The second bike I ever rode was a red Schwinn cruiser, very much like the bike pictured above. What a great bike! I remember how I would get that bike moving. I’d push the bike and turn its left pedal with my hand until the right pedal was just forward of top dead center. Standing on my left tippie toe, I’d swing my right leg over the top tube, put my right foot on the pedal and stand up. If I did everything right, pushing the handlebars forward as I transferred my weight to the pedal, the bike would start to move and I would alternate standing on the right pedal, then the left pedal, back and forth, straddling the top bar as I rode along. My legs weren’t long enough for me to sit on the seat and push the pedals all the way down so I had to ride standing up. The handlebars felt so wide.
When I rode that red cruiser, I had mobility and freedom.
My next bike was my bike — a blue Schwinn Sting Ray. Single-speed, white banana seat, slick rear tire, no sissy bar. Definitely no sissy bar. In addition to its non-masculine name, a sissy bar had another serious disadvantage: it couldn’t go under low obstructions. My neighbor had a red Sting Ray with a glossy, glittery banana seat and a sissy bar. He’d get hung up when he tried to ride under the large fig tree in our back yard. Not me, no siree. I could ride under that tree with impunity.
My blue Sting Ray was a happening machine. I would go back and forth on the sidewalk, accelerating to speed and then skidding to a stop. How long a skid mark I could leave on the sidewalk? I’m sure my neighbors were “pleased.” But no problem. In my mind, that’s what slicks were for. I was so cool!
In sixth grade, I graduated to a “real bike” — a 10 speed. It was a root-beer-colored (metallic-flake brown?) Schwinn Continental. I rode the 1.4 miles to school in the morning and home again in the afternoon. I mounted a freon horn to the handlebars with two hose clamps. Crowd that skinny little kid riding his 10 speed in the bike lane and he’d reward you with a blast of his horn. It didn’t do anything but make a very loud noise — and make that little kid feel powerful. I imagine that skinny kid was lucky he didn’t blast someone with no sense of humor and a case of road rage in the trunk.
Even so, I had more independence, more freedom.
One day, that bike and a car proved conclusively that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. A car started to leave the school just as I was crossing the parking lot exit from the right. Yeah, I was in the wrong: (1) riding my bike on the sidewalk, (2) riding in the wrong direction, and (3) assuming that the driver would see me. Fortunately, I wasn’t dead wrong. I wasn’t even hurt wrong. But the bike was. The wheels were tacos and the frame bent. Even though my dad had the bike fixed, it never shifted the same again.
Many years later, I replaced that 10 speed with a real road bike. Spandex bike shorts and biking top, yellow Oakley Factory Pilot sunglasses, an aerodynamic Bell helmet, bike shoes, and clipless pedals. I was a bike weenie. I rode a lot, but always on the road. I had to avoid the bits of glass, the twigs — any roadside debris lurking in the fine gravel could flat my tires. Despite my care, I got flats. Bicycling quit being so fun.
So, I got a mountain bike. A Specialized Rockhopper. Although I did a little off-road riding, I rode mostly on the road. Or in the gutters. Jumping off curbs. Across lawns. Down gravel roads. I could go anywhere and I never got a flat. Did I say I could go anywhere? I felt like a kid riding a Sting Ray or a cruiser with newfound freedom.
After a while, I replaced the knobbies with smoother and faster tires. I bought a bell so pedestrians could hear me coming. Recently, I bought bar end grips so my wrists wouldn’t hurt after a longer ride.
That is the bike I ride now. At least, until the freewheel seized yesterday evening. Would I ever replace it? Maybe. There are a couple of things I might change. I’d love to have an internally-geared rear hub and a single chainring. No more chain flopping against the chainstay when I jump a curb. No more clunk when I change gears. Hydraulic disk brakes look like fun. Maybe even 700C tires so I could go a little faster as long as they didn’t flat too easy. Something like Giant’s Seek 1, pictured below.
Or maybe I could get just the Schwinn cruiser for a quarter of the cost. My commute is less than a mile. Hillsboro is flat. A single gear is all I need. I can reach the pedals now.
Or maybe just a repaired freewheel. A cleaned chain. A washed frame. An adjusted dérailleur. And a new bell I can ring with my thumb.
Freedom is mine! :-)
Update. I went to the bike store and found out it’s cheaper to buy a new assembled wheel with a good freehub than to buy just the new freehub and have it laced on to the existing wheel. It’s a lot quicker, too. They were able to transfer over my gear cassette in five minutes and sent me on my way. After work, I transferred the rim strip, tube, and tire to the new wheel. I cleaned the chain, the dérailleur, the gears, and then decided to wash the whole bike. My last step was to adjust the brakes as the wheel diameter seems to be just a hair smaller.
No new bell, but my Incredibell is just that. Just not as nostalgic.
I’m ready to ride my nice, clean bike. :-)