The role of the bicycle in my young life.


When I was a boy, I had a bike, like the one above.  It was a fun time in my life!  I loved to ride it anywhere and all over!  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 was probably started when I “borrowed”, but probably a better word was “stole”, a go-kart that my older brother was working on.  It was a low rider, with pedals and a chain linking to tires at the back, it was also on a piece of plywood, and lacked, at the time, steering!  While my brother was refreshing himself with a cool glass of water, I hot tailed out of the carport on a hot summers afternoon.  Notwithstanding the lack of steering, I got to the end of the block and tried to turn, I had to, there was a row of townhouses standing in my way!  So, I did what I thought I had to do, I leaned!  I leaned my ankle into the chain mechanism, which was a bit painful, I started to bleed profusably!  And, I did stop!  My brother arrived first, to reclaim his, now, totaled go-kart, then my mom arrived, probably summoned by my ambulance-like wailing!

Did I learn my lesson and vow never to ride a bike again?  NO!.

My next “borrowed” bike was, alas, marred in controversy!  To this day my cousin, Robin, always reminds me that I owe her a pink basket for the treachery that I destroyed the one attached to her very girly bike that I happened to “borrow”.  The controversy arises, now, because I think 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!  (Of course I probably did take the girly thing, but where is my innocent until proven otherwise?)

In the early 1970’s, my parents got a set of bikes, 10 and 5 speeds, and my brother and I got bikes as well.  This was before the BMX above.  My bike, quite naturally, had training wheels, which I would outgrow quickly.

What is remarkable about this time was my dad’s creativity skills.  I think I recall riding in a seat behind my dad’s butt, I am very sure that either I outgrew this quickly, or my dad did!  Because, he created a pro-type bike trailer for kids, by taking an old chair, chopping off the legs, adding wheels and a tow bar, and for safety reasons, added a seatbelt.  Oh yeah, there was no grating between myself and the wheels!  I think my mom said to me, dolefully, keep your hands on your lap, or something like that.  We rode far and wide, if my dad had patented his contraption, we would be rich!

I believe I got the BMX bike above in 1978.  This makes sense because I turned ten that year. I also had no training wheels.  This was freedom and I rode it almost every day, probably to school, but not too sure.  This was a crazy time, when I learned and relearned the rules of the road.  I never went far, but I did not stop.

In 1980 we moved from Port Coquitlam to Maple Ridge, we bought a big house on Carleton Street.  Little did I realize that my riding days would be coming to an end.  Within 2 years I would be grounded and forced to walk.  My vision and hearing were getting worse, I could not judge distances between cars, but this I would ignore.

I can not recall anything spectacular in way of wheels.  I do know I rode all over Maple Ridge, and fixed a few flats.  My beloved yellow BMX bike was put aside, I had outgrown that. 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 43o in the morning, without a honking car behind me!

After my paper route was quit, the BMX was also quit.  I don’t know why.  But, shortly after, I “found” a tall granny bike, abandoned, somewhere in east Maple Ridge.  By granny bike, I mean it was a tall bike, but neither a 5 or 10 speed.  It was close to a dumpster, and had a flat tire.  I walked it home, striped it, painted it Canary Yellow, and added a banana seat with a chopper bar at the back.  This my dad helped me, he was out of work.  I don’t think my mom was pleased.  But she endured, until, I was bumped.

I was riding south on Laity turning east onto Dewdney Trunk Road (its funny how, after many years, I can figure out the directions, when, at the time, I was directionally challenged!), at the time, this was just a four-way stop, so I looked both ways like a good Cub Scout, and zoomed across the heavy trafficked street.  I probably felt excited because I got through traffic again, then, ka-pow!  I was flying!  I landed a few feet away in some shrubs, feeling dazed, but unhurt.  My bike was, on the other hand, hurt, it was mangled!  I found out later that a motorcycle had turned the corner (which I didn’t see) and cranked up the throttle, hoping to bypass me, but instead had to content to a love tap on my back wheel that sent me flying and ended my riding days!

How I got home was a mystery, as that intersection is not close to my home, I seem to recall a ride in a police cruiser.

I wanted to fix up the yellow granny bike, but it vanished.  I believe my mom took it somewhere!  I was forced to spend my early teen years walking the streets of Maple Ridge!

Until, one day, I was Westview, probably ’83, when I decided to play hooky.  I hung out at the elementary school I attended, in the bike lot.  When I bell rang, and all the kids when to class, I “borrowed” a bike.  This was a time, when, locking up bikes was not common, and helmets were also.  So, I went to town, literally and figuratively, on this bike.  And then, I rode it back to the school to return it, I was feeling altruistic, if I knew that word then.  But, I was jumped by a bunch of kids, so I didn’t return it to the school but about two block away.

I was probably mad at my lack of motion, Maple Ridge, during the early 1980’s, had no busses, you either walked or got in your car.  It wasn’t until the mid 80’s did Maple Ridge start running bus routes, and very infrequently.  I longed to move out of such a inaccessible community.

After my parents divorced and my mom and I moved to Port Moody, a more accessible community with bus routes!  I took my penultimate bike ride.  My mom was away for the weekend, and I was working nights as a dishwasher.  The restaurant was close to a major bus stop.  It was about 1230 AM, I just finished work ten minutes prior, and ran to get the 1235 bus. I ran in the rain, like a good Vancouverite, without an umbrella.  Yet, I was 3 minutes late!  The bus was on its way!  Damn!  Should I seek cover and wait for the very last bus at 1:05 AM, or should I “borrow” the unattended 5 speed bike standing by the wall of the bus shelter?  I looked around and no one was there, so I hopped on it and off I zoomed!  I had a fun ride home, remembering my paper delivery days and riding in the rain!  When I got close to my house, I ditched the bike and haven’t told a soul.  (My mom should be emailijng me shortly about these last two “borrows”)

The last time I actually rode a bike for more than an hour was when a good friend and I rented bikes and rode from Granville Island to English Bay through Stanley Park.  I tried to, in vain, hide my bloody ankle, which got caught on the chain!  And I fell off the bike a few times!

I’d like an adult trike, but, who is going to alert the people in front of me?






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