.

I like what Bill Strickland says: “It’s appropriate that our parents give us our first bike, for it’s a metaphor of what they must do to raise us: Provide us with the tools we need to leave them.”

He had to turn loose because he couldn’t always be there in my life to keep me balanced. And later, I had to turn loose (and yes I remember the moments clearly) with the boys on their bikes. It’s the ultimate discovery of parental wisdom: how much support versus how much letting go?

My first one was a Schwinn — purchased from Western Auto on the square. There were other bikes at Otasco, but we never bought from them. We were a newspaper family. Western Auto advertised in the local paper; Otasco didn’t. It was as easy as that. (In my teenage years, I bought a baseball glove from Otasco, and was “convinced” later to take it back and go buy one from a proper advertiser.)

Chris's middle school bike

But the bike I remember the most — another Schwinn — is the one I purchased with money I’d earned from my newspaper route. It’s the one that I rode down to the square to deliver papers. And on it I rode all over our fair town — my cousin right by me on his. No one had to chauffeur us. We were on our own!

Lance Armstrong nails it: “A bicycle is the long-sought-after means of transportation for all of us who have runaway hearts. Our first bike is a matter of curb-jumping, puddle-splashing liberation; it’s freedom from supervision, from car pools, and from curfews. It’s a merciful release from parental reliance — one’s own way to the movies or a friend’s house. More plainly, it’s the first chance we have to choose our own direction. A bike is the first wheeled machine we ever steer solely by ourselves, and perhaps for that reason, we have intense affection for and strangely specific memories of the ones we’ve owned.”

For most of my adult life, I’ve been a runner. But with some leg muscle issues and after a knee repair surgery a few years back, I now just jog enough to get through a triathlon.

My Specialized Sequoia Elite

So I’m back on a bike. This time it’s a Specialized Sequoia Elite. Still just a frame and a crank, but a bit nicer than the old Schwinn. And when I go out, I still feel much of the joy I did when I was a kid. On my own. Relying on my legs. Seeing nature up close and personal. (And now — keeping an eye out for people who are texting while they drive!)

What was your favorite bike? Anything you can remember about your first one?

19 Responses leave one →
  1. happy permalink
    November 30, 2010

    Schwinn Stingray, followed by a Schwinn Continental. the Continental was stolen then brought back to our house by the Police after it had be colorfully spray painted. I had a Diamondback I rode 2 miles back and forth to work for two years and now I love my Jamis Roadbike. Keeps me happy to get out and ride even if it’s in the garage on the trainer during the winter.

  2. Karen permalink
    November 30, 2010

    1968 Schwinn Typhoon. Basket in front. Speed on wheels.

  3. November 30, 2010

    I got my first 10-Speed when I was 10. Every time my dad would wash & wax his car, I was right there, washing & waxing my bike. I had that bike for 14 years before I had to leave it on the curb. My husband & I were moving & it was rusty, old & barely used by then. I remember feeling a deep sense of loss when we drove away from the old house & that bike on the curb. I really did love that bike!

  4. Buzz Ball permalink
    November 30, 2010

    My brother and I got matching bikes on Christmas morning 1961. I found out that my dad put them together Christmas Eve night, a few hours after he buried his father. He went to the back of the newspaper where he worked, opened the door and found the publisher there already putting the bikes together. That is one Christmas I will never forget and the story I heard later just made it better.

  5. Liz Crittenden permalink
    November 30, 2010

    The bike I remember most was a 10 speed that just “showed up” on my Mom’s porch when I was in med school in Galveston. I had prayed for a bike to get around on, (some new friends of mine at the time said, “God doesn’t do things like that!”…. Hmm) so when Mom called & asked if I knew anything about a bike on her porch I just said, “It’s mine!”. She said, “Where did it come from?”. I said, “I don’t know, but it’s for me!”.

    I used the bike for 2 years, and when I no longer needed it, one of my cousins showed up at Mom’s door & asked for her bike!! She had never told Mom she was leaving it, she had never asked about it during all of that time & she knew NOTHING about my prayer or need for a bike!

    Quite a special lesson of God’s provision & a bike I will NEVER forget!! 🙂

  6. Kathy permalink
    November 30, 2010

    I have no idea what the name of the bike was and it wasn’t even mine. It’s the memory of my 10-year old nephew smiling ear to ear, with a hand covering the hole in the knee of his jeans. It was the first time in his life that he was able to be free of pain, free of restrictions, free to ride and just be a boy. He was blessed with that freedom thanks to one of the first pig valve replacements for a valve in his heart.
    Bobby was born with a congenital heart defect. He lived with the restrictions and constant pain for 10 years, received the new valve and a brand new life that he was able to enjoy just three short years.
    Just before his 13th birthday the anti-rejection drugs began to fail. He had a stroke, was in a wheelchair for several months, then into the hospital for the last month of his sweet life. His Auntie Kathy was at his bedside when that sweet, struggling heart gave up and he went home to his Jesus …. 34 years later and it still hurts.

  7. Craig Beard permalink
    November 30, 2010

    I have a vague memory of the Schwinn I had way back when: it was red and was jazzed up with butterfly handlebars and a banana seat. A little over a year ago I remarried, and I decided to try cycling as a way to exercise and spend time with my wife (who had been riding seriously for about five years). In the process, I borrowed a couple of bikes to get started. The bikes were too short for my 6’6″ frame, and I was unsure that I was going to like cycling. Then I borrowed a 61cm Bianci Trofeo from a friend. Wow! What a difference! The friend wanted to sell . . . I wanted to buy. This past August I rode in my first organized ride — the Hot Hundred in Tuscaloosa, AL — and did the 65-mile route. I’m hoping to do the century (102 miles) next year.

  8. November 30, 2010

    My favorite bike is the jade-green one I rode all over Oxford as a graduate student. I loved having my own wheels in a country where I couldn’t have a car…and I loved flying down the High Street, the wind in my hair, past so many buildings of honey-colored stone. Great memories.

  9. November 30, 2010

    My favorite bike was the BMX bike I had in elementary. Now I to have a Specialized. I got a great deal on a Tarmac Comp a couple of years ago and completed my first two triathlons within the last year.

  10. November 30, 2010

    well-timed post. i just got off my mountain bike after a longer-than-expected return ride from a village… in the rain. i thought i didn’t want to see my bike or any other for a long time. but i was still drawn to your post. bikes are like wives; they need quality time and you can’t be upset with them for long.

    i remember my first bike was blue and white and had a big racing #1 on the front — which i removed one day, unaware that my dad would be upset with me for it. now i ride a trek 5000 on pavement (rarely these days) and a motobecane fantom trail on dirt.

  11. Randy Cope permalink
    November 30, 2010

    My big brother must not have let me borrow his bike, because I learned ride at Lin Lentz’s house on Young Street. I don’t remember the brand, but I do remember that it had a leopard-print banana seat. I came home and told my folks and a few days later while playing in the front yard my grandad Bush drove up, pulled a new bike out of the back of his truck and said, “any boy that knows how to ride a bike ought to have one of his own.”

  12. David permalink
    November 30, 2010

    Metallic purple Schwinn with a banana seat and chopper handlebars, slicks on the back. It would be back in style if only I still had it. (Last sentence applies to many things in my life.)

  13. Eddy permalink
    December 1, 2010

    Your quote from Einstein made me think of Raymond Kelcy, former head of Bible department at Oklahoma Christian. When asked what he would do differently if he had opportunity to live this life over, he said, “I would have a bicycle. I never had one as a kid.”

  14. December 1, 2010


    What HAPPENED to the banana-seated, 5-speed Stingray? It was a wheelie-poppin’ machine. Oh, for the days gone by…


  15. mark s. permalink
    December 4, 2010

    just checking your blog before I go out and do my saturday ride with my group….I can’t remember my first…but I remember the one that will be my last…Orbea Orca Force…white with gold trim…
    Mike …still wanting to ride with you…let me know when….your call…anytime anywhere!!

  16. December 4, 2010

    As the youngest of four, I got new roller skates when my siblings all got new bikes on the same day because I had not yet learned to ride. When I did learn, I got my sister’s old blue hand me down. It was all rusty and the seat was torn but it got me up and down the street. Then one day when I was in first grade, we walked home from school and there was a beautiful purple bike on the porch. It had a big wicker basket and the seat was covered in flowers. I called my mom at work and said “there’s a purple bike on the porch.” She acted very confused for a few minutes until I realized it was for me – out of the blue – not for my birthday or Christmas or anything. Just a new purple bike on the porch in the middle of spring time.
    I love that memory.

  17. December 7, 2010

    Nice road bike in picture. My favorite bike is my current mountain bike, a Giant Trance XO. One day you will discover that mountain biking is more fun than road biking!

  18. Kent Dickerson permalink
    December 8, 2010

    My favorite was a metalic red Raleigh 5 speed I had when I was 16. It replaced a three speed Raleigh that was stolen while at school. The five speed was just the best I have ever had. I had a bracket on it to hold a transister radio. I gave it to my brother after he married to get around on in college. Afraid the one I have now is a under $100 Huffy – more speeds but a lot harder to ride.

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