Spoke Talk: Freedom on 2 wheels
April 13, 2012
Steamboat Springs — My bike story begins in spring 1968. There were red and white streamers rustling and flapping from the ends of my steel handlebars. It was the first time I bravely sent it with reckless ignorance down a steep gravel hill. I still can recapture that sense of speed. Oh, I had never, ever gone that fast in my life!
I really didn't know what to do. I remember thinking I was going to crash. Did I mention it was a really steep hill? Did my father actually believe I had the skills for the ride? Maybe he thought I would crash yet be so thrilled with the sensations of flying and careening abandon that no matter what happened, I'd be smiling and eager to send it again.
All I know is that my first real bike memory was etched on that sunny day when I got my famous "hole in the knee" scar. Surely, I was given ice cream or some other great association along with the scar because I always loved my red Schwinn bike with its thick streamers and flowered basket in front. I still have the scar. I still remember the way the black grips felt in my hands. They were notched out perfectly on the underside for my fingers to hold onto. The drum brakes never failed but could send you skidding out of control. The seat was red and white with a big S on it. There was real chrome, too.
My next bike memory was with that same red Schwinn. We were in the garage on a rainy summer day playing "traffic cop" with our grandmother. We drove our bikes, with great skill, around her while she gave us commands in German, like "halt" and "gehen." She didn't speak English, but we laughed and played.
That became another etching in my mind of happy bike days that endeared me to my Oma, who lived across the ocean. How fortuitous it was to be born into my middle-class family and living on gravel roads with a red bike waiting in the garage. That was — in no exaggeration of the word — freedom.
Many bikes later, I find myself with another new/old Schwinn that is red, steel and has black notched-out grips. It has a basket in the front and wonderful drum brakes I can step on hard and skid the bike. My $10 Schwinn, from a garage sale in Wyoming, also has chrome fenders. It is the heavy-duty steel model, most likely built for a man. I can ride up any hill as long as there is enough room to zig zag. Often, this means taking the long way home on roads with less traffic.
When that bike gets to rolling, it is smooth and sound. It cruises as if it knows where we are going. I've been told that the weight in the heavy steel wheels starts a momentum of its own once it is primed. One of my favorite things to do is ride the bike path, sitting upright and taking in the sights. Crossing the bridges and popping out on the other side of the tunnels is great fun. There are no streamers, but I do have a sweet dinging bell. Sometimes, I take shortcuts through the fields and on little gravel paths. I wish everyone could have such a wonderful machine to pedal.
You get the picture. It still is just fun. How lucky to be my age (you do the math) with a Heavy Duty Schwinn on a kickstand in my driveway.
Lisa Marno is a mountain bike coach for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and Colorado Mountain College. She is the mother of two accomplished ski racers, owns a donkey and prefers sledding when not riding her bicycle.