Oct 17, 2014

Retro Bicycle memories - Part One

It happens to me every year.  Fall rolls in, I'm not able to ride my bike as much, and it gets me reminiscing about biking memories from years past.

The first time I ever sat on a bike was in 1977.  It was a blue Schwinn, similar to the one pictured at the left.  While watching my cousin ride her new bike, I asked if it was hard to do.  She jumped off, explained the fundamentals of how to ride a bike (as well as a six year old could) and said.. "now you ride it".

I sat on the bike, started pedaling, and rode the blue Schwinn up and down the street until my cousin started screaming for a turn.  It was as simple as that for me.  No falls, crashes, or mishaps.  Riding a bike felt as natural to me as breathing.. and has ever since.  I remember my old man and uncle pulling up into the driveway while I was riding my cousins bike.  Both of them were shocked to learn that I had simply hopped on the bike and commenced to riding it.  My old man looked as proud as I felt, and surprised me soon after with a bike of my own.

My first bicycle was a 1978 Sears Free Spirit Moto Cross model exactly like the one pictured above.  During the first couple of weeks I owned the bike, I turned every nut, bolt, and screw on it.  I had no clue what I was doing.. I was simply trying to teach myself the mechanics of bicycles.  I didn't know it at the time, but this would evolve into a hobby that would last throughout my entire youth, my 20s, most of my 30s, and would once again be rekindled early in 2010.  

As I became adept at repairing and maintaining my bike, I decided to start customizing it.  I removed the chain guard, fenders, racing decorations, and reflectors.  I replaced the banana saddle with a smaller BMX racing seat, installed new alloy mag wheels, and outfitted it with all kinds of upgraded accessories like pedals, handlebars, and tires.

By the early 1980's, BMX biking was taking the nation by storm. While my Sears Free Spirit looked like a BMX bike, it wasn't the real deal.  I was ready to upgrade to a name brand bike with a lighter diamond shaped frame, specifically engineered to withstand massive amounts of off-road abuse.

My Sears Free Spirit now looked incredibly sharp after all of the work I had performed, and a couple of kids from the neighborhood started offering to buy it from me.  I sold it to one of my friends, and used the revenue to buy all of the parts I needed to build an entirely new bike from scratch.  

I ended up buying a beat up Schwinn Phantom BMX frame from a junkyard for $5.00.  To anyone else it may have looked like a piece of junk, but I immediately saw amazing potential.  My old man helped me sand it down and repaint it a beautiful aqua blue, and I then started building the bike from the ground up, molding it into exactly what I wanted it to be.   The funny thing.. is that once I completed my new project and rode the bike for a few months, I again got the urge to build a totally new bike.  I sold my bike to a bicycle shop in town for a nice profit, and then used the money to fund an all new project. 

I continued building and selling bikes throughout the years, and actually began to get a reputation for putting together well built and unique looking bikes.  Kids started dropping by my house to see what new projects I was working on.  On a couple of occasions, project bikes I was working on, sold before I even got a chance to test ride them.  As time went on, friends started bringing me bikes to tune up and repair, which actually generated some nice spending cash.

While I absolutely loved building and customizing bikes, I was even more enthusiastic about riding them.  Biking consumed much of my waking thoughts, and was something I simply could not get enough of.  Memories of bike culture and endless adventures I experienced as a kid, will be the topic of my very next post.   Stay tuned kids..

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