Mid-Life Rider

rambling through mid-life on motorcycles

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The Story of My First Bike: My Dad Tells All

March 6th, 2008 · 1 Comment

My conversation with Michael Malvin got me thinking about the subject of “my first bike.” It feels like it might become a recurring theme here.

I remember very little about my first bike other than it was red and huge. Some years later, I took off the seat, handlebars, and fenders and converted it into a proper “stingray” at which point I was surely onto the fact that it wasn’t huge at all. Later, that bike along with several others were stolen out of my parent’s garage . . . a depressing event that had a habit of recurring from time to time over the next several decades.

I asked my Dad to fill in the blanks and he wrote what follows. I remember seeing the bike for the first time in front of the fireplace. I vaguely remember the tricycle he refers to early in the story. And I quite vividly remember the episode near Indian Landing School that he recounts towards the end.

The sad part in all this is that I don’t have a good story about buying my kids bikes. My wife reminds me when and where we did: “Mountain Bikes” From Hank and Franks, the nearby bike shop. That was the style of the time and they both got them.

My wife also reminds me that at the time, we lived at the top of a hill and you know the rest of that story. Both had epic crashed at the bottom while trying to make the turn. There were not hospital visits, but there was plenty of skin left on the pavement by both. Makes me queasy just thinking about it.

Enough. On with the story . . .

Kevin [that's me] was born at Fort Devens, Massachusetts in 1956 where I was in a Regimental Combat Team (I was drafted after graduating from Law School).  From the beginning, he was independent, physical, daring and noisy, which meant that virtually from the time he was born, his mother had to keep a careful eye on him, as did I when I was available.  Once he got moving, he wanted to be out of his play pen; to move as quickly as he could; and to reach up and out for excitement.

He had a tricycle when he was not yet three years old.  By that time, he had been shouting something that at first was unintelligible, then began to sound like “boya-bike” and then was deciphered as his telling us, in his still undeveloped vocabulary, that he wanted a trike, and he wanted it right away.  Living by that time in Rochester, New York, with its sometimes abusively long winters, and also given that we lived in an unfurnished apartment and had little furniture, he rode his trike around the empty rooms with fierceness and determined speed that should have served as a warning to what was coming.  He was always noisy with excitement, and quite amused when he rode his trike into a wall or into what little furniture we had at the time (his Mom was not as amused as Kevin was).

I don’t recall when it was that he started pestering us that he wanted a two wheeler, but he got his small, well-used red two wheeler much before his playmates.  I had advanced a bit in my legal career, so by that time we had bought our first house and were living in a neighborhood.  Not being very mechanical, I am certain that however beat up it was, I did no work on it.  It could move and it was red, and that was enough.

Even the small red bike was too big for Kevin, but because he was so determined to ride it, I had to find a way to help.  I had to hold the bike carefully and get him up on the seat while at the same time getting him started, and off he would go.  At first I ran alongside him to be sure he was all right, but very quickly, he wanted no part of that.  I may have been concerned about this little kid hitting something, skidding, or skinning his knees, elbows and chin, and that happened, but some-times bloody Kevin wanted to be helped up and pushed off so that he could move forward at top speed by himself.

However, stopping was another thing altogether.  He wanted to ride his bike as fast as he could long before he figured out how to stop it (brakes seemed to be of no interest to him).  It may have been that he was too short to be able to stop and then let one of his feet hit the ground, because if he did that the whole thing would fall over on top of him. 

So, on many a balmy evening, he would want to ride his bike, especially when neighbors were around (he was something of a show-off even then).  Our neighborhood was laid out in a kind of oval, so he could ride around without having to turn around.  So,  he would come lickity-split down the street shouting at the top of his lungs “ Daddy catch –me, catch-me.”  And for the longest time, I did that, although sometimes he was coming so fast that I couldn’t stop him or could not do it correctly, and he would wind up in a pile at my feet.  My friends and neighbors got used to this, but I never quite did.  I guess that I would not have been apprehensive about it had it been someone else’s first born son, but to me this exercise, which often went on for hours and involved a great many pleas to “catch-me,” was scary then, although it is funny and charming all these years later.

One day, for some reason, Kevin and I went over to his school which was called the Indian Landing School.  In the back was a play area built at various levels because of the downward sloping ground.  I don’t quite know why Kevin decided to do this, and mind you he probably has just entered school, but he decided to ride down the hill on his red two-wheeler – in other words to really be a “boya-bike.”  By that time, he could get on his bike himself, get it started, and stop it.  Down the hill he went, but he (and I) soon realized that the bike was going way too fast, and that he was heading for a fall.  Since his feet were going around and around dangerously quickly, I had to do something and do it fast.  I screamed at the top of my lungs “Kevin, hang on, but take your feet off the pedals.”  I am certain I shouted it more than once, but he got the idea by lifting his feet off the fast moving pedals until he got it under control.  What might have turned into something serious ended turned into a funny story.  It also helped me to be quiet and reasonable, and not to yell at my foolhardy son.  (I don’t know that I ever got that right; I am still working on it.)

We did talk about it, of course, but all he could talk about was how much fun it was go at such a fast speed. 

I only recall Kevin doing that once, but thinking back on it, I suspect that Kevin went over to the Indian Landing School after that, figured the whole thing out, and raced down that hill at top speed many times.
Of course, as time went on, Kevin mastered his little red bike.  I don’t recall if his sister ever rode it, and I know that his younger brother did not because one day, we left the garage door of our house open, and someone helped himself or herself to the little red two-wheeler, which was a very sad occurrence.  It disappeared and so did the “boya-bike” who had grown to having a bigger bike which he sometimes, unaccountably, rode over curbs or into obstacles, but always with great gusto and great enthusiasm.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 stingray bike // Mar 20, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    [...] had to leave the beads on the stick/straw/whatever while they were drying, you dodejablu503.vox.comThe Story of My First Bike: My Dad Tells All My conversation with Michael Malvin got me thinking about the subject of ???my first bike.??? It [...]

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