H.G. Wells is reported to have said, “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the human race.” Iris Murdoch, “The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.” But they were British (Irish, in Murdoch’s case), and the British have a famous fascination with all things slightly backward.

My first bike was my present for, I think, my 8th birthday. I remember my dad teaching me to ride it, first in our front yard, then on the street. I remember the first time I managed to stay upright, after he gave me what must have been the 20th running start down the little slope from beside what was then our driveway, toward the big oak tree at the south edge of the yard. I remember my older brother, who had a red Firestone with a wide, racing slick tire on the rear, rooting for me. My bike was a bright orange model from Otasco. It had one speed, pedal brakes, a banana seat, and big, chrome, U-shaped handlebars. They all did, then. The 3-speed wasn’t wholly unknown, but the 10-speed hadn’t arrived just yet — not in rural Arkansas, anyway — and the BMX-style bike was still 4 or 5 years off. There’s no telling how many miles I put on that bike. If we, the neighborhood kids, weren’t playing football or whiffle ball, we were on our bikes, with me usually bringing up the rear. (I was a small kid. sniff)

I don’t remember ever wanting a new bike. Ten-speeds arrived. The BMX arrived. But it never crossed my mind to want a new bike, just like it never crossed my mind to want a new arm. My bike was my bike. It was mine. Part of me.

I got too old for bikes, sometime; I don’t remember when. And my trusty orange machine went wherever it is kids’ bikes go when kids outgrow bikes. My folks probably gave it to a younger cousin or somebody at church. Maybe it was too outmoded by then for anybody to want it, and it got chucked in the gulley on my uncle’s farm. (That sort of thing was still done in those days. Retreating Ice Age glaciers had left all these gullies that needed filling in.)

I bought a new bike, recently, and boy have things changed.

The first thing I had to do was decide what kind of bike I wanted. A road bike? A mountain bike? A cruiser? A commuter? A randonneur? A recumbent? Then there were materials to be chosen — steel, aluminum, titanium, or carbon fiber? Speeds selected — 21? 24? 27? 7? 3? Even the old single-speed has made a comeback. There were drivetrain components to be assembled, as though from a Chinese menu, and gear ratios to be preferred. Even geometries. Cripes.

I wanted a bike to replace as completely as possible my automobile, so I got a commuter bike, aluminum, 21 speeds, no fancy drivetrain gizmos. It’s silver and kind of swoopy and comfortable. I’ve tricked it out with lots of reflective tape, headlights, and taillights, to alert the Memphis Yukons and Hummers and Expeditions that I’m there. And I got it with this thingamabob called an Xtracycle, which made it possible to haul groceries or darn near anything else on it. I ride it to work roughly half the time, and I do get groceries on it. I plan, eventually, to ride it to work every day, regardless of weather.

I’m not quite in good enough shape to do that, yet. I’m finding I get out of breath faster than I did as a kid, don’t recover as quickly from it, and it’s taking me longer to get into shape. But I’ll get there. I don’t think this bike will ever be part of me like that first one was, though.


13 Responses to “Rosebud”

  1. eric Says:

    Wot no sundance?

  2. alsturgeon Says:

    Well now what are you going to do when you go shopping for bowling balls?

    I loved this post. All good.

  3. urbino Says:

    Bowling balls would be an interesting load. So far, the biggest load I’ve had on it was a grocery trip: gallon of milk, case of sodas, 2 loaves of bread, bag of chips, assorted deli items, 2 boxes of cereal, pound of ground beef, and snacks.

    Wot no sundance?

    Sadly, no. It was nameless.

  4. Mikey Says:

    How far of a ride is it to work? Just curious. I’m not a biker, but the times I’ve tried….it’s amazing how much work it requires.

    And your bike is huge. You didn’t mention that. I was surprised when I saw it at Christmas. Took up the whole garage, if I remember correctly.

  5. urbino Says:

    Coupla miles, at most. But it’s all hills. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    It is a big bike, true. And heavyish. Even coasting down the biggest hill on my way to work, which is pretty darn big, it maxes out at a surprisingly low speed.

  6. urbino Says:

    You should be all about the bicycle, out there in Malibu. Get Al on one when he arrives.

  7. alsturgeon Says:

    You haven’t seen the mountains. 🙂

  8. urbino Says:

    Mountains ain’t nuttin’ but a thang.

  9. Michael Lasley Says:

    maybe we could get one of them two-seaters, Al? surely the two of us could handle a mountain together? plus that way, pam wouldn’t have to worry about hurting one of our feelings when she chose who to ride with.

  10. urbino Says:

    You kids would be adorable on a bicycle built for two. You could sing show tunes at the top of your lungs as you rode along.

  11. alsturgeon Says:

    Count me in. But I’m old, so you’ll have to do all the pedaling. I’ll make up for it by singing extra loud.

  12. Michael Lasley Says:

    deal. i’ll gladly pedal you all the way to school from your apartment. and back. then i’ll get in my pick ’em up and drive down to my campus. ’cause that’s a big hill sitting between the law campus and seaver college.

  13. urbino Says:

    And you can add bluegrass harmonies. Not enough show tunes have those, for my tastes.

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