Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why ride? Part I

I guess I really don't know why I started riding my bicycle.  I learned to ride fairly early, I had a tricycle, then a bike with training wheels and at some point the training wheels were removed.  I am not sure when that happened exactly, I think somewhere between the time I was between 4 and 6 years old.  I remember riding up and down our driveway in Topeka, Kansas and in our neighbors driveways and up and down our street.  When I was 6 or 7 years old my parents bought me a yellow Schwinn Stingray.  It had a banana seat and I thought it was pretty cool.  Several of my friends had similar bikes, although Tim Moore had the coolest one, his was red and was a five speed, with a "stick shift"
This is what my Stingray looked like.

This is what Tim's looked like with the cool stick shifter
We rode those bikes just about everywhere we could.  We rode in the First Congregational Church parking lot a lot of the time.  We made ramps and jumped them and crashed a lot.  We rode them over to the motorcycle dealership that was across Gage Street, which we weren't supposed to cross.  We rode over to the trails behind Roach Hardware on 21st Street and one time all they way to White Lakes Mall.  At that point in our lives White Lakes Mall was similar to going from one town to another it was a huge trip and one we didn't dare tell our parents about.  It was only about 5 or 6 miles round trip, but it might as well have been 100 miles to us.  

We rode those bikes to school just about every day and I know I took mine apart more times than my mother  would have liked.  We put playing cards on the spokes to make it sound like a motorcycle.  I did all sorts of things with the handlebars, and eventually I turned it into a BMX bike, or course this was at the very beginning of when BMX was getting going and I thought I was pretty cool, but then other friends started getting the latest Mongoose bikes and all the other really cool BMX stuff.  

About that time I went on a boy scout camping trip to Lecompton where we were supposed to ride our bicycles, but all I had was my Stingray, not exactly the kind of bicycle you want to ride any kind of distance with.  But, as it turned out a friend of mine choose not to ride and he has a Schwinn Varsity to ride, similar to the one shown below. 

Schwinn Varsity, 40 pounds of steel
That bike was heavy as can be, but I rode it all the way from the church parking lot to Lecompton and back, that is when I realized that I really wanted to ride.  Before that ride I kind of thought of the bike as basic transportation, something that I would get rid of once I got a motorcycle or car.  I never had thought about using it to ride such distances, it was hard, very hard, but it was great!  For my twelfth birthday I told my parents that I wanted a 10 speed, as that was as many gears as they came with back then.  I went to Clayton's bike shop over on 21st Street as many times as I could to look at bikes and over to Gran Sport on Topeka Boulevard.   I bought Bike World and Bicycling magazines, and checked out about every book on cycling in the library.  

I got a champagne "gold"  Ross for my birthday, and within a month had changed a lot of the parts out on it, although looking back, the bike was too big for me.  About that time Jerry's Bike Shop opened and I went in there to buy parts when I could.  They were a little more upscale than Clayton's and some cool stuff.  One of my trips into Gran Sport, which easily had the coolest selection of bikes in Topeka, I had found some brochures on the United States Cycling Federation and about bicycle racing.  I think I wrote to them about racing and found some names of racing clubs.  I also called the district representative for Kansas, Mike Hudson, he and his wife Judy both raced.  My mother took me over to Mike's house over in Potwin, they had some really cool bikes and stuff and I was hooked.  One evening I was in my driveway tinkering with my bike when Adam Gatewood rode up and introduced himself.  I guess Mike had told Adam that I was interested in racing and that he should stop by my house sometime.  Well it turns out that the VA hospital, which was near my house, was a great place for training, the loop around it was around 1.1 miles or so, a perfect criterium course.  Adam had come by to see if I wanted to go for a training ride.  I jumped at the chance to ride with some real racers. I dressed in my Dietto Peitro cycling shoes, wool cycling shorts and a shirt that I had been using for a jersey and when for a ride.  I remember that Fritz Menninger and Kris Tilford were on that ride as well and we were doing sprints just about every lap.  That is the first time I heard the sound of a silk tubular tire makes when sprinting, boy was that the coolest thing.  I am not sure if Adam had his Colnago yet, but I remember he had a much nicer bike than I had, but it really didn't matter, I was riding!

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