To all the bikes I’ve … pt. 1

My first bike was a Sears banana seat bike, single speed with coaster brake, blue. Was my neighborhood cruiser, and frequently taken off sweet jumps and wrecked. At some point I got a cable turning speedometer on this bike, and I’d watch that thing turn numbers and measure my speed. When the neighborhood kids got ‘dirt bikes’ I somehow came across a saddle to replace the banana seat and must have found some new bars. Keeping up with the joneses and all, dad even let me wrap electrical tape around some carpet padding on the top tube for a ‘crash pad’. I took that bike apart and put it together again (most of the time without help) more times than I can remember…

I eventually grew, and graduated to a bike shaped Huffy Scout ‘all terrain bike’. 10 speed? Dad had it on lay away at KMart and took me to pick it up. Bull moose handlebar. Steel everything. Plastic pedals. Braking power that would be an embarrassment today. I rode that bike everywhere, to softball and soccer practice, lots of D&D and war gaming sessions, friends houses, the library, and took it on my first ‘real ride’ out to Isaac Lake in the Cleveland area Metroparks with a group of 7th or 8th graders and a gym teacher. I think it still has the original tires sitting in mom and dad’s basement.

After recovering from some corrective muscle surgery as a sophomore in my leg, and needing to ride to rebuild strength – I saved up and bought a Raliegh Technium 450 (no pictures that I know of)- blue with early 90s purplish and white stripes. Aluminum, a ‘touring frame’, as I was smitten with escape and adventuring. Something I’m sure had to do with growing up in the suburbs. My parents helped pay for it (was something like $480), and I payed them back from my paper route profits. We bought it at this crazy store that had pool and entertainment stuff on one side (hot tubs, pools, chemicals, etc.) and bikes and other seasonal stuff on the other side. Bizarre. I insisted on getting a bike a size too big for me, which in the end I would regret (like 3 years later), as I thought I was still going to ‘grow into it’. Sadly as a sophomore in high school I was pretty much done growing.

27″ wheels, 6 or 7 speed I think. Wide(ish) tires. Downtube shifters. Eventually I got a white styrofoam ‘Pro-Tec’ helmet and a nice handlebar bag with map case. Had a Zefal frame pump, tool kit, patches, spare tube. I rode that thing everywhere. Lots of local Metroparks rides on it – looping in and around the Emerald Necklace in the Cleveland area, as well as trips to an exotic library the next town over, the comic book / game shop, friends houses, soccer conditioning in high school, and learning to ride on the road. I would eventually abandon the ‘bike path’ whenever practical, but mainly stuck to neighborhood routes or quieter roads in the Cuyahoga Valley (before it was a National Recreation Area and Park, and long before the tow path from Cleveland to Akron was in any sort of riding shape). I discovered padded shorts (my mom thought them indecent, so I often left the house with my soccer shorts over the top). I wish I had the good sense to get a good jersey – but t-shirts sufficed.

The thrill I had every time I discovered a new road, or turned a new corner, or ticked over a new record on my odometer still lives with me today. I collected up some money and did the MS 150 on it from Cleveland to Cedar Point amusement park (and back) on it, as well as countless runs to various friends houses. I even snuck off to meet a few ‘girls’ on it – which usually turned into additional runs or rides (was playing soccer and running track in high school), depending on who I was seeing. It was my escape, and I would sometimes get home from school and ride as far and as fast as I could, while trying to return before nightfall, just to push the limits of where I could go. (And rebel, in a quiet, silly way!)

I had a few good friends that I would ride and adventure with (to me it was always about new roads, adventure, and what might be around the next corner). Semi social outcasts that we were, one year two of us decided to skip our junior dance and spent the day riding. We ended up calling for rescue after walking for several miles due to repeated flats on his bike. (And I should note that his older sister had a really nice steel Nishiki with funny shoes and pedals – man I lusted after that bike.)

I remember the first time I turned 50 miles, remember the time I rode an out and back 75 miler… Eventually I added aerobars – just like Greg Lemond! – somehow I convinced my dad to order by phone from some ad in the back of Bicycling Magazine (internet? what?) I had just started reading about training and riding, fit, gear, etc., when I found a steady girlfriend, got a hand me down car, and started focusing on college. Thats when things started to go dark.

Once I started at the Cleveland Institute of Art I was doomed to long commutes in the car. I was also trying to figure out that weird space between boy and man, and work, to pay my way through school. Being pretty much inept around the opposite sex, and a train wreck in social situations, I stuck my head into my work. No time to ride, nor much desire to, until I plumped up to 280 pounds. I eventually lost that weight walking and walking and walking while living for a semester in NYC on an exchange program. Upon return I convinced a girlfriend that riding together would be fun (very wrong on that count!) and I bought both of us some sort of Trek hybrid / mountain bike. Put a rack on that and it made the trip to grad school with me back in NYC – but didn’t see much use. Weight and stress went up, and I wouldn’t ride again for long while.

To be continued…

One Response to “To all the bikes I’ve … pt. 1”

  1. Chad says:

    This has the workings of a great series. As I read this I want to play the Willie Nelson and Julio Inglesias song to accompany your look back to those you have loved. Looking forward to more. Good stuff, Mike.