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Fifty Plus (50+) Share the victories, challenges, successes and special concerns of bicyclists 50 and older. Especially useful for those entering or reentering bicycling.

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Old 07-08-10, 03:56 PM   #1
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looking back 50plus years later

Fifty-five is a relative number. As I read this site and its forums, I often think of the bikes I've owned over the years past and bikes I'd like to own in the future. I think about my first solo ride without training wheels. Some bikes bring instant feelings of comfort, some recall bitter-sweet (think injuries) memories.

My first unassisted solo ride was on my "little" uncle's fixed gear racer. I was a tallish 8 year-old and I remember taking the bike from its not-so-secret hiding place and riding it on the hard-packed gravel road in front of the house. I remember how strange and exciting it felt to glide along that gravel road with that crunching sound. I remember being chased by a dog and how scared I was...and I was laughing. I remember pedaling as fast as my little legs would go to get away from that dog...and laughing and smiling so much my face and lungs hurt. And remember how I wanted to do this over and over again.

The first "real" bike I could officially call my own was a bent rusty junkyard rescue 5-speed of unknown pedigree...springer seat, straight bar, 27" wheels and no lever/cable for the rear brake. I cleaned it up, moved the front lever/cable to the downtube with worm clamps, lubed it, pumped up the cracked tires, and rode it. My privileged friends rode Schwinn Varsitys.

Later that day, I crashed it into a parked car when a motorist hit his?/her? horn behind me and panicked my 14 year-old heart. I went for the brake lever on the downtube to stop, missed it, then promptly crashed into a parked car....HARD. The left open end of the rusty and flakey chrome-plated handlebar created a nasty wound on my chest under my left arm....and I screamed a silent scream cuz' it HURT!!!! I didn't tell Mom and Dad cuz' I thought they'd be mad at me for riding an unsafe bike....and I needed stitches. Dad found out a couple of weeks later and bought me a safe and new Schwinn Varsity a month later as my wound pinked over.

I never got stitched, no tetanus shot....just old-school large-wound band-aids and aloe.

So...what's your childhood bike story looking back?

Last edited by paipo; 07-08-10 at 05:54 PM.
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Old 07-08-10, 08:28 PM   #2
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I got a bright red Western Flyer (24-inch wheels) during the summer after first grade (1961). Learned to ride it in mine and the neighbors' back yards (grass is softer than asphalt). Rode it to elementary school in second grade and across town to visit my favorite fourth grade teacher in the summer of 1964 after school was out. I quit riding it around 1968 then resumed cycling on an entry-level 10-speed Chiorda in 1972 when the "Bike Boom" hit northwest Arkansas.
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Old 07-08-10, 08:37 PM   #3
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55 years ago this year my folks bought me my first bike. It was a red and white Schwinn with a light and a horn in the "tank". They paid $20 used from the still-operating Harris Cyclery in Newtonville MA. I rode it for several years, even trying to keep up with my friends who had gotten some "English racer" 10-speeds. Off and on, I've been riding ever since. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Last edited by Wake; 07-08-10 at 08:38 PM. Reason: More years have passed than I remembered.
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Old 07-08-10, 09:05 PM   #4
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Thanks for your stories.

I think we are all trying to keep that early magic strong.

It must have been Christmas of 1962 and Santa brought me a beautiful red and white Schwinn that I remember thinking was too big for me. It looked really big to me. I think when I expressed this it gave my old man a real twist but he talked me into trying it anyway.

Well of course I went about 10 feet before I had my first crash and I refused to get back on that big bike.

Pop bought a small bike second hand I learned to ride and quickly out-grew.

I was soon riding that red and white Schwinn all over my ever increasing range from age 7 to 11 when we moved from flat Jacksonville, FL to hilly Augusta, GA. As desperate financially as my parents were they bought me (well Santa brought me - even though it was understood by all concerned parties at this juncture he was a convenient fiction) a Raleigh English Racer with a 3 speed SA hub. State of the Art! I delivered papers, increased my circle of friends, nearly was killed by car because I wasn't paying attention and thank Goodness the driver was, had what can only be termed epic rides of nearly 5 or 6 miles down long hills and up even steeper ones on the way back from exotic and strange neighborhoods where people lived differently than I did.

The freedom, adventure and self reliance experienced with those two early bikes are part of my core being.
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Old 07-08-10, 10:23 PM   #5
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My first bike was a Colson, at age 5 in 1947. It had a flip-over kickstand that attached to the rear axle nuts, 20 inch wheels, U.S. Royal balloon tires with figure 8 tread pattern, and a coaster brake.

My second bike was made from parts I scrounged. It sported a "Whizzer" motorbike front wheel. I was the envy of the neighborhood with that wheel. Drum brake and all, the wheel probably weighed well over 5lbs. The entire bike must have weighed 40lbs.

About the mid 1950s the "English racers" began to appear with their 3 speeds, hand brakes etc., I was 'too old' by then - old enough to think about cars. Bikes in the U.S. were considered kids toys at that time, so I did not even think about cycling again until I was 40 years old.
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Old 07-09-10, 07:26 AM   #6
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The first bike I remember was some 20" thing with training wheels. It was red and probably a Huffy. I rode that thing everywhere. The next bike I remember was a brand new Schwinn Collegiate. That was the 5 speed version of the Varsity. I rode that thing everywhere, too. After that I don't remember much until I was in college and built up a Miyata Team. I think I may have had an Atala or some French thing.
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Old 07-09-10, 07:44 AM   #7
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My first bike was a hand-me-down from my older brothers, it featured treadless solid rubber tires, dull red paint, and training wheels. I loved riding that bike, despite the fact that there wasn't really any safe place to ride it. I was deathly afraid of falling, so I kept the training wheels for far too long, only abandoning them when I tried to take off with my rear wheel in a depression in the pavement, and nothing happened, since the rear wheel was 1/2" off the ground, supported by the training wheels.

That bike got converted into a bananna bike as I got older (ape-hanger bars and a bananna-bike saddle made it possible to ride despite the tiny frame.)

My next bike was a Raleigh 3-speed, which I dearly loved, and rode just about everywhere. I don't remember what happened to that bike, but it was relaced with a Phillips 10-speed, which was my ride through my high-school and college years. It was stolen shortly after I got married, which led to an almost 25 year hiatus in serious bike riding. My beloved bride wanted to either replace my bicycle or get me a computer, and we could only afford to do one. I chose the computer, which is a decision that I have occaisionally regretted since, but I still remember fondly the love and understanding my wife expressed in wanting to get me the bike.

Eventually, I did get that bike, as a used 80's era Phillips purchased soimetime in the late 1990's, which sat most of the time unused until 2004, but lives on as my commuter bike today.
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Old 07-09-10, 09:47 AM   #8
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First bike, received in summer of 1962: early-to-mid 1950s Schwinn middleweight w/ 2-speed Bendix & handbrake lever style shifter.
Second bike, received December 1962: bottom-of-the-line Bianchi Corsa 10-speed w/ 26" wheels, Huret Allvit gears.

What do I ride today, in addition to the Peugeot beater and the Capo classics? A fat-tired Schwinn and a Bianchi road bike (see signature)! The more things change, the more they stay the same.
"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." --Theodore Roosevelt
Capo: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324
Capo: 1960 Sieger, S/N 42624
Peugeot: 1970 UO-8, S/N 0010468
Bianchi: 1981 Campione d'Italia, S/N 1.M9914
Schwinn: 1988 Project KOM-10, S/N F804069
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Old 07-09-10, 09:59 AM   #9
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the 3 cubed .. 27 speed .. 3x3x3
Got parts for my (j.c.Higgins/Puch) AW3 - 3 speed, a triple replacement sprocket, then fitted a triple crank on the front.
cotter fixed steel stuff. got me up and down, and out to the swimming hole and back ..1960 .
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