Before we go any further, I should warn you: the following post contains images of ’70s and ’80s children’s fashions which some people may find disturbing. Got it? Good. Let’s get on with it then…
I’ve ridden bikes for as long as I can remember. Longer, in fact. As the below picture will testify:This tricycle was, I’m told, my first bike. It was a good bike. It got me around our little South Wales cul de sac just fine. It gave the first hints of what was to come, and was involved in my first bike crash. I decided that, in my three-year-old wisdom, that I could ride it down the steps outside the front of our house, Rampage-style. Let’s just say it didn’t end well. I sill have the scar, nearly forty years later.
Learning to ride on two wheels took me a while: I didn’t want to let go of my stabilisers (some might argue I still need them…). Most of my learning took place on our small back lawn once we moved to England. As the picture below shows, it didn’t always go well. (Please note the rigid, single-speed bike. I was bang on trend before it was even a trend…)
Straight lines were fine: corners and stopping, less so.
Is my bike OK? Honestly, you’d have thought they’d have helped me up, rather than standing there taking pictures… Eventually though, I got the hang of it, and was ready for my first big bike, and what a bike!
I mean, come on! Look at those ape-hanger handlebars! That was an awesome bike. I remember the day we went to pick it up from the shop. I don’t think I’ve been more excited in my life. Those chromed rims, that banana saddle. Sure, it wasn’t a Chopper, but I didn’t care. It was mine.
Eventually, I graduated onto early mountain bikes, and spent hours pratting about in local quarries with my mates. I’m still not sure we should have been in them, but nobody bothered us, and weren’t bothering anyone else. I’m sure the Health and Safety crowd would have an absolute field day now, but back then it was fine. We didn’t go into the working areas of the quarry (we weren’t that dim), but we did make use of the wide access roads to eke as much speed out of our bikes like a Fenland Mt Tam. Sadly, no photographic evidence of these halcyon days exists.
Not much has changed since then. Sure, the bikes have become a little more high-tech, and cost a whole lot more. I still like to hoon down things as fast as I can (which isn’t as fast as most people), and still smile whenever I’m on a bike (usually).
Bikes are our first taste of independence: they take us beyond the confines of our gardens, and out into the wide world. They are freedom machines, and through them we can discover more of the world around us. If you have children, get them on bikes.