Purchasing a bike is one of the great rights of passage in life. 50 years ago I had butterflies in my stomach on the way to Bill & Andy’s Bike Shop, in downtown Concord, MA. I remember feeling a bit weird about getting out of the car facing a graveyard filled with revolutionary war heroes. I think I was still a little freaked out after learning about Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman who loped through dark graveyards in New England lopping off heads of the poor residents of Sleepy Hollow.
My mom and dad were in the front seat of the car, while I sat in the back waiting for the 30 minute drive to come to a merciful end. I was about to get my first bike. It was a 1968 Schwinn with a red sparkly banana seat and monkey bars. A few days later my dad surprised me by replacing the rear tire with an honest to gosh racing slick. I bombed around two neighborhoods with friends in two different states constantly competing for the two best things in the world of seven year old riders: RIDING NO HANDS and LAYING RUBBER. How long a black skid-mark can you leave by jumping on the coaster brake while going fast?
It’s a holy moment when you get on your first bike, and every other first ride ever after. I will admit that its a torturous thing to buy a bike during winter in Northern, MN – where it immediately goes on your indoor trainer. You can’t know the truth of your first ride for two more months. [Historically, this has triggered spending far too much time staring Weather Underground long-term forecasts, and cursing the temperature for not being average.] But the day does come. Likely it will be a sunny day in the hi 30’s when the shoulders are free of black ice…that’s my criteria.
I’ll tip-toe across our snowpacked driveway with my bike on my shoulder, and set it down on dry pavement, kick my leg over the saddle, and clip-in to my pedals. And then the beautifully mysterious equation of centrifugal force + forward motion comes into play. That first ride will be all about discovering and appreciating the nuances of personality wrapped up in a this new frame. Yep, first rides are DA BOMB. In my mind they’re best celebrated with a craft IPA and fresh guacamole and blue corn chips…
It’s a Cervelo C5: gravel and long distance road rolled into one. After a tough season cut short by over-training syndrome [OTS], I needed to reinvent myself as a cyclist. My riding had grown grim and exhausting…the fun drained out of it. So, I’m ramping up the fun with a helping of northern gravel roads to explore this year. With the blessing I will ride the southern MN classic gravel race called Almanzo on May 20.
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I walked out to the car from Billy & Andy’s bike shop, watched my dad put my new steed in the back of our Ford station wagon, and brought it home. Through a series of dares and double-dog dares I was inducted into the neighborhood pack and learned to lay down some respectable rubber. So began my astonishing 50 year two wheel journey.
I’m still working on riding no hands.