Fear of Falling…Terror on Two Wheels…

[Note to the reader…this story really isn’t that scary…I just wanted to grab you with a catchy headline!]

She was beautiful!  Painted dark metallic blue, she hung suspended in a line with other vehicles of different colours.  The chrome on her handlebars shone, and the whitewalls on her 24″ tires were the colour of new-fallen snow.  Her seat was white padded leather, clean as a whistle!  On a metal plate screwed to the head tube, the brand name “Columbia” was emblazoned.  She only had one speed (slow) and coaster brakes which one engaged by pedalling backward.  It was July of 1967, and my parents and I were standing in a hardware store somewhere near Toledo, Ohio – they were letting me pick out my first bike for my sixth birthday.

This bike is as close to mine as I could find...mine was darker blue with a white seat...

My dad paid for the bike ($33, I think), and loaded the box into the trunk of our Chevy Bel-Air.  In those days, you had to assemble your new bike…I don’t remember much about that process…Dad might have done it after I’d gone to bed. 

The bike did not come with training wheels.  My dad was a minister, so we lived in the parsonage next to the church.  They had a big parking lot behind the building with a square-shaped gravel driveway around the perimeter.  This was a perfect place to learn to ride.  As long as I stayed close to the edge of the driveway, I would hopefully fall into the soft grass if I lost my balance (it was a great theory – not always true).  Dad came out with me the first couple of days, and held the bike as I got the feel of it.  I spent many hours learning, until I could finally ride without falling – we went through a lot of Band-Aids that week.  There was a deep, water-filled ditch near the front of the parking lot…I remember one miscue when I dumped the bike rather than end up in the water.

Riding my bike became my new favourite activity…I can’t believe my skin wasn’t burned to a crisp…I don’t remember my mom ever putting sunscreen on us!

Two years later, my little brother was very excited when he got a two-wheeler for his fifth birthday – a green Sears Spyder with monkey handlebars and a banana seat!  Mom retired his little red tricycle for good.

Jeff on his bike...

Jeff was a lot more cautious than his big sister…those training wheels stayed on for three years!  He’s loosened up a little…here he is on his bike now (with his wife, Bev)…

"Look, Ma! No training wheels!"

We lived on a busy rural road, and weren’t allowed to ride our bikes there until we were older.  We had a well-worn path around our house that we rode on…Dad installed a wooden ramp over the little ditch at one side.  The driveway had a fairly steep rise…you had to stand up on your pedals to make it up.  If we were getting rowdy, my parents used to say, “Go out and run around the house!,” and we would!

When I was about 12, I had been working for a couple of years and saving my money…I wanted a 10-speed!  It would be a lot easier delivering papers, especially for customers with long, hilly driveways.  I bought it on a summer trip to visit our relatives in Ohio…it was $81, which was cheaper than it would have been had I bought it in Canada.  I opted for a men’s bike this time – I didn’t mind swinging my leg over the crossbar.  The new bike was a beautiful shade of magenta, and had drop handlebars with handbrakes.  I had a hard time getting used to the new brakes…I’d pedal backward, and nothing happened!  The seat was definitely not as comfortable as my old one!  It took me a while to figure out the gear-shifting system.

This bike is similar to my ten-speed - mine was magenta with black tape on the handlebars...

I moved out of my parents’ house for good in 1983…my bikes stayed in their barn for years.  Eventually, my mom probably had a yard sale and got rid of them.  In the cities I lived, I used my legs or public transit to get around…I was scared to even think about sharing the road with that many cars!  Also, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Saint John, New Brunswick are both quite hilly…hard work to maneuver a bike in!

Duckworth Street, St. John's, Newfoundland - notice the grade of the side street...

 Hope had been bugging me for weeks to go for a walk with her…I finally gave in last night.  She says, “I want to ride my bike.” 

“I can’t keep up with you if you ride your bike,” I countered.  After thinking for a minute, I said, “Maybe I could borrow Anna’s bike.”  On my way out the door, I gave Jim a stern warning, “There will be no photographs!”

Off we went to the garage.  “You can borrow my Hannah Montana helmet,” Hope offered.

Can You See Me Wearing This?

I passed, and wore Anna’s plain blue one!

I pulled Anna’s bike into the gravel driveway, and sat on the seat…it was a little low, but I went with it.  I was off!  I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed riding – it’s such a feeling of freedom.  On my second round of our circular driveway, my thighs started to ache.  Every time I headed for the end by the road, I’d have to stop and walk my bike the last twenty feet…I couldn’t make it up the hill!  I didn’t bother trying to figure out Anna’s gears…nowadays, they’re on the handlebars…imagine that!  By the fourth circuit, I decided I’d better stop…didn’t want to get too much of a good thing!  Hope helpfully told me that I “should get in shape!”  She then asked me how much weight I needed to lose.  After I told her, she replied generously, “I don’t think you look that fat…just a little bit in the bum…”

I’m contemplating asking for another bike for my birthday…I wonder if they make Harrison Ford helmets?

1 Comment

Filed under family, memories, self-discovery

One response to “Fear of Falling…Terror on Two Wheels…

  1. Gee, and I thought the title was PERFECT!

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