The other day a friend asked me, “Do you remember your childhood bikes?” It made me think of all the good times I have had riding bikes.
My first memory of biking was as a six year old in Lawrence, Kansas. We lived in historic West Lawrence, an area of Lawrence built in the mid-to-late 1800’s after much of the town was burned to the ground by Quantrill’s Raid (also called the Lawrence Massacre) during the U.S. Civil War. The neighborhood consisted of houses with wooden siding, large trees, old sidewalks, and cobblestone streets.
My first memory of biking: I was learning how to ride a bike as a child – riding precariously on the sidewalk, weaving from one side to the other, attempting to master a balancing act, striving to learn this new skill called rising a bike. Accidentally veering off the sidewalk, I headed straight for a large, old elm tree growing between the sidewalk and the street. Not having learned how to use the coaster brakes effectively, I careened toward the tree, preparing for a collision. Rather than hitting the tree, I rode up the tree. My front wheel met the large tree trunk at its base, the base of which rose from the ground in a curve. The tree trunk’s curve was of a nature to allow the wheel to travel upward, and so my bike’s front wheel followed the curve up the side of the tree, driven by my forward momentum. When the bike was almost vertical (front wheel high on the tree trunk, and rear wheel at the base of the tree), I lost all momentum and fell over sideways. I dusted myself off, and considered myself blessed – the ride up the tree’s side was much better than a head-on collision with a massive tree trunk. Falling is a part of life – getting back up and moving on is what is important. I got back up and moved on, learning how to ride that bike.
I did not own that first bike on which I learned to ride – it was a family bike shared with my sisters. The first bike I owned was an iconic bike for any boy growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s – a purple Schwinn Sting-Ray. The Sting-Ray bike was a gift from my parents in the early 1970’s. The StingRay was a single-speed bike, with coaster brakes, a banana seat, and a slick back tire. What a sweet bike! That bike got me everywhere. I raced around the neighborhood, learned to pop wheelies, and loved that bike.
Schwinn Sting-Ray bike
My next bike wasn’t really another bike – it was a metamorphisis of my beloved Sting-Ray. Dirt biking was cool in the mid-1970’s. So as a teenager, I converted my Schwinn Sting-Ray to a dirt bike. I traded out the high-rise handlebars for motocross handlebars, traded out the banana seat for a motocross style seat, and traded out the street tires for knobbies. With that bike, I could jump ramps better, ride off-road dirt trails, and explore the creek bottoms around the Dallas area. Good times included ramp jumping over four brothers in the neighborhood (they laid down near the ramp and I jumped them), getting muddy in creek bottoms with friends, and delivering early morning newspapers on that bike as a paper boy.
The next bike was my first multi-speed bike – a Panasonic MC (Mountain Cat) 3500 Hybrid (a city bike, not really a mountain bike). I had graduated college and had married. My wife and I bought each other bikes on our first anniversary (in the late 1980’s) and the bike was on sale at a local bike shop. It featured a 19 inch frame, cantilever cable brakes with hand controls, 18 speed Shimano shifters, 26 inch tires, and no suspension. I rode the bike on-road and off-road, but it was not really intended for serious off-roading.
Panasonic MC 3500
My first off-road bike was a Trek 3700 (2007 model year). It featured a 19.5 inch steel frame. 26 inch knobby tires, cantilever cable brakes with hand controls, 18 speed Shimano shifters, a front suspension, and platform pedals. It was an inexpensive entry-level off-road bike. I began mountain biking with friends and they would often ask me when I was going to get a “real” mountain bike.
2007 Trek 3700
I bought my next mountain bike off of Craigslist – a Trek 6000 (model year 2011). It featured a 19.5 inch aluminum frame (much lighter), hydraulic disc brakes with hand controls, 26 inch Bontrager off-road tires, 27 speed shifters, Rock Shox Tora front suspension with 100mm of travel, and ergonomic handlebar grips. I traded out the platform pedals for Shimano clip-in pedals.
2011 Trek 6000
I bought my next mountain bike off of Craiglist – a Specialized Carve Comp 29’er (model year 2012). It featured a 21 inch aluminum frame, hydraulic disc brakes with hand controls, 29 inch off-road tires, 27 speed Shimano cassette gears, Rock Shox XC32 front suspension with 80mm of travel, and ergonomic handlebar grips. I traded out the platform pedals for Shimano clip-in pedals. This was a larger bike for my height, but I like a large bike, with large wheels to roll more easily over off-road obstacles. I used this bike to train for my first mountain bikepacking trek.
2012 Specialized Carve Comp 29’er
I bought my first road bike in my mid-50’s (in 2016). It was a 2016 Giant Defy 2 Disc (large size), an entry level endurance road bike with mechanical disc brakes. I like disc brakes and had gotten used to them on my mountain bike. Added Shimano clip-in pedals on the road bike (same clip-ins as my mountain bike). I kept my mountain bike for off-road riding.
2016 Giant Defy 2 Disc
I do not think that the Giant Defy 2 Disc will be my last bike – I have many more miles to go before I give up biking. God has blessed me with good health and has allowed me to ride through the years. Each of my bikes have been special and have provided some great memories.