My first bicycle was an old, brown tank my father brought home from Goodwill one day. It came with two sets of handlebars – ape hangers and low profile bars – and only had coaster brakes. Th at bike was indestructible. It had to be sturdy because before I learned how to brake, I’d jump off at the last second and crash the bike into a stately old willow tree at the bottom of our hill. No helmet, either, of course.
When I outgrew my dirt bike, my parents bought me a black and yellow 10-speed (very appropriate colors for the Hawkeye State). It was fast, and having more gears made pedaling easier and more efficient. I’d strap my skateboard on my back and ride from place to place all summer long. My next bike was a 21-speed mountain bike purchased with paper route money. I rode that one through college, making many memories and forgetting some, too. When my wife and I moved East, I purchased a mountain bike with suspension. I battled cabs and busses to explore the streets of Manhattan and raced tugboats pushing barges up the East River in Queens. Many tires later, I’m still riding it.
I acquired my taste for bicycling from my father. We used to ride through cemeteries and out to the edge of town where we’d stop and throw stones from an old bridge. He reminds me occasionally about the time I tried to show off and ride no-hands. I ended up in a ditch filled with four feet of snow, cold and humiliated. I think I got the last laugh, though, when I watched him fall into deep snow at the top of a Colorado mountain on his 40th birthday ride. Those are the types of memories I’m looking forward to making with my boys.
I’m sure growing up in suburban Northern Virginia is much diff erent than in small town Iowa, but I see kids riding bikes on backstreets and protected cul-de-sacs. Maybe parents don’t let their kids ride as far or as oft en these days, but I’m looking forward to my boys fledging the nest. There are so many trails to navigate, plenty of leaf piles to plow through in the fall, and lots of mud to slog through in the spring. I’m excited to hear about jumps they’ve built and tricks they’ve mastered, and imagining my older son pedaling down the street with his little brother riding double puts a smile on my face. Their new bikes are the first of many, but they will never forget the sense of ownership and confidence they’ll feel as they speed around the neighborhood together. I know I haven’t forgotten.