Easy riders

”The bike sure is a great invention. It may just be the best of them all.”
– Son, riding his bike

Wife and I have a fairly long list of movie quotes that we use in our everyday conversations. When she shows me an ad for wonderful cruises in the Caribbean, I reply in a dreamy voice, “Someday, Jennifer, someday” just like Marty McFly told his girlfriend in “Back to the Future”.

Daughter loves her bike, too.

Or, if I ask Wife if she’d like a cup of tea, and she says no, that’s my cue to quote – or at least paraphrase – the woman in “Airplane” who says, “Jim never drinks coffee at home”. So I go, “She never says no to a cup of coffee” in a pondering, suspicious voice.

And when things are going well, and we know it, Wife will just spread her arms and say, “Everything’s going so weeeell,” just like the show director in “Moulin Rouge”.

You get the point.

The oldest one of these, however, is also the (first) one to have penetrated the consciousness of the next generation so that it’s now a true family tradition.

Whenever we get on our bikes, we all raise our arms, and say to each other: “Let’s ride!” because that’s what Lucky Day, Ned Nederlander, and Dusty Bottoms did. You may know them as the “Three Amigos” from the movie with the same title. (And if you don’t, you should really watch the movie).

And with Son loving his blue bicycle, that blue bike that his morfar found in the garbage, the one we were supposed to paint red but never got around to doing, and the one that’s just a tad too small for him so that his tanned legs are spinning a thousand rounds per minute, we’ve been riding around the hood quite a bit lately.

I love bikes, too. I’ve loved them for decades now, allt the way from that tiny little bike with the super thick tires, the first bike I remember, to my current white Apollo with white spokes, and the new bar ends I added to it this summer.

The bike that I think about the most – and I seem to spend quite a bit of time thinking about my old bikes – is the blue one I had in third grade. It looked like a big boy’s bike, with at least 20-inch wheels, may have been 22 even. It had the ape hangers, the high handlebar that is, it had a black-and-white checkered tape details, and most importantly, it had the banana seat, which was the coolest thing ever – at the time.

It was almost like riding a motorbike, I thought. And with a cardboard piece, a piece of an empty milk carton, attached to the frame with a laundry peg and hitting the spokes when the bike moved, my motorcycle even had the perfect sound.

I was on top of the world.

Three weeks later, when Dad walked to our car on his way to work, he saw that my bike was missing. Of all the bikes in the little bike storage in our apartment building, they had wanted mine. They thought mine had been the coolest. Of course, that’s no consolation, since the bike was gone. My wheels had been taken from me. I was grounded. Unwheeled. Pounding the pavement again. The size of my territory, my hood, was back to being a lot smaller than during the banana-seat-bike era – which wasn’t big to begin with since the boundaries were set in stone by the mothership.

I remember how Dad and I examined the door, and how he showed me how the thieves had got in. I then showed all my friends the small scratches around the lock, nodding knowingly.

My next bike didn’t have a banana-seat. Nor ape hangers. But it did have a back rack, perfect for football/tennis racket transportation, and it did have a speedometer/odometer, analog of course, with a small orange wheel spinning on the side of my front tire.

Since then, I’ve had five other bikes. One true racer bike with tires so thin that two times out of three, I’d get a flat tire riding the gravel road on my way home from downtown. Or, if I was lucky, on my way to town. Shorter walk, hopefully.

After that, I got a moped, but that, too, got stolen a few weeks later.

L osing the moped was a blessing in disguise because after that I got to take over the bike that turned into my best buddy. It was a green Peugeot that had been Dad’s but which became mine because I had nothing else, with my racer being out of action most of the time. The Peugeot was a ten-speeder, top of the line, with a plastic fender in the back. That didn’t help much, though, so when I rode my bike to school in rain, a mud pattern decorated the back of my jacket when I got there.

The bike had drop handlebars, or a “billy goat handlebar” as they’re called in Finland. But most of the time, I rode it without hands – even when Mom wasn’t looking.

When I tore the ligaments in my left ankle, my green Peugeot saved me, because even if I couldn’t walk, I could ride a bike. In fact, I was encouraged to ride the bike. So whenever I would go to school, or the rink, or, well, anywhere, I would tape one of the crutches to the frame of the bike, and take off.

And when Dad met Edmonton Oilers’ legendary scout Barry Fraser in a local nightclub during a junior tournament, and got me an Oilers sticker, I glued it to the mudguard where I’d see it every time I’d lock, or unlock, the bike.

The sticker, made for the Oilers’ run for their second Stanley Cup, said: “Go 2 It”.

Not a bad slogan. It worked for me then. But it’s not “let’s ride!”

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