The role of the bicycle in my young life.


This blog first appeared on January 24, 2016. I got a few comments, but it should be updated!

When I was a boy, during the 70’s, I had a bike, like the one in the picture. 

The bike was a BMX-style boys bike, with bright yellow “gas tank,” fenders, and handle grips. It had a padded crossbar, which was true biz BMX. And best of all, it had foot power! I hand to pump my legs to go, and to stop! In other words, I would slam my foot down on a pedal, which one doesn’t matter, and I’d screech to a halt, right before a parked car, or a lady crossing the road! Hand brakes were for adults, pffft!

It was a fun time in my life!  I loved to ride this bike anywhere and everywhere!  I was reckless and crazy and gave a lot of people heart attacks and high blood pressure!

I have sweated, bled and learned how to change a tire.  I’ve also “borrowed” or “found” a bike or two.  (I expect to get an email from my mom shortly!)

My need for speed probably started well before I had the BMX. I was about 4 or 5 when the following happened:

I recall a time when I “borrowed”, but probably the better word was “stole”, a go-kart that my older brother was constructed.  Being the 70’s, you either build something from scratch, using the parts you found in garbages, or you watched someone build it. Few things, at the time, came pre-assembled. My brother’s go-kart was a very low rider, I know it had four tires, probably mismatched, maybe even wagon wheels. I knew there was a chain, as it cut deeply into my shin. Therefore, it had pedals, but how it turned the wheels, I didn’t know. I also didn’t seem to notice, or care, that the go-kart was on a piece of discarded plywood, that it had no seat or steering!

While my brother was refreshing himself with a cool glass of water, I walked out of the house and saw his creation… naturally I wanted to give it a spin! With his hack turned, I hot-tailed the incomplete go-kart out of our carport on a hot summer afternoon.  Notwithstanding the lack of steering, I was able to zoom that plywood to the end of the alley, and tried to turn! Oh, I had to! There was a fence approaching rather quickly!  So, I did what any 4-year old would do in such a predicament; I leaned! I leaned to one side, hoping to turn, or to stop, I can’t remember. What I do remember one legs getting caught in the chain mechanism, while the other came into contact with the pavement. I think I left some DNA in a crack in an alley on Mary Hill in Port Coquitlam!

My brother rushed after me as I torn out of the carport, probably yelling “Slow down!” When I crashed, he wailed because I totalled his project! My mum came running down the alley, probably summoned by my ambulance-like wailing!

While I recall that joyous sprint, the ride, the blood, I don’t recall what happened after. Maybe I fainted, or blocked the memories.

BUT, did I learn my lesson and vow never to ride again? I made no such self-preservation measure!

My next “borrowed” bike was, and still is, marred in controversy!  I still did not have the BMX bike above, I would say make two years had passed since the go-cart incident.

To this day my cousin, Robin, always liked to remind me that I owe her a pink basket because I destroyed the one attached to her very girly bike that I “borrowed” one fine afternoon.  My aunt, uncle and cousin had just moved into the townhouse next to ours, and Robin was showing off her new ride! The controversy arises, because she “let” me ride it, whereas, she claims I “took” it.  Who is right, who is wrong?  It is lost to the myths of time!  The bike itself, with handlebar streamers, a pink banana seat, and flag, came out unscathed. I probably did take this girly thing, wanting to take it for a spin. I am innocent until proven otherwise?

Robin never let me ride the bike again!

Sidebar: I wrote the next paragraph about my Dad’s superior building skills, it does not have anything to do with my bike-riding ability, but I want to keep it here (my Dad passed away in August of 2020). My Dad’s creativity skills were remarkable, well ahead of the times! He created a bike trailer for a kid, me! He used an old plastic chair, removed the legs, adding wheels and a tow bar to the underside of the chair, and, for safety reasons, a flimsy seatbelt.  You see the very same creation being pulled about by millions of health-conscious cyclists today! Of course, the modern ones the kid is zipped in, the wheels are not accessible to little fingers! My dad didn’t add any protections between the wheel and the seat! I’m pretty sure my mom said to me, dolefully, keep your hands on your lap, or something like that, whenever we went for a ride! I think my Dad created this, and if he had patented it, we would have been rich!

So, back to my love of bikes,

I believe in my heart that I finally got the above BMX bike in 1978, on my tenth birthday. I could have had a few bikes before that, but this BMX was special because it was MINE! New from a box! It came with training wheels, which I would outgrow quickly. It was not my brother’s old bike, but it was mine!

I rode it daily: I would ride to Hazel Trembath elementary school where I was in grade 3. It was only ten minutes away by foot, three by bike. I dash down to the corner store, probably to grab a Kit Kat! I would race to friend’s houses, maybe I’d win, maybe I would have to lose because I fell off the bike because it hit a car. I would race friends to the park, in the park, around the… oh you know it already! I’d branch out, zooming around on streets, alleys, shortcuts on Mary Hill. I’m pretty sure I also took out a few branches while I zoomed by trees, rosebushes and any other form of shrubbery. I had lots of cuts and scrapes!

Within a short time of getting the bike, I mastered the fine art of stopping by skidding; slamming on the brakes while at high speed, rear wheel fishtailing with authority and sending a shower of gravel like a wave in almost any direction! What fun!

I was also adept in other skills connected to ride the bike, you know, the dangerous stuff!

I could pop a wheelie while zooming along, not falling over either! I did that often, both actually! I also manufactured jumps, some worked, some didn’t. I pretty sure I was also able to ride a few hundred feet, give or take, with no hands on the handlebars.

I’m pretty sure I gave a lot of people heart attacks, this was all before helmets were mandatory!

These were my free-spirited halcyon days!

And they were about to end…

In 1980, my family moved to Maple Ridge, within 2 years I would be grounded and forced to walk all over. There were no buses in Maple Ridge until the mid-80’s. My vision, and my hearing, was getting worse, I could not judge distances between cars, but this predicament I would ignore.

My beloved yellow BMX bike was put down, I had outgrown it. I got another BMX bike, and rode that a lot. Especially in the wee mornings when I delivered papers.  It was nice to ride in the middle of a usually busy street at 4:30 in the morning, with nary a soul around!

After my paper route was quit, the second BMX was also quit.  I don’t know why. I claimed a tall abandoned granny bike as my own. I walked it home, it had a flat tire, striped it, painted it Canary Yellow, added a banana seat with a chopper bar at the back.  My dad helped me, he was out of work, and we fixed up this bike really nice! I don’t think my mom was pleased, but she endured, until, that is, I was in an accident.

That accident was my fault, and my vision! I was now legally blind, my hearing was pretty spotty, I had hard time hearing, and with a lot of background noise, it was hard to hear!

I’ll just summarize the accident in a simple analogy: I was rear-ended as I cut across a busy four-way intersection. I guess I didn’t look as I “cleared” the intersection. That summarization has no feeling, no emotion!

There I was, riding along, zooming, cutting through a busy four-way stop, in which I did not stop! When I reached the other side, I was rear-ended! Kapow! I was flying! I landed in a grassy patch a few feet away, I felt dazed, confused, I think I was unhurt. However, I was taken to the hospital for evaluations, and released later that day.

My granny bike was, on the other hand, was mangled, a write-off! It was totalled! I found out later that a motorcycle had turned the corner just as I had cleared the intersection, and cranked up the throttle, hoping to zoom onwards. I’m not sure if he saw me, or if he cranked the throttle then saw me, and had tried to swerve. It matters not, my riding days were over.

The police asked my parents what to do with the granny bike, and my mom decided “Get rid of it! Put it in the dump!” she proclaimed!

That was it; at age 14, my riding days were over! No more speed, no more zoom, no more flying down the pavement at breakneck speeds, no more bikes, bicycles, BMX, unicycles! I had ridden my last bike, skidding for the last time!

Or so it seemed…

I would eventually have two or three opportunities to ride again!

Once when I borrowed a bike during a day when I was playing hooky. Then again, years later, after working late, and missing the last bus, I took a bike left in the bus loop, riding home in the rain! And, the last time was when a friend and I rented bikes, we went far… but I drew blood… just like the first time! Ankle getting snagged by the chain!

I’ll always look back fondly at those years of bike riding, I loved the freedom, the excitement, the blood pumping through my veins, the thrill!

Please enjoy your day! Wear your helmet, seatbelt and Kevlar vest!

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