How It Begins

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How It Begins

For many of us, it began like this:

It was a Huffy BMX, black with graphics that could only be described as “radical.”  Pads on the handlebars and top-tube, “bear-trap” pedals, and real brakes – front and rear – that were operated by hand levers, not a coaster brake.  I would park it right in the middle of the garage, like it was some secret military vehicle, ready to launch and go shoot down a Russian spy satellite.  A group of us would ride together, and in my mind we were a squadron of P-51s, desperados riding into town, the A-Team saving the day, White Fang and his wolf pack.  It was the first thrill of riding.

Lead photo by J.BC

It was the days before kids had to wear helmets, knee pads, and inflatable suits every time they left the house.  Before we took a screen with us everywhere we went.  By today’s standards, we were neglected, in that not every waking moment of our young lives was scheduled for us.  For long afternoon stretches, we were unsupervised and, lacking cell phones, unreachable.  It was the first thrill of freedom.

It was wheelies and makeshift jump-ramps at the bottom of the driveway.  Racing like mad to the end of the sidewalk, then into the woods that now are gone.  Improvised games, often involving ridiculous tests of bravery or pain tolerance, abounded.  Jumping curbs and flying tackles was the norm.  It was the first thrill of danger.

It was the first thing that I was mechanically responsible for.  I found tools in the basement and tinkered.  I went through rear tires pretty quickly and learned how to change them.  It was the first thrill of self-reliance.

Few pleasures in life are as purely exhilarating as your first bicycle.  That taste of riding, freedom, danger, and self-reliance is intoxicating.  In many things, we give up childlike wonder as we settle into routine and predictability.  As the likelihood of ever actually becoming an astronaut asymptotically approaches zero, the anticipation of real magic dwindles.

But those of us who ride keep it alive.  Most of us started at one point on a bicycle, and we can still feel the burning in our thighs as we tried to pedal as fast as we possibly could.  If you were like me, you even twisted your right wrist, opening an imaginary throttle to the stops.

Thirty-plus years later, I still feel every bit of that thrill.  This is something that does not have to dwindle.  We don’t need fantasy or regrets: we have motorcycles.

So be sure to wave to the kids in your neighborhood on their bicycles.  After all, they’re bikers, too.

  • Zack

    I can get behind any article that has a White Fang reference.

  • DavidyArica Freire

    That’s why motorcycles and bicycles are so inter correlated. In fact, I want to make something of a bicycle holder to go on my motorcycle. I’ve seen a couple but I want one that’s integrated to my top rack on my bike. Probably something custom

  • MichaelEhrgott

    Sidenote: Wheelies are not any less fun now than when you were 10.

    • nick2ny

      My first thrill of anti-wheelie. My first thrill of anti-stoppie, and of traction control.

  • Brian

    I miss my old GT Pro-Performer with Z-Rims that flexed and axle pegs for doing any number of assorted things that by most standards today would be viewed as generally stupid. Had it tricked out with a nice gooseneck and a laid back seat post and some origional Oakley grips. It survived through most of the abuse and jumps I put it through, even when having to replace tubes and worn out tires, which was more excitement than a chore. Oh the days of simplicity when it was Mongoose vs. GT vs. Kuwahara vs. Redline and so on. The days that led us to know that despite how badassed any one bike was, it was only as good as the guy riding it and we KNEW it.

    • Robotribe

      You rich kids and your Z-Rims. Fah!
      Sincerely,
      A poor jealous teen from 1984 on a secondhand Mongoose dreaming of a PK RIPPER

      • Brian

        I wish I was the rich kid. I bought my GT from a police auction. I hustled peoples grocery bags into their cars on Saturday mornings for tips for the money to balance the deal I made in trade for those wheels. There was a nice set of Skyway Tuffwheels 2′s that came on the bike when I bought it .

        • Robotribe

          Just teasing. My tips came from bussing tables at my grandmother’s restaurant. That did provide for a really awesome yellow Haro number plate and those weird circle-shaped platform pedals.

          Anyway, I definitely agree with the spirit of the post; bicycles are the gateway drug to motorbikes.

  • Luis Fernando Ponce

    love that, I still do not wear cell phone.

  • McSpofforson

    Great article, made me all reminiscencey and nostaligish: we used to disappear for hours on our bicycles, and not bother going home until we were hungry. I feel rather sorry for my nieces and nephews, growing up in these ultra-cautious days.

  • Guzzto

    Nice article Carter, I think we grew up in the same era, Pushing your bike home for miles with bloody knees after falling off in the middle of no-where. Building hack bikes out of parts because BMX’s weren’t available yet, chain brakes meant that when the chain bounced off on a downhill you had no brakes. Fun times and not a parent in sight.

    I just got scowled at by a mother at the pedestrian crossing for waving at her little kid who was pointing excitedly at the “mow-da-bike”

  • ThruTheDunes

    Family moved in on the corner down the road. One kid saw me and nudged his brother. I saw them both look so I gave a little beep-beep on the horn. They were so excited I thought they would turn inside-out.

    Looking forward to more of it once spring gets here…

    • Chris McKendry

      Couldn’t agree more! One of the many perks of riding is seeing little dudes get so stoked when they see you on your bike. I always try and give them a thumbs up or a blip of the throttle. I know I was that kid that went batshit crazy every time I saw a bike growing up, so I figure it’s the least I can do.

      • nick2ny

        Wheelie if you can. I can remember all the first wheelies I saw.

        • Chris McKendry

          In due time…Hell I STILL get excited seeing a good wheelie in person!

  • Dennis Hightower

    A fave: On Any Sunday’s opening credits… starting at 2:40
    http://www.hulu.com/#!watch/79438

  • Jack Meoph

    You forgot the jousting matches.

    • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

      Nerf balls on broomsticks. Mostly so we didn’t murder each other immediately. These were friends, after all.

    • Ryland Brown

      We used to use stalks of California grass, or “cut grass,” as we used to call it. Man, you just brought back so many memories.

  • Paul Cypert

    Rich kid could afford the BMX :P

    I remember finally finding pegs for my generic and thinking now I could do all the cool tricks…too bad mine didn’t have hand breaks and wasn’t a stunt bike by any stretch of the imagination LOL.

  • SkunkySamurai

    My whole childhood and teenage years and even into my twenties! I rode bmx and I soon started out on a 2004 F4i. I would spend days at a time away from home on my bike with friends.

  • Satyajeet Baji

    “We don’t need fantasy or regrets: we have motorcycles”

    Win! With your permission, I’m gonna use it on someone someday.

  • Krasi

    Ah, who doesn’t remember “BMX Bandits”… And the inevitable drooling after one of these with the “thick colored spokes”!

  • eddi

    Bicycle to motorcycle. It seemed completely obvious to me. But friends and neighbors seemed to think I was doomed. Me, I never understood their concern. So here I am back home after a day of riding through puddles, slush and graveled corners.

  • William Connor

    Good times. Although I wrecked that BMX bike so much I am glad I didn’t carry that particular trait over!

  • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

    Always wave to kids on bikes.

    *cough* And nothing lights up their faces like a well timed wheelie. *cough*

  • Dracula

    Back in my rural home where even the newspaper never reached we only had such luxury once a week on sunday when after attending the local church that is under a tree i would be sent running bare foot to the nearest market that is 10km(about 6miles). i would happily run under an hour and am back. then came the time my dad bought the first Avon bike, it was a huge bike but i found a away to ride in the middle frame it was soo awesome. knee pads and helmets was a thing for the sports people in the black and white television. the bike was poorly maintained with almost all the time used without a single brake front or back i used my flip flops heel on the back wheel mind you our mud house was patched on a hill. I love my childhood everything was fun!!!

  • PeteN95

    During the opening scene of On Any Sunday, I saw myself and my friends, then we saw where we were going!

  • toni796

    same here, only i continued to ride bicycles mostly mtb and still burning my legs trying to go as fast as i can

  • 671

    Yup, from bicycle to motor bike too. Still ride the bicycle for fitness.

  • Tom Byrne

    When I was a little kid, the hot setup was a Big Wheel with hard rubber tricycle wheels on the rear, scavenged from trashed tricycles. Wheels from two-wheeled shopping carts which were popular in NYC also worked well on the rear. That was my introduction to vehicle modification.

  • Chuck D

    Moving and beautifully written.