Friday Group Ride #440

Friday Group Ride #440

Have you been 10-years-old, perched over a pair of 20-inche wheels, straight-legged and out of the saddle, your tire’s knobs whirring against the sidewalk? Have you launched yourself from the curb and pulled up sharply on the bars, your rear tire kissing the pavement and the bike kicking back like bucking stallion? Have you eyed the thick patch of fallen pine needles at the corner of the yard where the sidewalk meets the driveway, and grabbed all of the rear brake, sliding and bouncing, the bike perpendicular to your momentum, canted at forty-five degrees, your outside foot flexing and quivering against the skid?

Have you dropped your backpack just inside the door and headed straight to the shed to pullout your bike? Have you bounded away from home, just one gear at max cadence, to get to a friend’s house, or a spot in the woods? Have you felt that relief and the pure condition of youth that lets you pedal effortlessly, never thinking of your rising heart beat or the crashing wave of lactic acid?

Have you stacked cinder blocks beneath plywood and convinced friends to lay in front, sometimes lengthwise, to be jumped over? Have you ridden across miles of neighborhood with a shovel over your shoulder to that one strip of trees and dirt that separates yours from someone else’s, and have you spent hours piling up ramps and berming out turns, and have you spent whole summers sweating through the modest little patch you made and never thought of anything else?

I flash back to those days a lot. My riding is not as simple now as it was then, one bike, one gear, no thoughts of form or fitness, or safety for that matter. But I suppose not much is as simple at 47 as it was at 10.

10 was the gateway drug that led me spinning off in every direction, through the first mountain bike boom, becoming a roadie, building fixed-gear bikes, cruisers, beaters, watching trials videos and race feeds from Europe. There is something essential in that 10-year-old’s experience that I have looked for in every corner of my cycling mania. Sometimes now I even ask myself, “What about this would my 10-year-old self like?”

This week’s Group Ride asks, what was your gateway moment with the bike? And how much of that same hook do you feel when you ride bikes now?

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  1. Asr

    The last time I saw my grandfather alive was when he gave me my first bike at about three years old. Don’t feel the same hook now at all but it’s prolly multiple layers behind every hook I currently have to cycling.

  2. Hal Edghill

    I remember being an 8 year old with my first, and only as it turns out, “banana bike”, pestering my Mom to take it for a real ride in a Wisconsin summer. Not the first time I had asked to liberate myself from the confines of riding “just in the yard” but this time the answer was yes! I was now heading out into the neighborhood, the breeze of riding in my face, and thrilled with the freedom of two wheels.

    I can’t say that that emotional rush has ever left entirely. It usually visits in those first few warm up miles when I haven’t started the day’s workout. I am listening to my body as the gentle spinning gives over to the work of the day. Somewhere in that spin is that 8 year old feeling freedom for the first time. Nostalgic? Of course but it turned out to one of those quintessential moments that helped shape the man.

  3. Michael

    My first memory of being on a bike is at my fifth birthday, when I received a hand-me-down bike from my sisters, but apparently I had been stealing the bike from them for the previous year, having taught myself to ride it (I don’t remember this). However, the formative moment is really more lifestyle. I remember taking our stingrays (slick tires back then – these were first-gen) to the cattle/sheep loading ramps at the train yard and using the ramps as our jumps. With enough speed, you’d clear both sets of tracks. Without enough speed, well…. I get that adventurous feeling on my single-speed commuter (it is a 1972 steel frame, so maybe that helps), but I still often get it on my fancy bikes too. It is not always there, but I suspect it was not always there when I was kid either.

  4. Mike Terrell

    I don’t remember how old I was but I was probably around 9. My family did not have a lot of money but we always had enough. I couldn’t describe anything about my first bike but my second bike is a different story. My parents had taken me to the Schwinn shop and we had come home with a brand-new, red with yellow accents BMX bike! It was beautiful. It was freedom. With a smile on my face, I can still vividly remember ripping down my street toward Scott Murtland’s house. That feel of the wind in my face and thoughts of everywhere we were going to go are still fresh in my mind 30 odd years later.

  5. Tominalbany

    Freedom. Exploration.

    I remember graduating to riding around the block. One of the streets was a pretty busy street so, I never rode in the road for that one. The one out my gate was always sidewalk because you needed to get to the end to ride off the curb without fear of hitting my father’s or grandfather’s parked cars. The first street I was in the road, though, was a downhill!!! Learned to ride without hands there. If I thought Mom wasn’t paying attention, I’d take a left and ‘steal’ a block (or two). Eventually, I learned almost the entire city that way.

    So much of it is fitness or commuting now that I forget to just enjoy. But, yesterday, since it got above freezing, my kids (12 and 10) went for a bike ride on their own. They get it!

  6. Alex

    It feels like I’ve had multiple gateway moments. Jumping off ramps of wood propped up with cinder block on the BMX bike around 10 years old. Freestyling and jumping off bigger dirt ramps on a mid 80s freestyle bike a few years later. Riding road bikes with friends before swim practice. Racing a lugged steel road bike in the late 90s. Jumping on a friend’s cyclocross bike in 2011 after multiple people told me to give it a go. Its like that old Blues Traveler song – “The hook brings you back.” Every single time.

  7. Lee

    I remember the first time my mom let go of the back of my seat. Must have been around 6 or 7 years old. The minute I realized I was on my own, I lost control and crashed into the fence. Undeterred, I got back on. Undoubtedly, it’s the freedom that keeps me pedaling. But for some reason it seems like I rode a lot faster when I was 10!

  8. Dizzy

    I was 9 years old before my brain would allow me to balance on a bicycle. Then, d/t poverty, I had to wait until 13 to get my first bike. The rumor was, all the kids in our little country neighborhood were about to get Schwinn Stingrays for Christmas. Unfortunately for my brother and I, our mom thought we deserved a much more classy style. So Santa Claus brought my brother and I overweight, upright, what would now be called townees, w/full fenders, steel-framed battery operated front & rear lights, etc. How embarrassing it was to go outside to all of our friends and their shiny new Stingrays.
    But, yes, freedom was calling. Within a week we had torn off the fenders, the lights and everything else we could to make our bikes as light as possible. Nearby were acres of strip mines which became our playgrounds. We fought hard to be as nimble and cool as our friends on their Stingrays. We were cool too. We were free. D

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