This Old Bike

Five Borough Bike Tour
Huddled at the starting line of the Five Borough Bike Tour in 2000

Last month, Mary, over at Mary Melange, challenged a group of us to write about cycling during June. In trying to match her pace, I began with a story about my short stint on two powered wheels. I spent less than three years on a motorcycle. On the other hand, I have been riding a bicycle for almost 60 years, and I’ve been riding one particular bike for almost 40. Oh, I almost forgot, in retaliation for making her write about trains, Mary requested a poem. Let’s get that out of the way:

Coast to coast to coast
Thirty eight years and counting
Sturdy two-wheeled friend

My first bike was a green hand-me-down consumer-quality kid’s bike. My brother and my dad taught me how to ride on two wheels by starting me down the hill that was our yard. They urged me to figure out the Coaster brakes, or aim for the fence. Both better options than running into the creek that ran along the back of our property.

I wrote about this bike before, but I like the story. I tore up the sidewalks around our house on that bike until one very bad day. I ran into a telephone poll and split the fork wide open. Ball bearings littered the street and I was devastated.

It got worse.

When my dad came home from work the next day, he said “I stopped by Uncle Al’s and picked up a bike for you today” – that was bad news! Al’s kids were both girls. Sure enough it was a 24” girl’s bike and it was pink. Not just pink, the sickly kind of pink with white accents that screamed “Barbie rides a bike just like this!

My father wasn’t going to let me get beat up for riding a pink girl’s bike. He welded a crossbar in place and he painted the entire contraption black. I rode that bike for several months, but for Christmas, my parents gave me a 26” three-speed English Racer. The bike was too big for me, but it was the last bike they were buying.

You’ll grow into it.

The first summer on that bike required starting and stopping near a step, or a curb, or a log, or choosing one side to which I would fall slightly before awkwardly stumbling off the bike. I grew into that bike, and I rode it until I graduated from college.

After starting my first job, I was ready to buy my own bike. I began a lengthy research project, visiting stores, taking test rides and asking friends (no Internet in 1978). The leading contenders were Motorbecan and Fuji. I settled on a Fuji Grand Tourer because it was available in a 27” size, which fit me perfectly.

As mentioned in the poem, I moved this bike from Queens, New York to Seattle, Washington and back to Hartford, Connecticut.

When our daughter was born, I outfitted this bike with a baby seat. I rode around town, with Faith on the back saying “go faster daddy.” Going downhill, “go faster daddy” and I would ease off the brake. Going uphill, “go faster daddy” and I pedaled harder.

When Faith got her own set of two wheels, we started riding the Windsor Locks Canal Path together. The path was in a miserable state of repair, and I parked my touring bike, with its 1 1/8” 90 PSI tires for a cheap mountain bike from Sears. For the next 10-12 years, I still rode the Fuji around town, but it was starting to show its age. As we started preparing to ride in the New York Five Borough Bike Tour, I looked into getting a new bike. The Fuji had cost $700 in 1978 – I dreaded the thought of what it would cost to replace it in 2000.

To my surprise, “Mike the Bike,” owner of Bloomfield Bike suggested I bring the Fuji in and let him look at it. “That’s a great bike, and I can still get all the parts. So unless you really want to spend a lot of money on a new bike, I’d keep the Fuji.”

Mike’s staff cleaned, adjusted, tweaked, replaced and repaired everything on that bike for under $200. A few months later, we returned to the city where I bought it and it carried me over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

I’m still riding the bike, but neck and shoulder injuries have made riding painful. My physical therapist, a man in his 20s, said: “I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone of your advanced age from getting exercise, but riding that bike is probably the worst thing you can do.” I think it’s time to visit Mike again to see about converting it into a more upright ride.

44 thoughts on “This Old Bike

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  1. You know that reading this post about cycling is killing me, right? It doesn’t help that I can hear Husband downstairs spinning on the trainer :(

    You’ve had a long and healthy relationship with your bike, Dan. Bravo!
    … although your PT deserves a slap for his crack about “advanced age” ;)

    Several months ago I had my bike adjusted to a kinder profile to compensate for my long-time shoulder issues – the opposite shoulder from the one I just broke. It really made a big difference to my comfort level on long rides and I recommend it … for those of us of *advanced age* :)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m sorry about the timing Joanne. I was holding out for a ride on the Canal Path. It opened, but only just this weekend and the timing didn’t work. I am going to get the bar adjusted. I’m getting more and more wary of riding on the roads around here, but it’s really the only option I have, unless I cart the bike to a trail. I would have smacked the PT, but I did still need his skill-set at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I made a little frowny face at the “advanced age” remark. What the heck?

    Nice post, Dan. I love how you’ve stayed dedicated to your Fuji bike over so many years. It gives me hope that I can ride the Kona for another 20. It’s a good plan to get the Fuji adjusted for your issues. It really will help.

    Bonus points: 500 for riding in a marathon in NYC with so many people. That would scare me.

    1,000,000 for your poetry. Excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mary! I have about 12 versions of the Haiku…phew. Faith and I rode the Five Borough Tour twice. The only way to avoid the crowd is to start early, ride hard and skip at least the first rest stop. That was hard the first year, because it was 96 degrees mid-day. Keep your Kona well maintained, keep it upright (sorry Joanne) and it should serve you well into “advanced age”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sorry Dan — more hugs back then. I get it. I’m not handling my lack of progress in escaping this place very well. Oh look… there are those bootstraps, waaaaay down there. Maybe I can stretch far enough to reach them. Ouch… Think I just pulled a muscle. ;) Tallyho!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Delighted to read about your journey with the bicycle. Loved the pictures. Especially, the one with Twin Towers. I never participated in any such challenges, you know I’m a highly reserved person. I’m completely open to the ones I love and trust and for the world I am like – Excuse me do I know you? My parents never officially bought me a bicycle, so I used others bicycles including cousins who were girls. I often ride their Barbie pink LadyBird bicycles without any shame. After all, I was never bothered about what people think.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You have great confidence, Sharukh. I would have been mortified riding that pink bike. I was so happy when he “fixed” it for me. We love New York, and this was a fun way to see the city and to ride where you normally can’t take a bike. They stage a series of rolling road closures to get the group through the city and over the bridges. It was fun.

      Like

  4. Super post, Dan. The pictures took me back to my time in the NYC area. Those twin towers gave me a tear. I’m still riding and you might want to look at a 3G coaster bike. It has an upfront configuration that allows an easier ride for the biker. (no hunching over). Thanks for this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks John. I had the same reaction to the twin towers. My wife bought a bike with that configuration. It works well for her. I’m going to see what they can do with this one. I’ve heard from some people who have had good results. I think that’s my task for the 4th weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t LOVE riding a bike. I like it fine and do it often enough, but I don’t LOVE it. Even when I was a kid, and rode all over Hell’s Half Acre, it was just a faster way to do it.
    It’s nice you have such a passion for it…especially considering your advanced age… O_O I really can’t jibe with that label.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha – thanks Joey. You kids know how to hurt a guy :) I love riding, but I’ve always, ALWAYS ridden more on the road, and that is getting progressively more dangerous as time goes by. I think what I like is that, on a bike, you’re really alone with your thoughts. There aren’t many places to do/be that these days. I was sad during the last Bike Tour we did, to find so many people talking on their cell phones during the ride. I mean, for a few hours, you can’t be quiet?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I get that stillness of the mind bit. It is sad, yes. But then, often when I’m out doing anything, people are on their phones.
        Yes, we don’t do much cycling here, it’s too busy/dangerous. We have to drive to walk at length, too.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Great stories and images about your bikes, and ride of the Five Boroughs.

    I’ll never forget my first 2 wheeler and learning to ride it. My first 10 speed,and first mountain bike. Like never forgetting how to ride a bike I think I’ll always remember these firsts bikes.

    I haven’t ridden my bike in years now. The tires are flat and it’s dusty and dirty from non use. Still I don’t dare get rid of it! You never know when I might get an urge to ride around the neighborhood again. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I always like to hear about my friend’s personal stories. Nice short haiku poem. I am so happy your Dad didn’t make you ride a girls “Barbie pink” colored bicycle, Dan.
    Now, my son frequently borrowed his sister’s since he was especially rough on bikes. His “payback” came when Felicia started riding his shorter style dirt bike. She wore a Duke U Jersey, short hair and a ball cap on so the new girls across the street didn’t realize she was also a girl until they went back to school!
    I especially like Faith and you together. I must add to Joanne, so sorry she has to hear a bicycle story after her railroad track’s accident!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Robin. I am sorry about the timing for Joanne. I used to ride a friend’s little dirt bike. I think we called then spider bikes. It was fun but I couldn’t ride it for long. I spent hours on my bike growing up.

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  8. Great post…I loved what your Dad did to convert the pink, no bar bike into a boys black one!! I grew up with a bike and had one until our girls out grew theirs and started driving…miss it!! Been thinking about getting one again…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kirt. I feel like my dad would take my current bike and just bend the handlebars until I could ride it pain free :)

      I’m really hoping Mike the Bike can help me out. I love riding, even at my advanced age.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Judy. If he wasn’t going to have multiple opportunities to bend me and decide how much weight and how many reps, I might have slugged him. I’m trying to remember what 60-somethign sounded like when I was 26.

      Liked by 1 person

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