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Bikes


Mon, May 8th, 2000
Posted in

May 8, 2000

My birthday happens to have occurred in the late spring and, while I dont remember much about the day itself, others have told me that I spent the day with my mother. Recent anniversaries of my birth have also been spent with my family. I try to take the day off from work to do some outdoor activity that has been lacking from my daily routine throughout the long winter.

Biking has become one of my favorite birthday activities. The weather, if fit at all, is usually cool enough for an out-of-shape person like me to start exercising without too much stress. An additional benefit to early season biking is that the bugs are few, except for the occasional cloud of gnats that cruelly sacrifice one of their number to die a horrible death beneath my eyelid or up my nose.

If these outings happen to occur on a weekend, our sons come along. The boys are well past the point where we have to help them stay upright on training wheels, but they are not beyond needing to be reminded to stay to the right and stay alert to traffic. Having been raised in the country, they tend to wander on the bike path, thus creating a hazard to serious bikers. We nag to get them to ride single file in the right lane, but it isnt long before they are looking up at the trees or down at the river like country bumpkins admiring a five story brick building in the city.

The whole family wants me to get a new bicycle so that I can keep up with them in style. They all ride multi-speed bikes with ten or fifteen gears out there in the open where you can see them and bend them. My old bike, almost as old as the three kids combined, has three speeds hidden inside the back wheel where they are safe. I shift with a little silver lever fastened to the upward-curving handlebars. This classic bike even has fenders, making it the ultimate "Dad" bike. It has dull black paint and, perhaps worst of all, the widest and springiest seat you will find on any bike anywhere in our part of the state. It may also be one of the few American-made bicycles left on the road.

It is a complete embarrassment for the family to be seen with me. Here I am, their own flesh and blood, riding a rickety, antiquated machine that looks like a refugee from a dumpster. It is no wonder that they whiz smoothly on ahead of me, looking back occasionally to see if it is time to ride for medical assistance. I think they look at me just to be polite. They know Im still back there because they can hear my bike squeaking every time I turn the pedals. It seems a bit odd to me that my bike does not squeak if someone else rides it. Maybe that noise I hear is the creaking of my knees.

The old bike and I go back to my college days. For some reason, I thought I needed a bike, so I answered an advertisement in a newspaper and ended up buying this bike for sixty-five dollars. It was just out of the box. The tires had never been inflated. I inflated the tires on my way home, but when I took the bike into my warm dorm room, the air expanded and blew out the front tire. Disgusted with myself, I went to the store and bought a new inner tube. During installation, I stuck a screwdriver through the new inner tube. Finally, the third inner tube survived long enough so that I could ride my new bike.

Life has not been easy for my bike. When we lived on the farm, the cows got out one night and tried to go for a joyride on it. They were not very careful. When the cows were done, it looked like one of them had accidentally stuck her hoof through the spokes of the back wheel. That was the last time I let the cows near my bike. It took me several years to get the bike repaired after the cow incident, but it is repaired and back in action, better than ever.

I am extremely reluctant to follow my wifes urgings to get a new bike. I dont want a new bike. I dont need a new bike. I dont even want to shop for a new bike. Call me loyal or call me foolish, that bike has been with me a long time and that alone is significant. I am not about to turn it out to pasture just because there might be something flashier available. I would think that my wife, more than anyone, would appreciate that attitude.

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