Sunday, April 15, 2018

Reminiscing: Get On Your Bikes and Ride!

Spring is here! Right? I think? Maybe? At any rate, it’s about time for bicycling weather. All winter, the bikes have been hanging from the rafters in the garage. Since Easter, the bikes have come down, and we’ve gotten new ones from the neighbor as he moved out to a new residence. The kids have been out riding since then, dodging raindrops, potholes, and snowflakes. That they were so excited to be able to cruise Bob-O-Link with the wind flowing through the hair that billows from under their bike helmets. It made me think back to my days riding bikes, albeit without the helmets.

The new bike (before the speedometer) July 1984
When I was a kid, I had first had what I thought was a lame bike. Today’s kids would kill for the ape-hanger handlebars and the banana seat, but I wasn’t sure how much I liked it. It was perfectly functional. It was the style that I had issue with. That, and the training wheels were the issues. I couldn’t figure out how to ride the darn thing for too long. Once I did, I got a new bike. I sure was proud of that bike. I had a camera and I took photos of it like I was buying a new motorcycle or car.

My friends and I rode everywhere. I would ride from my house near the hospital to Scott’s house in the Village off Robinson Road. Then we’d ride back to my house. This was a normal occurrence. Before we could drive, bikes were our primary means of transportation. Whether it was just a leisurely ride around the block, heading to the store, or getting to someone’s house, it was a bike that took us there.

After I got a new bike in my early teens, I took my old bike down to my grandmother’s house in Lyndonville. I spent a lot of time at grandma’s house, and I had cousins down there to hang with. Having my bike down there gave me a little more mobility, although to be fair, Lyndonville really isn’t very big. It was fairly easy to get around town.

My cousin, Matt, lived just outside of Medina. It was not out of the question to ride the six miles from grandma’s house to Matt’s house, and then back to grandma’s house with Matt to hang out. Sometimes, we’d even go to the lake at the end of Route 63. That was another 3 and a half miles each way. And then back to Matt’s house, from which I could get a ride back to Lyndonville. So, a typical day might mean 25 miles on the bike.

I did a lot of exploring on that bike around Lyndonville. I would ride out Maple Avenue to Alps Road, and then to Blood Road. I cross Johnson’s Creek there, often stopping on the bridge and staring off towards the west. My grandmother used to say that one of my ancestors built one of the first mills in the town, and that the foundations from that mill still exist on the banks. I always planned on doing some exploring, but I never got around to it.

I’d finish my ride after that moment of contemplation by heading over the bridge to Yates Center Road and back to Route 63 to get back to my grandmother’s house on West Avenue. This would be a normal summer afternoon, riding around town, meeting with friends and family. That bicycle got a lot of miles around Lyndonville and Medina. And I used to be able to tell you exactly how many miles.

I had my dad put a speedometer on my bike. Yes, you read that right. I had a speedometer on my bicycle. All the coolest kids had speedometers on their bicycles back in the 1980s. Trust me. It was cool when I hit 100 miles for the first time. Even better was when I reached 1,000 miles. That speedometer was like the Fitbit of the day. I know my grandmother kept that speedometer off that bike when my brother took over ownership of it. He knew that he could never be as cool as his older brother, so he had it taken off. I remember seeing that speedometer when they were cleaning out grandma’s house. I have no idea what happened to it since then.

Jumping the stump. It was terribly hard to get these timed.
It would also tell me how fast I was going. There was a constant, ongoing challenge to see how fast any of us could get that bike to go. West Avenue has a little hill just to the east of grandma’s house. I would ride west of the house to get a good start and then take off for the hill. That downhill section might propel me even faster if I could keep control. One time, I broke the 30mph barrier that had eluded me for so long. It’s a bit disconcerting to be going as fast as the car next to you. That speedometer also told us the correct velocity to jump the stump. My dad uncovered that secret for us. It was an epic afternoon.

Riding bicycles was a huge part of growing up before getting a license. My brother used that bike for several years and had to put new tires on it. It got ridden so much that the factory tires wore out. So did the brakes. Over its time, that bicycle pedaled many, many miles.

While my kids love riding their bikes, I don’t think they get in nearly as many miles. We seem to be far more likely to give them rides to the places they need to go. Sometimes I wonder why they don’t want to ride like we did. Then I think about where they go. Mostly, they go to the track at Emmet. They cruise around the block, or around the corner to a friend’s house on Davison. Most of the stuff they’re interested in are fairly close to the house. And I’m okay with that. There are many dangers out there today that weren’t as prevalent as when I was their age.

Craig Bacon kind of lost interest in bicycles when he was able to pilot vehicles with motors. Lately, he’s been thinking about doing some more bike riding. He just needs to find that speedometer.