Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The joys of a bike

Fellow blogger Brigid recently posted about her love of cycling as a kid, and the freedom it allowed.  I too remember much about cycling as a kid--skidouts out on the corner by the house, skinned knees and scars.  Flying along the roads and sidewalks fast and furious, riding to school, or just riding for the joy of movement.

I remember the time I was almost home, and hit a bump wearing my open-topped backpack.  I distinctly recall looking back over my shoulder as I came down McKenzie's driveway, looking to see if I'd lost a book...and never seeing the rear of the car parked out front of Coker's house until it was too late to avoid.  I ended up sprawled over the rear window, bike flipped up top of me.  I was appalled and terrified to see I had dented the trunk of the car slightly with a brake lever.  I never did tell my folks about that...

That wreck also busted my faithful steed, a Raleigh 3-speed, black in color, with that old internal geared rear hub.  DH hates IGH, as they are a pain to service (he used to be a bike wrench), but I remember it fondly, adding sewing machine oil to the oil port.  My bike had the front fork /steer tube bent back badly in that wreck.  While Dad could have bought me a new bike, his Scots/Irish thriftiness would not permit that, and so he and Bob (family friend) disassembled the bike, and beat the fork back true with a mallet and 3# hammer.  It did change the handling slightly, but not so much that I couldn't ride no-hands.  I just had to shift my weight to one side slightly.

Eventually I wanted a real 10speed.  I had saved my money and finally had enough to get one.  Dad took me down to the local bike shop (heaven!) to get a REAL bike, not some mis-assembled big-box bike.  I don't recall if Dad helped cover the cost or not (probably) but I got a maroon 10 speed.  I was in heaven, and no longer jealous of my much older sister's real French white 10-speed (ManuFrance).  That bike saw me through Jr High, High School and college.  It finally bit the dust when I was hit by a motorcyclist from behind.  His insurance got me my first upgrade in decades, a low end Bianchi.  I did RAGBRAI in '95 on that Binki, and managed to tweak it well with parts from one of the local shops to better suit the area hills and my riding style.

One day, riding the Bianchi around town I stopped at the back door of Terraplane Bikes.  Paul the lead wrench must've been psychic or something, as it was he that offered me the chance to spend that $400 that was burning a hole in my bank account, torn as I was between a new bike frame and an Enfield L39A1 at Navy Arms.  It was a hard decision at the time, and one I still think about, for never again have I seen an L39A1 available at that price.  But what I got was a joy I had for many years after, and many miles under its wheels, a Masi Gran Corsa, circa 1980's.  Gorgeous blue metallic, chromes front fork, and Reynolds 531...a real Italian road bike.  I worked part time (second job) at Terraplane after buying it.  I needed to, in order to get all the parts to build it up right!  It was a case of working for parts!  But it was mostly Campy, with a great set of hand built (by me) Mavic SUP wheels.  This was the bike I did CANDISC on, twice...It was light, it was fast, it was comfortable for hours...and I still miss it!

Sadly, after my third child was born, stopped riding for 7 years.  The Masi sat, loved but unridden in the garage, as our mutual (DH & I) waistlines grew and DH got T2 diabetes.  He sold off his beloved carbon road bike as he didn't think he could ride comfortably, and I soon followed suit.  Arthritis in my hands had made riding it painful, and so had my weight.  So I sold it--for way less than it was worth, but for what I could get for it at the time.  So it goes...

Fast forward a couple years and a health goal later, and we had converted over to recumbents.  My main ride now is a Bacchetta Giro running 700c wheels.  I have dumped the weight and kept it off so far (2yrs now) and feel great.  I love riding again! 
My ride now sees me through long rides with no pain.  That alone makes it worth the expense (they are not cheap bikes for a family on a budget).  It is not light.  The engine suffers on hills.  But it gets me out on the road like I love, and I don't hurt.  I don't mind the funny looks I get from the hardcore roadies.  I get to laugh at the end of the ride, seeing them trying to shake out the kinks and knots, massaging their necks.

Our Monkeys are old enough to ride now, and are getting big enough to have real bikes, with gears even!  Still being on a budget, we have to shop for used bikes for them.  As they have outgrown various other kid bikes, we have passed them off to a family at our church, who have several kids of their own.  That way we figure we are helping instill a love of riding in another family. 

This week has been somewhat special in our family.  The other night, we took a whole-family ride.  Monkey1 was on her Trek MTB, Monkey2 was suffering on his Fisher BMX Team bike (fixed gear with a large chain ring and a not-so-good brake), and Monkey3 was finally upgraded from her 20" pink girly bike to a real MTB of her own, donated to us by our neighbor.  My Mini-Cadel, she rode that big bike like she was born to it!  No crashes, not problems, just set that jaw of hers and away she went.  11.4 miles later we were back home.  That is the longest ride the Monkeys have done, and is a precursor to our eventual vacation plans of riding Bike Across Kansas, and CANDISC

Last night we scored a new ride for Monkey1.  Her Trek will now belong to Monkey2.  This is the first roadbike we have gotten for the kids.  It took a month or more of searching, and dealing with inconsiderate sellers on craigslist until we found a nice woman selling her old bike.  We got it for a good price, and now our biggest Monkey has a whole new style of riding to learn.
I am looking forward to taking longer and longer family rides with the kids.  I want them to get comfortable with 40-60mi at a shot.  That will get them ready for those week long tours we want to do.  I want them to know the freedom that cycling brings to life.


  1. Love hearing about the bikes you have loved. I have never ridden a recumbent.

  2. Wow I am so impressed with your commitment and love of biking and even after the scares you have had.I love that you have made it a family affair and there is nothing better for kids much better than on the Wii of now a days.
    Your bike is awesome good luck in all the training, it sounds incredible for all of you. Congrats on making your fitness and weight goal. I am so impressed. B

  3. Bikes are not my thing but I'm glad it works well for you!...:)JP

  4. Wonderful story. Takes me back. My first 10 speed was a lavender (really!) Monkey Wards special. I loved that bike and it really cemented my affinity for bicycles. Luckily Lu has hopped on the bike train with much enthusiasm. I'd love to go riding with you guys some day.


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