Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Most of us would never dream of racing our bicycles 500 miles over some of the highest passes in Colorado. But all of us can remember the first bike that really meant something to us as if it were a first love.
Mark Andersen, of Steamboat Springs, broke up with his first bike — literally.
“It was a bright blue Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat,” Andersen said. “I went over a jump, and it broke in half. Then I got mad and slammed the front half onto the ground and the fender cut my knee so badly I had to have stitches.”
Mingling with the crowd during the Lifestyle Expo before the finish of Stage 4 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge on Friday afternoon, everyone I ran into recalled their first lasting bicycle relationship with fondness.
Keith Somen used his bicycle to get around Brooklyn, and I’m not referring to the Steamboat neighborhood of the same name on the south side of the Yampa River. I’m talking about Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I was 13, and it was a white Peugeot,” Somen said. “That was my car. I had it for five years.”
Barbara Holmes clearly can recall riding the mint green Schwinn she received for a combined Christmas and birthday gift when she turned 8.
“It had green and white streamers on the handlebar grips and a bell that went ‘ching, ching, ching.’ It had a basket on the front and my mother put a plastic flower on the basket, which I didn’t really like, but I let her do it anyway.”
Holmes grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Palos Verdes, and her parents were perfectly comfortable with her roaming the streets on her little bike.
“Palos Verdes is a beach town and I rode my bike to the beach,” she said.
Steamboat expat Sid Lewis, a longtime hair stylist here, recalls receiving a red-and-cream colored Schwinn Hornet when he was 10. It took a long time, but Lewis became a serious bicycle racer in the 1980s after a move to Austin, Texas. It was there that a first-year pro racer named Lance Armstrong became a regular client in his shop.
Anita Handing received a little red one-speed cruiser bike when she was 6 and learned to ride without training wheels.
“My first accident on that bike was running into a telephone pole,” Handing said. “That’s really embedded in my memory.”
Andy Rackstein recalls the English 10-speed he rode all over Long Island, N.Y., when he was about 10.
“You had to pause your pedaling in order to shift gears,” he said.
Deb Werner grew up on the outskirts of Golden on the way to Boulder and rode a brown Schwinn along a dirt road to visit a friend.
“I road that bike halfway around the mountain to visit a girlfriend named Margaret,” Werner said.
Along the way, she always kept an eye out for rattlesnakes.
Like Andersen, the bike Robb Nutt recalls best was a lime green 1965 Stingray with a five-speed gear knob on the top tube.
While he was growing up in Hinsdale, Ill., it was considered a very cool bike.
“It had butterfly handlebars, a sissy bar and a wide slick (tire) on the rear wheel.”
If Nutt still had that bike today, he’d be a rich man — perhaps not in dollars, but in memories.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com