That First Taste of Freedom

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Riding a bicycle has changed – and the change may account for the waning of interest in driving as well as the waxing hostility between cyclists and drivers.

Cycling is mostly an adult activity now. It’ rare to see kids out riding their bicycles – especially by themselves.

They used to.

A bicycle was once upon-a-time a kid’s first taste of real freedom. This appetizer tended to instill a hankering for more. An expectation. An awakening.

Those who grew up before the era of helicopter parenting commenced in the ’90s will remember it because they lived it. Saturday morning came and as soon as you were finished with breakfast, you bolted outside, got on your bike – without putting on a helmet-  and took off.

By yourself. To find your friends – or just find adventure.

Popping wheelies whenever the urge hit.

Sometimes, you wrecked. Unless a bone was poking through, you usually kept on riding for the rest of the day. It was no big deal. Certainly no reason to go home.

You’d knock around the neighborhood, check things out. No real plan. Everything on the fly. Maybe take that trail through the woods only the neighborhood kids knew about that took you to the pond, there to throw rocks or look for turtles.

You were maybe eight or nine years old. And you were free. Entirely on your own, for hours – all day – until the sun began to wane and it was time to pedal back home in time for dinner.

This was not illegal or even unusual. Neighbors didn’t call the Hut! Hut! Hut! squad when they saw a kid riding a bike unsupervised and without a helmet. They waved.

It was normal life.

Kids who grew up this untethered way were in a very real sense already drivers years before they were eligible to get a driver’s license. They learned to negotiate traffic, find their way there – and back. It was expected. Kids pedaled to the pool. Or to baseball practice. Or wherever.

Kids who were raised in the America of before-the-1990s had adult liberties before they were even teenagers.

A car was the natural progression from their bicycle. Not much changed, really. They were just able to go farther, faster.

Instead of pedaling over to  their friend’s house, they drove over.

Cruising around the neighborhood led to Friday night cruising in the car.

Not buckled up for saaaaaaaaaaaaaafety. But ready for fun!

Contrast this with today’s abrupt transition from being driven everywhere by an adult and almost never out of sight of adults until one is within sight of being an adult himself. Cars are not freedom extrapolated anymore. They are foreign – and scary – things. Millennial and up kids have been conditioned to so regard them, both explicitly and implicitly.

They are strapped into them from earliest memory; never allowed to sit up front much less loose. It isn’t saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe. The tedium of being strapped in – and not free to just get out until unstrapped by an adult – works as a kind of aversion therapy.

There is no fun to be had here. Certainly no association with freedom.

All parents – not just the neurotic – must play neurotic when it comes to saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety. This neurosis inevitably rubs off on the kids, who are never free to go anywhere by themselves, on bicycles or otherwise.

Danger lurks, everywhere!

Even to play in the yard without an Adult Authority Figure supervising is warrant enough to bring down a Hut! Hut! Hutting! Most parents helicopter because what choice have they got?

The kids, meanwhile, never learn what freedom means via their bikes and so don’t have the same urge to acquire more of it via a car, as soon as possible. They peck at their cell phones instead.

Under the supervision of their new parent.

Pre-Millennial generations of Americans champed at the bit to get behind the wheel – having already been behind the handlebars for years. They had also already acquired motor skills and muscle memory and habits of mind that prepared them for driving.

Balance, concentration; a sense of spatial relationships. The exercise of judgment and initiative.

Do I have time to turn left in front of that car coming at me? It’s the same on a bike as in a car. Learn how to do it on a bike at 10 and you’re much more prepared to do it in a car at 16.

You learn that grip is less (and it takes longer to stop) in the wet – and how to ride accordingly.

It prepares you to drive accordingly.

Pedaling a bike through the gears also gives you a visceral understanding of leverage; you learn to avoid “stalling” a bicycle by gearing down – just the same as in a car with a manual transmission. There is a reason why pre-Millennials know how to drive stick to a much greater degree than Millennials. If you never shifted a bike, shifting a car is that much more remote.

If today’s youth drive at all (about a third do not)  they drive later – and with less skill. They are much more dependent on “safety” features which are really compensatory features – the automotive equivalent of a walker for a cripple.

Except in this case, the crippling is learned – mental rather than physical.

When these conditioned cripples encounter a cyclist on the road, they get flustered. They lack the skill – and the initiative – to just pass the cyclist. Instead, they sulk angrily behind the cyclist. They never learned to deal with situations like this; indeed, have been conditioned to regard dealing with any unscripted situation using their own best judgment as unsaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe.

They are accustomed to waiting to be told what to do by a supervisory adult authority figure.

Adult cycling, meanwhile, seems to have become a much more scripted/organized thing. Special outfits. Competitive. It’s true that many adults cycle for just the fun of it – and there’s nothing wrong with the special outfits or being competitive. But it is a very different thing than a bunch of kids just riding wherever, wearing whatever, on whatever – getting their very first taste of being free adults. Interesting offers will be waiting for you here.

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. I remember at age nine, growing up in suburban MD (near DC), we rode our bikes along the creek bed (it was SHALLOW), among other places near the neighborhood. We also built forts, shot BB guns, and even built improvised mortars (i.e., beer can gun) to lob old tennis balls considerable distances.

    And, at school, under more “supervised” circumstances (to be generous), our version of “dodgeball” was known as “Smear the Queer”. A boy could be a BOY some 50 years ago. I feel sorry for these neutered wonders being raised by single mothers nowadays.

    • Aint that the truth, Doug!
      When I was 12, my cousin (also 12) would take the bus to the larger shopping town (This was NEW YORK- just 60 miles east of NYC), and just go farting around. Once, we were walking down the train tracks of the LIRR on our way to explore an area outside of town, and this cop sees us and yells over “Hey guys! If a train comes, it’ll spoil your whole day…” – We just laughed and kept walking, unharassed.

      Imagine that scenario today, instead of 1974? Dayum, we had fun! Good clean fun…and we never died once!

    • Doug, I feel sorry for ANY kid sentenced to a thirteen yeaar stint in the Gummit Skewl Sisstum. That’s where the real cultural, moral, and psychlogiacl damage is done. And this was carefully plotted out about 140 years ago, and has been carefully imlemented in the time since. Keeo your kids at home and EDUCATE them there. The schools our tax money fund dont EDUCATE, they’INDOCTRINATE’ I can only think of a small ahndful of kids to survive the GSS and have anything much going on. On the other hand I have known a few hundred to have been home or at least private schooled and are doing very well. Some I watched through thehome school setup are now doing the same foor their own kids. Some of those ten and twelve year olds are sharper, more intlelligent, better skilled, and more capable (not to mention mor FUN to be around how many kids of that age can an adult ENJOY conversing with these days?)

      • Amen Tio!

        My mother went to skool in the 1930’s in NYC- and from the stuff she still recites to this day, it is apparent just how fully communized big-city schools were already even then! And now of course…it’s not just the big-city skools; the BS has made it to even the most hillbilly climes.

    • We played “Smear the Queer” as well Tionico, but we also had a game that was a bit more involved called “Kill the guy with the ball”. It was like Rugby, but the object was to simply hold onto the ball as long as possible without anyone tackling you, which would result in getting the tar beat out of you by everyone. if you tried to hold onto the ball after being tackled, then you basically had a death wish. Our school allowed it until I was in the eighth grade when one kid had to be taken to the hospital. I broke my foot in the second grade, and no one said anything, but six years later, times had changed.

  2. Never could do wheelies – and I tried plenty… from my purple dragster in the early 1970s (in Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory of Australia), to my 10-speed in the early 80s.

    We did other silly stuff though – jumping our bikes off riverbanks into the water; riding my sister’s fixed-gear trike down Memorial Hill (a set of concrete steps about 400m long)… and of course learning to slide (sliding was easy on the dragster because of how the rear-only braking system worked).

    there’s nothing wrong with the special outfits

    Sure there is – the whole ‘MAMIL’ thing is just a replacement for golf, and the expense of the silly pretend-pro gear on a fat 50-year-old is just as silly as some guy who hits of 18 using a $2500 set of clubs. (I say that as a fat-ish 54-year-old who rides a mid-priced decent-spec road bike – $1300 worth)

    I don’t wear lycra though: I ride indoors in a pain-cave (on a smart trainer) precisely because roads are chock-full of incompetent dimwits in their insecurity-wagons (urban-only SUV’s).

    Plus, on a trainer you’re never not pedalling (on a bike on the road you’re not pedalling about 30% of the time – you’re either stationery or ‘rolling’). There are now a variety of training apps (Zwift, Rouvy, Road Grand Tours… etc) help reduce the boredom by altering resistance in line with a graphically-rendered realistic video. OK, so Zwift’s not that realistic, but it sure takes your mind off riding when you can try to catch the dude in front.

    • Oh, and I forgot to mention – when we lived in Tennant Creek (I was about 9, and my brother was 6) we decided one day we would ride our dragsters to the creek for which the town was named, which is 7 miles from the town.

      Bear in mind that the middle of the Northern Territory is basically like a desert moonscape – we used to be given salt pills every day because it was so hot.

      Anyhow… we did that ride successfully, had a swim, and rode home.

      That made us more ambitious: we decided to ride to our Dad’s work (at Peko – a local gold mine). That was more like 11 miles, and we were only about half-way when a stranger pulled over and told us to get in because we would die out there.

      We had no water with us, no hats, and it was a particularly hot day… so we were kinda regretting the adventure by that stage.

      The stranger turned out to know Dad, so he took us the rest of the way, bikes in the rear of a gigantic station wagon.

      Dad being Dad, he bellowed that we were idiots and that we both should have known better – that I should have known better than to make the attempt, and my brother should have known better than listen to me. But underneath it all he was grinning like the Cheshire Cat – because his boys had pluck.

      When we got home, he told Mum about it; it was just a boys will be boys thing.

      • I wish ‘Straya hadn’t gone all commie, like the US. I would be out there in the outback right now! Had plans of doing so since I was a kid.

        Speaking of heat: When I was first getting back into cycling as an out-of-shape adult when I was 50, I did my then longest ride- a 26 mile loop- through the hills here on a hot day. It was 108*F when I got home. I never liked the heat; I’d complain if it was much over 70 and sunny- but ever since that ride, I’ve had no trouble tolerating the heat anymore. (Unfortunately, now I can’t tolerate the cold!)

    • I’ve never worn bicycling clothes outside of special jacket and gloves I bought to in an attempt to handle colder weather. I still hated it. And I bought shoes to clip into my either-or pedals. I hated that too. The little extra power simply wasn’t worth the hassle. But for clothes? Always shorts and t-shirt. Socks and athletic shoes. Of course all of this means people don’t consider me a ‘serious bicyclist’. I guess since I don’t dress like the stig to use my cars I’m not a serious motorist either.

      • That’s why I used toeclips on my bikes-so I can wear REGULAR shoes. I keep the straps loose, so I can get my feet in and out of the clips easily. I got ’em more to keep the balls of my feet centered over the pedal spindle, and to keep my feet from moving too much. I never tightened ’em up so I could also pull up. But yeah, toeclips were good enough for me… 🙂

        • I don’t even have toeclips, sign I’m old. It seems the combo of my pedals and shoes are hard enough to disengage just due to a happenstance thing of how the pedals are made and the tread on my shoes. I’ve had some hard falls, and not on a bicycle. Don’t know how many more I could stand before I’d be crippled somewhere or be sporting a cast and the stress would, without a doubt, fire up my MRSA and Shingles and I’d have to cut it off and that’s a real PITA I can tell you from experience. Broke some bones in my right wrist when I was about 30 or so. The incompetent doc reading the X rays says I have no broken bones. 6 weeks later my arm is swelled big time so I go to an orthopedic surgeon I trusted. He allowed that I had bones that were broken but that much later the only thing he could do would be surgery….that I couldn’t afford. He advised me to take it easy(very easily said but not done although I had a lot of interest in doing the right thing)and let the swelling go down and let it heal.

          It doesn’t bother me much but sometimes I can get one of “those” godawful pains shoot through it and then fire ol “arthur” up and, as Jackie Gleason would have said “and away we go”. The older I get the more it reminds me via arthur not to strain it too much. It sure can get fired up doing mechanic work.

  3. Thinking about “saaaaaaaaafety”, in all of my life, I have only personally known of ONE kid who got seriously hurt on a bike- When I was still a kid, this kid who lived across the street from my sister, was riding in a parking lot and got hit by a car. The kid was almost killed; he was in a body cast for a long time, and had a long hard recovery. For a while they thouight he might never walk again- but I believe he fully recovered.

    A helmet would not have helped him at all.

    So, for all the current police-state tactics, and whining of safety-Nazis relieving kids of their freedom, true education, physical-fitness, etc. what have they accomplished?

    • Hey Nunzio,

      “So, for all the current police-state tactics, and whining of safety-Nazis relieving kids of their freedom, true education, physical-fitness, etc. what have they accomplished?”

      They’ve produced a growing number of physically and emotionally fragile children who will grow into sick, unhappy and resentful adults. Such people will clamor for ever more “benefits” from government while further demonizing the few productive people left who manage to keep the con going.

      I’ve made this point before, helicopter parenting is unsafe. Without the strenuous physical activity that used to be normal for children, the skeleton does not develop properly. Specifically, it fails to reach proper bone density and will never achieve full strength. This cannot be fixed later in life. Physical stress stimulates bone density and development. This only occurs during the growth phase. By late teens, it is too late.

      So, for fear of phantom risks, parents are quite literally injuring their children.


    • The foam hat er helmet narrative is pushed to -discourage- bicycling IMO. In the old helmet wars in the bicycling newsgroups I learned that I fell over with a foam hat on, I had exceeded its capabilities to protect me. Makes sense. It is only styrofoam and some vacuum formed plastic sheet. Mandatory bicycle helmet laws achieved lower injury numbers by fewer people bicycling. The helmet preaching is also largely in the category of forcing insurance and other costs on to bicyclists to get them off the road.

      Then there is the media. They always have to note the hat or not. Some kid was run over by a bus. Crushed rib cage. Media had say the hat status. I can’t remember any more if it was with or without, I think the later. As if that would help.

      What is going to hurt me when I am bicycling, well hurt me beyond road rash, is a motorized vehicle and no foam hat will save me then except in the most freak conditions.

      • With motorcycles, the DOT test is a drop from 6′. The Snell test is from 8′. This is because the helmet is basically designed to protect you from a fall; not head on impacts at highway speeds. Helmet manufacturers are a part of the lobby to require helmets.

  4. I was six when Dad bought me a Stingray with the banana seat. A few weeks of dismal attempts to keep it upright rewarded me with not just success, but a feeling of accomplishment I still cherish to this day.

    A few years later the banana seat/sissy bar, and lame handle bars were replaced with the BMX motocross set up. Most kids had the BMX set up, but one kid still had a three speed complete with a bell on the handlebars and book rack on the back. We dared him to test out our newest jump which consisted of a quite steep descent from the street down a good 60 to 70′ incline to a recently cleared lot with an awesome mound of dirt which allowed us to propel ourselves into space, and land softly(most of the time) on the other side of the mound. He took the dare, but as he launched himself off into space, he also initiated a gainer. Today, the manuever is commonplace among the professionals, but back then no one had ever seen anyone attempt this. Our friend wasn’t attempting this stunt either. He did a complete gainer and landed on his head. We could see the stars circling it as he made his way back up the hill.

    There were three doctors living in the neighborhood who were regularly required to stitch us up, usually on their kitchen countertop with nothing for the pain. I walked into the bathroom after a particularly bad wipeout and began crying when I saw my bloody, scraped face in the mirror.

    As fun as riding bicycles was, it wasn’t long before a few kids had dirt bikes or enduros. One kid’s dad had a chopper and rode with the local biker gang “The Vikings”. I destroyed my first three motorcycles. I just sold my last two bikes because they were being neglected, and I almost got T-boned by a Mustang. My reflexes weren’t up to snuff. I had an escape route, but didn’t take it. I was a deer in the headlights.

    I rode my mountain bike on and off for a few years, but after half an hour my entire groin was “asleep”. Though brief, this disturbing glimpse into the life of a eunuch curtailed my enthusiasm for riding. Now I ride the bike paths on my recumbent trike.

    I would say that almost 80% of the riders wear helmets. I ride with a hat to keep the sun off my face, because a sunburn holds the most painful consequences for me today. They don’t have a speed limit on the path, but they do outlaw motorized bikes, trikes, etc. because of speed. The motorized bikes can’t go as fast as some of the speed demons who are pedaling. Go figure.

  5. The city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada has beautiful bicycle paths. I have a recumbent trike. It’s such a fun way to bike. But there are speed limit signs posted, the limit being 10 km/hour. I personally saw “peace officers” riding bikes there with speed cameras! They now ticket you for riding a bike faster than 10 km/hour? WTF?!?!?!?!?!? In British Colombia, it is illegal to ride a bicycle without a helmut. There was a Canadian who, after getting a ticket, fought it in court saying it was discriminatory because East Indians (Sikhs) who wear turbans don’t have to wear helmuts. The trial was stayed. In Alberta, at least adults can ride bikes with no helmuts, but no one under 18 can. You know how many fat and diabetic kids there are nowadays? Making it illegal to ride a bike without a helmut just means they don’t ride. It’s disgusting the government regulation we have nowadays and “peace officers” are so smug about it because “its the law”. They are nothing more than parasites who choose a career in “law enforcement” do they don’t have to break a sweat doing an honest days work. (What they do is most emphatically not an honest day’s work.)

    • Hi Jason,

      I have come to believe it is much worse than that. These AGWs are people who enjoy the work they do. They get sick satisfaction from enforcing “the law.” It is my assertion that no basically normal person could threaten another person with violence because they aren’t wearing a helmet – or a seatbelt. Such acts are so obviously not crimes that it takes a person who just gets off on enforcing rules to compel obedience.

      Think about the sort of person attracted to that.

      • eric, you’re right. A friend has only a public gun range to practice. An old man, even older than me(wow)was there supposedly running the range.

        He went to my friend and his friends and told them they’d have to quit shooting at a target because of some illogical thing that was totally stupid.

        This guy that was “in charge” was simply needing an excuse to hut hut somebody so they’d know he had “authoritah”. It’s like Waylon said “There’s one in every crowd” only he was speaking of himself.

  6. All I can say is that I’m glad I was able to at least get a taste of freedom prior to the police state era. Even growing up in the 90’s, I always rode my bike or scooter around parts of the neighborhood unsupervised AND (cue the “dun-dun-duuun” sound effect) without a helmet.

    Mark my words. The next move will be to forbid children from leaving the house period until they are 18. Just imagine a future where going outside becomes “quaint”. *shudders*

    • Me too, bluegrey, although my times were in the late ’70’s. I have already mentioned my pedal biking time. When I turned 12, my dad bought a used Honda 70 trail-bike from one of his brother-in-laws who was moving far away. His boys had outgrown it anyway. I drove that thing for thousands of miles on and beside paved roads and on gravel roads without supervision. I learned the concept of overshooting the light the hard way one night when a rusty web wire with a string of barbed wire on top fence jumped right out in front of me. It seemingly appeared out of nowhere! I was showing off in front of me friends. I was wearing a helmet without a face shield. As I went over the fence, that strand of barb wire ripped plum through one of my cheeks, and both of my shoulders got cut pretty badly too. The impact of the ground knocked me out for a minute or two, and it bent my jaw and molars inward a bit. My friends guided me home for a ride to the hospital where I got my cheek sewed up inside and out, over 100 stitches. I still have that scar. It has been over 4 decades since that time, and I have never had a bad accident since then after having driven nearly 2 million miles. I have just had some minor things happen, like backing around a corner into a parked car when I was 16, and running into deer once in a while when they run out in front of me.

  7. Another great article…brought back some really good times as I was 8 years old in 1960. My parents would have stroked out if they ever knew how far I traveled on my bike or the “jumps” I took. You’re totally spot on with the whole psychology.

  8. Never learned to ride a bike. It would have been stolen had I left my block. But I did walk a lot, back when it was still safe to do so. Too many free-roaming dogs these days. And they have more rights than do people.

    Kansas City is painting bike lanes on every major street on both sides of the state line. The only people I see riding bikes are men who probably can’t afford a car.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the bicycle lanes are intended more to restrict automobile drivers than to accommodate cyclists.

  9. I was reaching that age in the early 90’s and happily had parents who raised kids the old way. Siblings, Friends, and I use to take our bikes everywhere. All that was expected of us was to be home at the time we said we would be or take 20 cents with us and call from a payphone to let our parents know we were going to be late.

    It really does sadden me to drive though my old sub (mom still lives in my childhood home) on a nice summer day and not see one kid out without adult supervision.

    • “It really does sadden me to drive though my old sub (mom still lives in my childhood home) on a nice summer day and not see one kid out without adult supervision.”

      What’s even worse is that parents nowadays don’t even supervise their kids; but rather, tap away on those damned smartphones. Some even put their kids on leashes like dogs so as not to have to watch them while walking. Seeing stuff like that makes me wish that I was at least a “Gen-X’er” or even a “baby boomer”. At least I would’ve been around more people with common sense for a good chunk of my life. But alas, I be a “millennial”. *sighs*

  10. Ah, nostalgia. Like many here I have fond memories of doing just what Eric describes. But for me it was only about 4 months per year due to the cold where I lived. And somewhat steep w/o any gears. Only rich kids had three speeds. And this was before the tiny Stingray bikes, which had lots of torque but were too small to ride very far, which is what I needed to do usually. My main bike was about 30 lbs. with solid rubber tires. A real tank.
    What a monster. Heavy but sturdy. I took that bike down most of a mountain pass (on a major highway!) one time, probably got to 35 mph. Crazy, I could easily have died.
    But still I recall how many foolish chances I took, back then w/o much local traffic on the streets. Few other kids biked as it wasn’t “cool.” Later I did about 18K miles in local flatland road biking, for recreation. But gave that up when too many around here were wiped out by car drivers. I still retain my “look three times in each direction” protocol at intersections (w/o lights). A good safety idea even in cars.
    While Eric denigrates saaafffty features and in general, kids on bikes (or anyone) is in great hazard these days. Cell phones, distractions, drugs, booze, etc. make many car drivers careless. Kids on bikes even harder to see. Losing a friend or relative to that isn’t fun. I like the idea of kids (and adults) wearing helmets (which I never did as a kid, who had those?), flashing lights on bikes, etc. Kids do need to take risks, but a lot of drivers hate bikers and it is not a fair competition. I like Eric’s praise of childhood freedom but it has to be tempered with caution. In larger cities and suburbs, it can be dangerous at any age. The 1950s are long gone.

  11. . My three speed English racer with a speedometer was completely fulfilled when I discovered there was such a thing as a city street map not just those freebies at the gas station that only showed the large streets. I would study the map and all the little markings while planning a Saturday trip to the amusement park I thought was completely unaccessible to me. And then of course there was all the mechanical skills of taking the bike apart fixing the gear shifter replacing tires I even learned what a gyroscope was by spinning the wheel in my hands. 50 years later I finally put a motor on a mountain bike something I had wanted to do my entire childhood. Alas an era long gone.

  12. I know exactly who this author is talking about. Me.

    Leave the house and be gone. On the bike. Around the neighborhood, around someone else’s neighborhood. Over the recently built strip mall, to the construction sites where new houses were being built. Picking up stuff on the lots, on the street, for use in the new backyard huts we were building. Late 1950s to late 1960s was my time on the streets with my bike. Good memories, even the ones of the crashes.

    • I have to agree with the need to walk. I’m alway- tempted to tell them they wouldn’t need that motorized cart if they’d get off their fat a–e- and walk. Gue– what key ju-t died on my keyboard.

        • Nunzio, 8 didn’t use the word ‘like’ nearly enough to be a good Californian, and that word contains no S letters. 3 sentences should have at least 9 uses of the word like. I saw that you caught your mistake, but I wanted to express my disapproval of the pointless over-use of that word. That is even worse than the use of the word ‘cool’ by the hippies, because at lease they only used it one time per sentence. It seems that the younger generations have replaced the word ‘cool’ with the word ‘sweet’. Blah!!! I probably sound like an old fart.

    • Be downright hilarious to watch American fatties riding an E-Scooter assuming the poor thing could handle the weight. It would probably break in half….. ahhhhh but those busybodies in government could fatwa for the fat.

      • EVERY time I go grocery shopping, I always see at least one morbidly obese thing riding on one of those motorized shopping carts (If I take my 94 year-old mother to the store, she walks…. The things you see riding on the carts usually appear to be under 40).

        It’s hilarious- you see these big monstrous things silently wafting through the aisles. It looks just like watching a whale at the aquarium. I’m thinking that the stores must carry plankton now. Dare I say, I think these behemoths are even too big to qualify to work for the TSA.

  13. Eric this is spot on. You just described my childhood and it’s entirety. Allow me to add a few additional anecdotes.

    The first bike I can remember was, like others have mentioned, a Schwinn stingray with ape bars and a banana seat. For some reason at that point in my life I was obsessed with metallic paint. For some other reason I was also obsessed with purple. So I painted everything I could get my hands on with this purple metallic paint including my brand new Schwinn stingray. I rode that bike all over creation. We did all of the typical things like clothes-pin baseball cards in the spokes to make a cool sound, we bought the light generator thingy where the wheel of the light generator lined up with the bike wheel. I remember seeing a kid go into a turn and he lifted his butt off the seat and pushed forward on the handlebars and swung the back tire around to hit something on the road or the dirt or whatever. I think that was called “bipping”. I bipped that purple metallic stingray so many times I began to break spokes which of course caused the tire to wobble horribly.

    It was time for an upgrade. Besides, I had places to go like the city pool 5 miles away, baseball or football practice, also typically 5 to 6 miles away, not to mention places to fish within about, you guessed it, 5 to 6 miles away. The point here is that typical kids growing up in the mid 60s and into the late 70s had to go distances on their feet or through the power of pedal pushing and it was just considered normal. I remember telling my own kids that there were several days a week where I had to bike to the pool in the morning, teach lessons, peddle back home, maybe mow a lawn (since every kid had 4 to 7 lawns they mowed a week), And then pedal back to the pool to lifeguard the evening swim. That’s 20 miles if u were paying attention. My kids would stare blankly back at me trying to imagine riding their bikes (if they could even find their bikes) more than about 2 miles.

    Anyway, back to the upgrade. Even though we were a middle-class family, for whatever reason my parents were really frugal about it. Therefore each kid got a Schwinn varsity at a certain time in their life, however said kid had to either pay for it all or perhaps at least half of the purchase price. I can’t remember how much I paid but I think it had to have been around $50-$100. And that was a lot for a kid at that age to pony up.

    My Schwinn Varsity was a beautiful deep blue (but not metallic, darn), and was masculine as hell. My sisters Schwinn Continental meanwhile was a beautiful baby blue and feminine yet still cool. This is my sister who does triathlons to this day and could probably ride her bike across America if she wanted to.

    That blue Schwinn Varsity took me all over town until I began driving the family trucksters (which included a faded Studebaker with three on the tree, a Corvair station wagon stick, and a Chevy Kingswood station wagon that all the families had, just in different colors and configurations).

    I could point out all the horribly unsafe things we did but it would take too long. Suffice it to say that our bikes carried us and our BB guns to a local island where we could shoot at each other all day. At least we wore motorcycle helmets with visors just in case.

    Thanks for the article Eric, it really brought back some good memories.


    Kevin B. Selby

  14. Great article. I’m 68, grew up on the edge of north Dallas. At the time everything to the north was open to exploring. Our parents had no idea what we were up to during the day after Frosted Flakes. If I wasn’t on my bike I was roaming through alleys with my daisy rifle shooting birds. I remember diesel, not that our family used it, was 18 cents for a gallon.

  15. Great article Eric!

    I was 8 years old when we moved to Tampa in 73. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t on my bike. From dawn to dusk everyday. If it wasn’t going fishing, it was hanging out at the arcade, or gathering plywood and bricks to build jumping ramps. There were no helmets or safety gear. It was unheard of to ask your mom for a ride somewhere. She would tell you to take your bike.

    Now, I hardly ever see kids on bikes, or really outside for that matter. They are cooped up inside their houses, wrapped in bubble wrap, plucking away on their iPhones, or trying to beat Call of Duty for the millionth time.

    Kids today have no appreciation for bikes and cars. They don’t know what its like getting behind the wheel of a 69 Barracuda, punching it, and listen to that high revving 340 scream as you leave a cloud of burnt rubber behind you. Sad really.

  16. I was given my first new bike at age 11 – a 1958 Schwinn, much like the one shown here

    Living just south of downtown Charlotte, NC, I rode that bike all over Mecklenburg county, and got my butt beat when Mom found out I had crossed several major city streets to visit my favorite model shop.

    Moving to Wichita, KS, my three year younger brother and I were given new Schwinn three-speeds

    The first summer, bro and I rode our bikes everyday, mostly all day. Then when school started I rode mine the two or three miles to school, most everyday.

    Now, at age 70, I have been a cyclist for over 50 years, in traffic, here and abroad, with no accidents that I didn’t cause. I ride 9 to 10 thousand miles / year.

    Anyway, in response to the comment of what we wear, padded bibs help to prevent saddle sores and bright colors are obviously prudent.

    • Hi Clay,

      My experiences as a kid were similar. I wanted to post a pic of me at around 10 or 11 on my yellow hot rod Schwinn… but couldn’t find the damned thing!

  17. I love bicycles. I remember getting my first shiny blue Schwinn Stingray under the Christmas tree as a kid. Starting in the 3rd grade (Oak Grove Elementary School had a policy: No riding to school for first and second graders) I rode to school, 5 miles each way, no helmet, no adult supervision. It was a big deal to me when I was trusted with that level of responsibility. In my lifetime I have had more bikes than cars. My cars have all been used (with one exception) 4-bangers whose most attractive feature was being inexpensive to buy and drive. But I’ve bought some really nice high-end road bikes. I rode the Pacific Coast Highway from Oregon to LA several times before politicians made it too dangerous. Today I own a bike that cost more than my first car. A Merckx EMX-3 with a Dura-Ace drivetrain and electronic derailleurs. One sweet machine. The chassis, transmission, and drivetrain are far superior to the bikes I had in the past, but the engine isn’t as powerful.

    • Hi Doug,

      Ha! Your story resonates with me. I made it to 38 years old before I bought a car that cost more than either of my bikes. Years ago, a good friend and I took a road trip from NM to California for MTB exploring. I owned a POS old Volvo (the slow, boxy ones) with a roof rack at the time. The two bikes on the roof were worth at least 6 times what the car was worth. We went through a raging snow storm in Flagstaff and my fear was for the bikes.

      I love bikes as well, both because I love to ride and as objects of sublime beauty. The bicycle is a masterpiece of simple, efficient engineering. I also love to build and customize my own bikes. I currently have four that I use regularly, a road bike, 2 mountain bikes and a townie. My road bike is a fully custom Waterford, I designed the frame geometry just for me, built the wheels and customized nearly every part on it. I’d like to try the new Dura-Ace electronic stuff but I can’t give up my custom triple (24/36/50 x 11-23) and Shimano discontinued the triple after the 7800 series, bummer. My triple gearing is amazing, slightly wider range than the new wide range compact doubles, but only 1 tooth jumps through most of the stack. I live in Santa Fe, NM and there’s a lot of climbing around here. With a wide range and extremely close ratio shifting, I always have the perfect gear to use. I can duplicate the range with a double, but not the gear ratio progression. I really wish they’d done triples properly when they first came out, offering a 30T inner wasn’t significantly different than a 34T compact and the gearing can’t be optimized for range and progression, as described above, with a 30T. I think this soured people on the idea. Plus, there’s the “triples are fur pussies” macho shit some riders succumb to. I get grief occasionally but, my system is lighter than almost anything out there and the gearing is objectively superior.

      I’ve got an old 1994 Litespeed titanium MTB that I’ve customized to accept the newer plus size tires (I made a custom tool to put perfect ovalized crimps in the chain-stays to make room for the bigger tires). This bike is fully rigid with a custom Kelly steel fork. Super light (19.5) and responsive, and with custom 20/32/44 x 11-36 gearing (I’m kind of obsessed with optimized gearing). But, think about it. The best modern 1 X 12 systems boast a 500% gear range, mine has a 720% range with gears more closely spaced across that range and, it’s significantly lighter.

      I’ve also got an older Santa-Cruz full suspension bike that I customized to accept the new plus size tires (same as above). I just finished a full, from the frame, rebuild on this one. Built new custom wheels, pulled a bunch of beautiful NOS parts out of storage that are really nice, but not modern enough to be worth much to other people. The frame is 14 years old now but, with these upgrades, especially the wide tires, it’s a whole new bike. The ride feels similar to the new full sus bikes, albeit with a little less travel (only 4″ front and rear). But, at just under 24 pounds and, of course, custom gearing, it kills it in the climbs.

      Finally, I have an early 70’s Bottechia, black with chrome lugs and fork tips, that I pulled out of a dumpster. Tore it down to the frame, built new wheels (3 speed internal rear), put a new stem and some cool, swept back handle bars, added full fenders and a rack and put platform style pedals on it. It’s the perfect “urban assault” vehicle, equally adept at running errands and bar-hopping. Oddly, I kind of love this one the most.

      I’ve hand built every bike I’ve owned since that beautiful Stingray got it all started. It’s been 17 years since I bought my first, and only, new vehicle. I still have it but, it’s no longer worth more than any single one of my bikes (except the townie).

      Anyway, I apologize to the non-bikers here for this. But, as Eric feels about cars, I feel about bikes. When someone reveals their love of bicycles, it’s hard to resist the urge to blather on.


      • The trend with high end mountain bikes today is one 32 front gear and 11-50 in the back. I prefer the old triples with smaller jumps.

        • Hey Doug,

          Yeah, I know. There is at least some justification for “one by” drivetrains on MTB bikes. The front derailleur has always created a design constraint for suspension systems. So, optimized suspension design conflicts with the need for a front derailleur. Thus, the now dominant “one by’s”. But, the industry, and the crappy rags promoting it, seem pathologically incapable of telling this simple truth. Namely, that there is a design conflict between optimized gearing and optimized suspension. Instead, it’s just “better, simpler, lighter, etc…”. All of which is nonsense. It’s a compromise, that serves a particular purpose. Nothing wrong with that. But, “one by” systems are objectively inferior with respect to gearing. If you want a really low gear, you must sacrifice a decent high gear. If you want a decent range, you must sacrifice close ratio shifting. There’s no way around this with a “one by”. Also, at a given range, they are significantly heavier than what can be achieved with a triple. Finally, chain line is pretty awful through about half the stack, which increases both drag and wear. I should note, none of this would be of concern to me were it not for the fact that triple drive-trains are disappearing. In a few years, it will be impossible to set up your bike with the objectively superior triple system.

          Horrifyingly, “one by” systems are probably coming to road bikes. This is asinine. There is no justification for this on any performance road bikes (though it’s fine for commuters or, maybe, gravel bikes). The reason for this is simple. Human beings operate most efficiently within a cadence range. This differs from person to person, but the fact remains the same. Too low a cadence causes increased muscle fatigue, too high a cadence causes pedal bouncing. Both are less efficient than a smooth stroke within that persons particular cadence range.

          So, imagine two equivalent riders, riding identical bikes, with the same gear range but, one with a double and the other with a single. Now, dropout widths, chain-line , Q-factor etc…. eliminate the possibility of simply doubling the number of gears on the back. This means, necessarily, that the change in gear ratio will be greater for an individual shift on the single vs the double. This means that the rider with a single will be forced to pick a gear that is often less optimal for actual conditions (grade, headwind, etc….) than the rider with a double. This means that a particular shift on the single will often push the rider outside of their efficient cadence range in order to maintain maximum possible speed. This means that the rider on a single will either slow down to match their cadence range or bog down (downshift vs upshift). In this scenario, over a significant enough distance, the double rider will always beat the single rider. Of course, the same analysis applies to a triple vs a double, which is why I’m such a fan of wide range, close ration triples.


      • Jeremy, I lament the demise of the triple, too! For those of us in hilly areas, they were just the ticklet- and performed just as well, and were as easy to tune as anything else.

        I did at least retrodit my ’97 Klein with a compact crankset- as the old standard racing set it came with were killing me on these hills! It helped- but a triple with mountain gearing would be paradise!

        • Could you have simply changed out the small chainring, so as to improve your low gear range? That’s the beauty of mid and high end groupsets (and their chainrings) is that the individual sprockets can be swapped out. If you used anything higher than an Altus chainring (i.e. Acera and above), you should be able to customize the chainrings for your needs and riding.

          The Seattle PD, which uses a lot of MTBs for patrol, did something similar. However, rather than swapping out the low range ring, they swapped out the high range (i.e. the big ring) chainring; they went from a 44 tooth to a 50, so they could have higher top end speed on the flats and going downhill.

          Another thing I like about using a triple chainring up front is that it allows the use of fewer cogs out back. With a triple chainring up front, there’s little need to have more than 7 or 8 cogs out back; when you use only two chainrings up front, then it’s almost imperative to use 10 or more cogs, which makes for a wider cogset. The trouble you run into when you use anything over an 8 speed cogset is that the spokes are almost flat on the side where the cog is mounted. The problem is that you can’t properly dish the wheel, because the wider cogset pushes that side of the hub in closer to the center; it’s harder to center the wheel WRT the hub.

          • Sadly, MM, on a road bike, swapping out the inner ring, you can only lose two teeth- due to the size of the bolt circle on a standard crank. The compact and MTB cranks have a smaller diameter bolt circle, which allows for the smaller rings. (I’m just glad that my derailleur worked with the compact- did have to get a slightly different bottom bracket though…. ya’d be surprised what a difference a few lousy millimeters makes!)

          • Hey Mark,

            “Could you have simply changed out the small chainring, so as to improve your low gear range?”

            Up to a point, but the size of the inner cog is limited by the bolt circle diameter. Until quite recently, standard BCD for road bikes was 130mm. This limited the inner chainring to 38T or bigger. Then, compact, 110mm BCD cranks were introduced, which is actually the old 74/110 touring crank standard, absent the inner 74. The 110mm BCD limits the inner gear to 34T. So, to get a decent low gear you need to run a cassette that goes to 32T (which has now become common). But, as you point out, this creates big jumps between gears at any given number of cogs.

            Your observations about dish are mostly correct but, hub geometry on Shimano systems remained unchanged from 8 sp through 10 sp. It wasn’t until 11 sp was introduced that dish got worse. So, up to 10 on the back, dish is not affected. Of course, chains did get narrower to accommodate more cogs in the same space, Although, I haven’t really noticed much of a problem here. I designed my road bike to have MTB spacing (135mm instead of 130mm), which mitigates the dish problem very well. I run a custom 3 x 10 system (as described above) that is incredible. Super wide range, super close ratio gearing. Lighter than a comparable wide range double, shifting performance is excellent. It truly is the best of both worlds and cannot be matched by double gearing.


            • 38T for an inner ring? Would that be for a road bike with a double chainring up front? I was just on Shimano’s website checking out MTB chainrings; their little MTB chainrings usually run 22 or 24T on the small ring. A typical arrangement (on a triple chainring) is 42T on the big ring, 34 on the middle ring, and 22 or 24 T on the small ring.

              • Hi Mark,

                “38T for an inner ring? Would that be for a road bike with a double chainring up front?”

                Yes, but that is on the older, 130mm BCD double road crank standard. Compact 110mm BCD road cranks are more common today, which allow a 34T inner ring. Sram has just introduced what may be called a super compact road drive-train that mates a 46/33 up front to a 10-33 12 speed cassette on the rear. This does create an excellent range, but still suffers from relatively poor gear ratio progression in almost half of the stack. Still, the fact remains that at any given range, gear jumps will be smaller on a triple than a double, and, at a comparable level of quality, lighter.

                As for MTB’s, triples still exist, but they are disappearing fast. I don’t expect any high end triple MTB systems to be available, at all, in 3-5 years. Lower end stuff will likely still exist for longer than that, which is nice. But, this does not address the concerns of people like myself.


                • I like the triple chainring up front on my MTB, as it allows for a lot more FLEXIBILITY. What I would like to do is upgrade the chainring, so I can change out sprockets. My MTB came with stamped Altus ring up front, which I think is 42-34-24. I’d like to be able to change the little ring to a 22, so I’d have lower gearing. Being able to change the big ring, like from a 44 to a 46 would give me a little higher gearing.

            • I went to Shimano’s website again, and I think you’re talking about chainrings for a road bike. I was thinking of a mountain bike , or MTB, chainrings.

              It never occurred to me to change out the front ring on my old road bike, because its gearing was fine was it was. The only change I made was going from a 6 to 7 speed cog out back. The large and small cogs had the same teeth on the 7 as they did the 6; the only difference was that the 7 speed cog gave me more STEPS between the large and small cogs.

              • Hey Mark,

                I grew up in Michigan. My first really nice road bike was a Fuji S-12-S that I saved up for and bought myself ($439.00 in 1981, if I recall). It’s pretty flat where I grew up and it never occurred to me to tweak the gearing to the low side. In fact, I put a 7 speed “corn cob” on it eventually.

                Anyway, try riding in Santa Fe and you’ll quickly appreciate the beauty of low gears. Still, I could never bring myself to give up that tight ratio rear stack. Thus, the custom triple.


                • I got you. Now that I live in more hilly terrain myself, I can appreciate lower gears myself; that’s why I’d like to swap out at least the lower ring on my MTB to a 22. For the flats, I think the big ring is 42 or 44T right now; going up a couple of teeth would would be good too.

                • My first nice, and still present, road bike is a Marukin M-420. Since it didn’t have the CACHET of Fuji back in the mid 1980s, it didn’t cost quite as much. I paid like $300-$350 for it in June of 1986.

                  It’s quite nice, so I never upgraded it much. It has Suntour components. It originally had a 6 speed cog out back with a double ring up front, for a total of 12 speeds. Now that it has a 7 speed cog on the back, it’s technically a 14 speed road bike. It has downtube mounted shifters, but they’re mounted so that, if I’m in the drops, I only have to move my hands a little bit to change gears. I know, I know; downtube shifters aren’t as nice as the flick shifters newer bikes have, but they’re simpler and more reliable; if something does go wrong, they’re easier to fix. It has 27″ wheels. The frame is 031 chromoly with lugs covering the joints where the tubes meet. Back when I was younger, I was able to push it to 35 on the flat, but I could only maintain that pace for like 200 yards. I could cruise all day at 12-15 mph though; a rider in better condition could get 15-20 out of it for hours. Unlike modern road bikes, the geometry lies somewhere in between the extremes of touring and racing bikes. I’ve had offers to buy the bike, but it’s not for sale…

                  • Hey Mark,

                    I just checked out that bike on the web, pretty nice! I really miss my old Fuji, it was beautiful, black with chrome lugs, fork tips and rear stays. Interestingly, my Bottechia “townie” is very similar, except, I set it up as an “urban assault” commuter bike.

                    My current Waterford is a thing of beauty. As Nunzio mentioned earlier about his old Ross, it’s part of my soul.


                    • Guys,

                      I didn’t get a “good” bike till I was >50. A while back I had a nice $5K carbon fiber Specialized Venge (I didn’t pay anywhere neatr $5K for it….got it when it was a year old; rode it for a few months, just to see what all the hoopla about “good bikes” was all about- and then sold it for a profit!).

                      But anyway…. When I was in my 20’s, not having had a bike since I was about 15, I came across a bike in a pile of garbage that someone was throwing out.

                      It was a crappy department-store 10-speed that probably sold for $99 when new. It was covered in house paint, and had definitely been seriously neglected.

                      I took it home and, and stripped the paint off and gave it a rattle-can paint job. Took everything apart and lubed it. Had to replace a cable and do a few other little things….but for a grand total of about $25 in parts, I had me a functional bicycle.

                      I’d ride around a few mile radius of where I lived on nights when I didn’t go for a long walk with my dog- I wasn’t into cycling then0- it was just something different to do- just ride around, oozing through the quiet suburban streets at night like a disembodied soul.

                      Turns out, I had more fun on that bike, and fonder memories with it, than I’ve had with any “good” bike that I’ve owned since.

                      I think part of the appeal was that I didn’t care about it. I’d ride it off of curbs….down steps; in the woods. I’d never worry about nor do any maintenance or repairs, unless something malfunctioned. It was great, ’cause it truly wasn’t about the bike…nor how many miles, nor how fast, etc. etc. it was just a means to an end- just a way of getting some quiet time outdoors and of being in motion, and truly almost not being conscience of anything, but just being able to float around and think.

                      I’ve never been able to quite experience that since. (And of course, that being in the very late 80’s, that world is long gone)

                    • I got my first adult bicycle at age 12. A steel lug frame Raleigh 10spd. I rode that until I was 22 when the POS that was always needing work finally pissed me off for the last time. there was metal fatigue in both wheel mounts anyway. Replaced it with a cheap Giant road bike. Finally got a canondale in 2002. Still ride it. A freak occurrence damage the seat stays a couple years ago. They say you can’t fix an aluminum frame. Well I did. came up with my own way to reinforce the damaged area. Added some trivial weight, doesn’t look all that great, but it works just fine. I may replace it soon. I found cracks in the aluminum rims. Drilled out the ends of the cracks, filled with special epoxy. It’s worked. Bike needs too much to be worth saving.

              • When I got that Legnano Gran Premio in 1964 it had the standard ten speed components, full Campagnolo. The rear changer was their lower grade one, it had the pair of chain rollers on a cage that pivotted in the centre between the two rollers, and that had a spring, adjustable tension, to wind it up to swallow the unused chain in higher gears. I think the original cogset, a Regina Extra, went from 14 to 26, fove cogs. I wanted wider range, my best friend (still is today” worked after school at his Dad’s bike shop two blocks from our school.. I eventually ended up working there too. “Pop” had boxes of used stuff, trade ins and takeoffs, and anything in those boxes was fair game, some free, cheap if not. I eventually rescued a 13-30, maximum range availble in those days. The front rings were 47/52. Even with that 13 cog in the back, I could still spin out the top gear downhill and did on a regular basis. One day I was poking about in the back before I ended my shift for the day, and happened across someing VERY interesting…… Pop had somewherre come across a FIFTY EIGHT tooth chainring with the same BCD as my Campy cranks. I asked him how much he wanted for it, and he told me “you can’t use it, there will be too much chain to deal with, and your changers can’t take up that much. It won’t work.”. Double gauntlet thrown to the floor for this 17 year old determined broke crazy cyclist kid.

                I had noticed that some of the better Campy changers had a spring in the top pivot, holding the arms to the rear to take up chain. But those used an un-sprung pair of chain rollers. The parallels were the same length on that one, and on my Gran SPort. Hmmm.. she brainwheels began to churn. WHAT IF I got a changer with the upper spring, removed MY sprung roller set and put them onto the other body? A few days later I had to replace a Campy changer that had gotten spoked… the roller cage and the parallels were both bent.. but the upper mount pivot was fine.. and it was sprung!!! It was in the junk can, so I snaffled it. Worked the pivot pins out of that one, freeing up the sprung pivot from the rails, that weekend I pulled the pins off my Sport, moved the rails over to the sprung upper, re-swaged the pivot rivets, put it back on my bike, and it worked just like the Sport did before I modified it. Next weekasked Pop again about that big ring He insisted it would never work on my bike. I said I can make it work. He said FINE.. take the ring, and if you can make it work on your bike with that rear cogset, its YOURS< free. Gaunllet picked up. Along with the ring. I spent some time that evening, bolted the new 58 tooth ring on to my bike, fiddled with the two tension springs, it worked perfectly on the floor, so I hopped on and rode it. It WORKED. Next day I got to the shop and told Pop I've got it working. He said NO WAY. We put the bike on the stand, and he stood there and marvelled at how that bike shifted perfecteluy in every combination of grears, He WAS pleased, and I always wondered if maybe he didn't deliberatly dangle that 58 tooth carrot in front of me to make me THINK IT THROUGH to make me come up with a solution. We all had a great laugh when, two years later, Campagnolo came out with their new Gran Sport, their first double sprung rear changer… precisely what I had cobbled together. Decades later in his retirement years, we were still friends, and he still marvelled at that "new rear changer I invented".

                And yes, I could and did spin out that 58-13 combination screamind down Highway 18 out of southern California's Big Bear Lake area…. 26 miles of pretty steep steady downhill. I clocked myself at 23 minutes for that 26 miles stretch. One time I had to shift down the rear cog, as the grade lessened for half a mile or so, then back in and spin. I think my current setup, 44 54 front, 11-29 Campagnolo ten speed cogset (which I cobbled together myself against the assurances it would never shift properly.. which it has for fifteen years not)

            • I know that dish was a problem initially when the 9 speed cogs came out for MTBs. I guess that, with 10 and 11 speed cogs, 9 speed is no big deal anymore. That said, I’m old enough to remember when having 18 speeds (3 rings up front, six speed cog out back) was a BIG DEAL; I remember when that was cutting edge…

            • I meant to say that, back when 9 speed cogs first came out, the bike mags mentioned the problem with dishing the wheels, particularly on the cog side.

              • Hi Mark,

                That’s partially correct (not that the mags didn’t say this). But, the change in dish occurred in the switch from 7 to 8, not 8 to 9/10. All 8 speed Shimano hubs (except first generation Dura-Ace, 8 speed), will accept a modern Shimano compatible cassette up to 10 speeds.


                • Hey Mark,

                  One caveat, the earliest Shimano 8 speed hubs will not accept a cassette with an 11T first position cog, but they will accept any modern 10 speed cassette (except the Dura-Ace described above) that starts at 12T or more.


        • Another problem you run into when using buku cogs out back is the requirement to use narrower chains. This is necessitated by the fact that, when you’re running 10 or more cogs, the gaps between each sprocket is narrower…

        • Hey Nunzio,

          ” – but a triple with mountain gearing would be paradise!”

          I can tell you how to do this, shouldn’t cost very much. A lot of the older brifters were 2/3 compatible. Depending on model/era, you may have one of these. You wont even need to change the cranks. IRD makes a 110mm middle ring that has tabs that drop down to create the 74mm BCD. This will allow you to run a third inner chain ring down to a 24.

          Anyway, if you’re interested, I’d be happy to advise.


  18. The world safety moms killed. I’ve read the argument that this safety nonsense is the result of government subsidized and legally encouraged rise of single motherhood and the banishment of fathers. It seems reasonable as a component.

    The reason there are mostly adult bicyclists these days is:
    1) Everyone who was a kid in the last age of childhood bicycling is an adult now.
    2) Adults virtue signal.
    3) These poor kids had to become adults before they could get away from their mothers and use a bicycle the way it was meant to be used or some facsimile there of.

    The point about bicycling as learning how to drive. You forgot my favorite bicycling film for kids. The 1950s film “Drive your Bike”.

    Another thing, learning how to maintain, repair, and customize a bicycle is what translates into doing the same for an automobile.

    • Hi Brent,

      Spot on about working on bikes leading to working on cars. Remember fixing a derailed chain when you were a kid? Adding a headlight or those plastic colored things to your spokes? I ma glad I grew up before the sail fawn era.

    • It’s more than the single-mother thing, Brent.

      My mother is far more of a safety-Nazi today, than she was when I was 8.

      If I wasn’t a grown man who can do what I want, she would today reduce me to sitting on my hands and doing NOTHING- literally, for fear of injury, crime, exertion, breaking a sweat….. Thank goodness she wasn’t like that when I was a kid- when at 5, I got bit by the neighbor’s dog. My mother took me in the house; patched me up; and I was back out and playing with the dog 10 minutes later.

      If I were 5 today and that happened? There’d be doctors and hospitals and ambulances…..

      It’s the propaganda. The endless garbage they hear on TV and radio admonishing them to always have everything treated by “a professional” because the smallest scratch could morph into leprosy if not “treated promptly and properly”; “If you don’t have all of your shots”.

      It’s the medical shows- real or dramatized, showing a plethora of conditions and complications that you are likely never to experience, but which arte made to appear commonplace…

      It’s the info they leave out; “The 42 year old actor fell and hit his head on the coffee table…and died” [No mention that he was completely blotto].

      It’s the advertising, admonishing that unless your scratch is treated with a litany of drugs and topical chemicals…it’ll most likely end up killing you….

      Fear of the unknown. Most people being so used to delegating all health-related issues to “professionals” have become completely ignorant as to the reality of how the body works, and how to deal with anything themselves- theyh have to even pay someone to clean their teeth.

      Even people who used to know better, after being constantly brow-beaten for so long now, have succumbed to fear and ignorance.

      And it’s getting worse. I knew this 16 year-old, who freaked out when he learned that there is no hospital in my county! “How can you live there? You’re endangering your life!”. That is just sad, especially coming from a 16 year-old. (My 94 year-old mother has expressed the same sentiments: “We should be closer to the hospital”.

      It’s the same mindset that keeps many of my neighbors working much longer and harder than they need to [men] just so they can buy health insurance for their famblies….tens of thousands of dollars a year in insurance payments, to cover the few hundred dollars a year in services they may actually use- but at least when they have that heart attack at 50 [one recently did] from only getting 2 hours sleep per night and working 18 hours a day, they’ll be covered.

      It’s just part of the modern narrative- and men are just as subjected to it these days as are women. 🙁

      • Let’s see. I tried to turn a bike on gravel and lost the whole mess. Lots of blood flowing. Got hit in the face at school with a hard kickball that knocked out some teeth, Got bitten by dogs and chased by many dogs. Got in lots of fights, played schoolyard basketball, football and soccer with a mouthful of braces, lived in a black neighborhood for 2 years with no problems as an adult first time from home. No broken bones or trips to the hospital to fix problems, well except for a double hernia at age 3. Still here making comments………………

      • Nunz, you’ve got it just about right on today’s wilful ignorance concerning all things health and medical.

        Back in the hippie days no one had any money, but well worn copies of Jethro Kloss’ Back to Eden were passed round as needed, and the local “happy hippie health food store” had a superabundance of all sorts of herbs and spices for flavour in cooking and for healing. One time had a bad gum infectioin next to a wonky wisdom tooth. Went to the dentist. Thirty five dollars later I was hearing “you have an infection, you need to get to a doctor, I can’t help you”. WHaaaaaaaatt? I TOLD the receptionist when I made the appointment I had a bad gum infection… I didn’t have no thuttifidollah to be giving away. SO.. three days or torture later I was at a DOCTOR”S office. HE looked at it and said “that’s a gim infection you need to get to a DENTIST. Pay the receptionist thuttifidollah on the way out.

        Bought a copy of Jethro for six bux, read till late at night, got up the next morning even worse off, went to the HHHFS noted above spend about six bucks on some herbs I’d never heard of, made a nasty tasing concoction per Jethro’s say so, used it as recommended, and by the time I went to bed that night the infection was GONE. Ya think I made a regular habit of feeding the medical profession since then? Eat right, stay active *cycling still being my favourite form… just knocked off quick forty miler this afternoon, bou am I outta shape these days, still, 15_ mph average with nasty headwind home.

        My entire expenditure for all my medical care for four decades has totalled less than half of one years’ premium for OhBummerTax, so I opted out. My immune system is so strong, at 70+, I almost never get any cold or flu, when I do I’m rarely out of commission, just run at three quarter throttle for two or three days, then all is right again. My hands get cut and scraped on a regular basis, I never use “the stuff you’re spozed ta use”, not even wash it most times, and never get infections. The medical profession is self-feeding, for the most part. The only people I know who get the flu are the ones that get it about two weeks after they get their annual flu shot.They can’t figure that out!!!!

        • Haha, so true, Tio!

          Gotta get me a copy of that Jethro book- sounds inty-resting.

          The funny thing was, back then, no one ever went to the emergency room unless ya truly had a serious life-threatening injury- like massive bleeding or not breathing. If ya went anywhere, it was to your doctor, who had a private office- and who might sometimes even make a house call!

          No one had insurance. Ya’d pay the doctor $25 or $35 and that was it.

          And even with that “healthcare” being so much more accessible and affordable then, you didn’t even go to the doctor unless you had something pretty serious or were in great pain. They didn’t have to do a $1600 CAT scan for every little thing either!

          Yeah, I used to cut my hands all the time too when I used to rebuild engines and such. They’d be covered with grease, too. It was convenient: The grease would stop the bleeding on the ones that didn’t stoip by themselves. People used to tell me “Oh, you need to get a tetanus shot”. I’d laugh heartily. Never got an infection.

          But when I was a kid, and my mother used to put “all the right stuff” on every little scrape and scratch…it’d get infected every time!

          My nieces; every time they get a cold or flu or sniffle, they run to the doctor; he gives ’em antibiotics so they get over a day sooner than if they did nothing. A fdew months later they’re sick again, because their body never develops natural immunity to what they had, due to the antibiotics- so every year, they’re sick 3 or 4 times.

          I was sick recently- first time in about 7 or 8 years. I think it was a sinus infection. It was a bear to get rid of- took about 2.5 weeks…..but you can bet it won’t be back a few months down the road…or even a few years down the road.

          I’m convinced that vaccinations of any type, are responsible for most of the cancer ion this world- a fact that many old doctors used to also note; ditto all the allergies, asthma and a million other maladies which have become so prevalent in the last few decades.

          Last time I got poked was c.1976 during the Swine Flu epidemic. Even as a kid, I just knew it was wrong and harmful have crap injected into one’s bloodstream. Of course, it turned out that the couple dozen or so people who died from the Swine FGlu…had all beem vaccinated for it. Not one unvaccinated person died.

          And they think they can force me to buy Obammycare and give the goobermint every detail of my personal information, for access to this draconian system that I haven’t used in 40 years…because it’s somehow my “responsibility” to pay for someone else to use it?! If that isn’t the biggest indication that what we knew as America is over…I don’t know what is.

          • The vaccination insanity these days scares me. Measles vaccination rates are essentially unchanged. A very slightly _higher_ percentage of the population is vaccinated today than some years ago. Yet there is this witch hunt for the unvaccinated. And they aren’t even really at fault for the outbreaks. It’s all the people being brought in from elsewhere that bring it in and of course the failure of the vaccine to protect people.

            • Hi Brent,

              In every debate over vaccination I’ve heard, neither side brings up the core issue. Which, of course, is simply one of ownership. The force vac side is asserting ownership over other people’s children in the manner of a cow being ear tagged.

              The precedent being set is alarming, of course. If a person – child or adult – can be forcibly vaccinated, then it follows they can be forcibly subjected to any other medical procedure or treatment the state – that is, the busybodies and control freaks – decide is “essential,” or for “safety.”

              Heck, they have already decreed that everyone must buy health insurance. How much longer before we are required to visit the doctor? And compelled to obey his orders?

              Isn’t obvious, given the way things happen in this country, that the precedent will become practice?

              But people in the main no longer think in terms of principles and so eagerly – often, aggressively – demand “A” while not grokking that “B” and “C” (which they may not be so eager about) will inevitably follow, the principle having already been accepted by them.

              • Eric,

                I must respectfully disagree with you; there IS a group claiming ownership: the Orthodox Jews of NYC. They’re anti-vax because God’s laws tell them what they can and cannot put in their bodies. By doing so, are they not asserting ownership? By saying that they’re following God’s laws over man’s laws, aren’t they saying, in effect, that God owns their bodies, not the state? Soooo, even if they don’t claim that it’s their right to do what they want with their bodies (i.e. explicitly claiming ownership), by saying that they’re following God’s instructions, aren’t they saying that GOD owns their bodies? Ergo, isn’t this really about ownership at the end of the day?

                I submit to you that many of the parents who are anti-vax are doing so because of ownership. What’s their main argument? That they know what’s best for their kids, correct? If they’re saying that they do what they do because it’s best for their kids, are they not claiming ownership to their childrens’ bodies? What is ownership, really? Is it not the ability to have a SAY in what does or doesn’t happen to someone or something?

                I submit to you that, in many instances, anti-vaxers ARE claiming ownership; they simply aren’t ARTICULATING the concept very well. How can people articulate something well when it’s not been presented, let alone taught, to them? When would your typical American ever hear, let alone receive instruction, about ownership? When the NYC Jews take their stand because God tells them to, it’s about who OWNS them. Is it God or the state? When parents say that they don’t want to vaccinate their kids, are they not saying that they know better than the state what’s best for their kids? What is that, but ownership, at the end of the day?

                • Very true, Marky. What you described about the Orthodox Jews is the main reason the powers that be have destroyed any semblance of real Christianity- because we acknowledge and obey God and not Caesar.

                  Of course, now, with “easy-believeism” Xtianity (Just “believe” and do anything you want…) having supplanted any semblance of Biblical Christianity, you can imagine how many millions of people have been effectively neutralized, whereas if that weren’t the case, imagine how different things would be if we had those same few hundred million people doing the same thing as a few thousand Orthodox Jews are doing.

                  40-50 years ago, it was virtually almopst exclusively Christians who were warning about the coming New World Order; the technocracy; national IDs; the erosion of our basic rights; the establishment of the police state; etc.

                  It was Christians who started the home-schooling movement….

                  Now? 99% of Christians sit on their hands and liosten to sermons about how they don’t have to obey God’s law- and if they need not obey God, then there is nothing restraining them from obeying the dictates of men.

                  Same deal with reformed and secular Jews.

                  • That’s why, before the NWO can usher in their ‘paradise’, their ‘utopia’, all religion MUST be stamped out! I’m talking about fundamentalist Christians, Orthodox Jews, and even Muslims who take their faith seriously. Why? Because all the above place God ABOVE the state, and the state can’t have that-not when THEY want to be God…

                    • Hey Mark,

                      Or, better yet, transform it into a subservient institution that serves the interests of the State. Get churches to engage in State idolatry with military worship day, God Bless America stuff, etc…

                      To those deluded souls who notice glaring contradictions between the word of God and the actions of the State, Just condescendingly mention Romans 13 and insist that resolves the matter.

                      The commies learned how hard it is to destroy religion. Much better and smarter for the State to co-opt it and use it for its’ own ends.


  19. Bravo Eric!

    What an insightful analysis, with overtones well beyond the vehicular realm. One of your very best.

    Just gotta add one thing re that photo. Those kids were more wild than all my classmates and me who grew up in SoCal. In that climate, we never rode barefoot during the summer! 😉

  20. Before we rode bikes, we walked…how many 7-8 year olds have you seen walking to elementary school lately? Or, walking to the park to swing until dark? It starts and ends with the helo parents Eric described, and the motivations causing the helo behavior. First, no walking, oh my, Dahmer might git ya!, Then, no biking, why, you might git run over! Then, no drivers license till you’re 17…and you have the exact situation described in this article.

    I had a British bike made in Nottingham, with a Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hub as a wee lad. That damn thing racked me good more times than I can tell, until I figured out how to adjust the gear-change cable correctly.

      • Yeah, Crusty,

        How can the young’uns remember their first bike (if they even had one), when it was just some all-plastic piece of shit (including the wheels and tires) toy in a garish color with some ‘Power Ranger’ or other law-enforcement statist cartoon euphemism’s image plastered all over it?

        Instead, they’ll tell you of their first [puke] video game, and the hours spent sequestered in their rooms in the dark playing it. 🙁

        • Sadly, true. Those “power wheel” abominations should be outlawed. They give young’uns a very bad first impression of what personal mobility should be like. They are, however, quite mom-friendly, to another poster’s thesis.

          • The safety-nazis must love those Power Wheels- as you could never go more than about 15 feet on one.

            When I was a kid, I was playing with thios kid who lived nextdoor to my sister, who had a “Big Wheel”. I tried it out. Riding 10 feet on it was torture! It was uncomfortable; ya had no visibility; it was LOUD!; and it was not efficient as transportation. I couldn’t wait to get back home and get on my bike, which I could ride for MILES and be comfortable on.

            A Big Wheel was like a Yugo with 2 dead cylinders. A real bike was like 4×4 crewcab diesel dually by comparison.

            • Big Wheels!
              I was too old to actually own one (or have it gifted to me). Some neighbor kids that were younger had them… two brothers. Yes Big Wheels were torture to ride on the flat. BUT, we lived in a hilly neighborhood.

              Downhill racing on Big Wheels! With rolling combat and destruction derby added!

              Between Big Wheels, Skateboards and bicycles my elbows and knees are now all scar tissue from road rash.

              I miss the world I grew up in.

      • Had the exact same one myself, in dark metallic brown.

        Did yours have that neat “Dyn-O-Hub” low friction, low drag, front axle generator for the lights?

        • Another Raleigh rider, well howdy!

          No, I had a front wheel mounted friction drive light dyno. Not enough scratch for a dynohub, but I sure wanted one!

          I did have that blasted 3-speed rear hub trans that kept slipping and causing maximum, uh, pain. I think I finally got it to behave about the time I got my driver’s license at 15…and that is another topic for discussion, if kids have to wait till 17-18 the drive, how in the heck are they gonna pull their weight transportation-wise, much less develop a healthy lusting for oil and gas fumes?

          BTW, anyone notice one of the kids in the second picture has the 70’s one-each standard-issue healthy-red-blooded-male Farrah Fawcett swimsuit poster in his hands?

        • Well, looking back at a photo with that bike in it, the bike was actually the Superbe’s lesser spec version, the Sport. Same frame, etc., no Dynahub. Did have a twist-grip gearchange, though!

      • I remember how my first 2 bikes looked like, but not what brand they were, and I am middle-aged. In my defense, my father was pretty cheap! My first bike had hard nylon hollow tires. I know that they were hollow because I wore them out by pedaling around and skidding the rear tire. Dad replaced it by soaking a new one in very hot water and slipping it on.
        Later on, my younger brother was given a bike with real tires on it. One day he was playing outside in the yard when I got home from school and went into the house. He left the yard and wondered quite a long ways away. He slipped through a gap in the neighboring apartment complexes swimming pool, and trying to skate on thin ice, he fell through. The rubber snow boots he wore anchored him down, and he drowned. He was 6 years old and I was 8.
        I wore out that tire again, and then was given my late brothers bike after the seat was raised way up.
        When I got to tall for that bike, dad let me ride his bike, which I had never seen him use, That one was an adult sized blue Schwinn 3 speed with the thumb activated trigger shifter on the right handle. It had white wall tires and full fenders. The seat had been lowered all of the way, and I learned how to shoot to one side of the seat so that I could reach the ground with one of my feet when I stopped. I had to shift all of my weight from side to side on each downward stroke of the pedals when I had it in high gear to make it go fast. I was pedaling out of the town of Shipshewana, Indiana on the main highway one time on my way home to the farm where I then lived. I purposely pedaled just as hard and fast as I could as I approached the descending point of a large hill, and the hill sped me up to the point that I was going the same speed as the cars, probably about 55-60 mph. That was a real blast for me! I was about 11 or 12 back then. I also used to oftentimes pedal to one of my Aunts and cousins place that was about 5-6 miles from home.

          • Schwinn had been making 3 speed bikes for a long time evidently. My cousin who was born in 46 had one before 1960. It was my introduction to bikes with more than one speed.

            Cushman Eagle scooters were the rage back in my day. They had two speed trannies and a good passenger seat. I rode on the back of my neighbor’s holding our guitars. That was a mean trick when he’d do a wheelie. It was cold as hell too. I was glad when he got a car.

            After I got my license the DPS stopped me for not having lights on the back of my pickup. I’d been driving it for 2 years with none but stopping me and not having a license would have resulted in a big shitty so they waited. Don’t know why they didn’t just put the word on my father.

            Well, it was time for me to learn how to wire a vehicle anyway. I went to the local parts store where my father had a charge account and bought a few rolls of wire whereupon I pulled all the wiring out of the pickup with the only electrical thing that worked being the heater fan. When I got done the running lights and brake lights worked. It had no turn signal. Back then it was optional.

            • Well 8SM, I was quite thrilled when the brakes worked as expected on my first (well, second actually) car! British Girling brakes taught me repair skills, and driving skills one does not acquire driving the usual tin. Though, coming out of HS one afternoon and finding all the books behind the driver’s seat saturated with brake fluid sort of took the edge off. Took to carrying an IV bottle of Castrol Girling DOT 4, just in case…

    • My thoughts EXACTLY… hot damn, I’m a gearhead but she made me totally ignore that Camaro!!!

      Eric, I hope she was your GF… a pat on the back and a wink for you if she was!

      • You know she’s a hottie when a gearhead looks at the picture, and spends more time thinking of the girl than the engine…after a few minutes, I finally asked my self, “is that a 350SS or a 396SS?” 🙂

  21. Freedom my ass.

    Reminds me of July 4, 1976.

    I hopped on my ten speed and rode from 7 mile and Telegraph to the Ambassador Bridge with a pocket full of Canuck cash.

    When I got to the People’s Republic of Canada the friendly folk with the maple leaf flags on their uniforms told me that I needed a “note from your mommy” and sent me back to Detroit.

    US customs were the usual dicks and didn’t believe my story because I only had Canadian money on me.

    Four hours later my dad showed up, demanded I be released, and made them give me back my pocket knife.

    They even tried to order my old man to load up my bike in the back of his station wagon. He laughed and told me to meet him at Armando’s.

    We had lunch and a few beers in the park across from Earhart school and dad told me about Blue laws. Apparently Windsor is closed on Sunday.

    He also clued me in on Dry counties and other non freedoms that were being celebrated that day.

    There was a lot of hut hut back in the day Eric.

  22. I can testify about millennial drivers. Just yesterday, I came up on a millennial clover putting 40 in a 55. She signaled a left turn and no joking came to a dead stop in front of me before turning and no traffic coming in the oncoming lane either. Then proceeded at a snails pace to complete the turn causing me to become PO’d and go off the shoulder to go around her car. Between senior citizens and now millennials driving like senior citizens, it’s not safe on the road for an accomplished drivers anymore!!!

    • Dread! I read some of Patick McManus’s books back in the 80’s. I still remember them! “Rancid Crabtree”!

  23. The lead-in picture of a group of young, white males with no women and no people of colour is problematic. I’m triggered.

  24. The lead-in picture of a group of young, white males with no girls and no people of colour is problematic. I’m triggered.

  25. Great article, Eric! I NEVER tire of hearkening back to the joy and freedom I knew as a kid on a biuke in the 70’s! It was truly the freest I’ve ever been.

    And that was why you rarely saw an obese kid back then; or a kid with health issues like asthma or allergies (Which are all so common today) or “ADD”- because we all had plenty of opportunity to expend all of our energy; and could eat massive quantities to refuel, without gaining a pound (I ate MUCH more when I was a kid than I do today- and I was as skinny as a rail, Typical lunch I’d take to school: THREE sandwiches on bread or rolls; an orange or banana; some cookies or a Devil Dog; maybe some pickles or olives or nuts or other little appetizers… Today? I don’t even eat lunch!)

    • Nunzio,

      I used to ride my bike literally EVERYWHERE! I used to ride to work, the beach, Peddler’s Village, everywhere. Peddler’s was a good 10-12 miles one way; work was 9 miles each way; I could go on, but you get my point. I used to eat like a HORSE back then too; I thought nothing of downing a whole pizza or a big ass Jersey Mike’s sub at one sitting. Even so, I didn’t gain an ounce-not an ounce! I was skinny as a rail back then; if I turned sideways, you could barely see me.

      I didn’t get a car in high school. One, I didn’t have the money to do so. Two, I was going in the Navy, so I couldn’t see the point until I settled in at my duty station after training and all that. I used a bicycle until I was like 17. At that point, I got my uncle’s old moped, and that felt even more free than on the bicycle.

      • Yesiree, Mark!

        Growing up, we didn’t even have a car- so walking; my bike; and the one pokey bus route in the area was my only transportation. And I’m not complaining! 🙂 I consider the situation to have been a great blessing.

        When I was 14, (Had my first 10-speed then) I’d ride my bike c. 13 miles from outside one end of towen to outside the other end to go fishing….carrying my fishing pole and tackle and all….and then back home. I never actually remember fishing. There was too much out that way that I’d never seen before- so I’d just go exploring once there. I soon learned to leave the fishing stuff at home- LOL!

      • MM, that reminds me of myself and my best friend. We weren’t big guys but we could eat like hogs. Our class was taken to a local steakhouse. We were knocking steak back to the point the kitchen got behind(well, they probably weren’t in a hurry to cook more for one price). The other guy in our trio wasn’t a slouch either. We got back home 70 miles away and raided the freezer for ice cream.

        We were all thin but because my best friends dad had his giant bermuda hay baled in 125lb bales we couldn’t get enough to eat or drink during the summer, oh hell, anytime. We’d lose 10-15 lbs/day hauling hay from 5am till 11pm, eat everything in sight and drink gallons of tea and do it again the next day. When I got out of high school I went to work on a road construction crew. I ran ahead of the “finish” man digging down to the blue tops and then showing him how much to cut. Do that several hours a day and you won’t show much fat since you won’t have any…and that was just part of my job in a day. In the fall when I went to college you could probably have shot me in the leg with a .22 and recovered the bullet on the outside.

        There was an upside to that job. In the late afternoon they’d sometimes have me and another guy my age move the water supply pipe from the old quarry that was now a big pond. We’d pull up in my old 55 Chevy pickup, look around for whoever might be watching(nobody), strip off and dive in. It invigorated us for the late evening run to dark.

    • Hey Nunzio,

      My first real bike was a used, orange (radiant coppertone) Stingray with ape hangers and a banana seat. Before saving up for a new Roger DeCoster BMX bike (remember lay-away?), I converted it into a “dirt bike”. New bars, BMX saddle and, most importantly, lightweight alloy wheels, that I built myself at, 12 years old.


      • Hey, Jeremy!

        Wow! You were pretty sophisticated! In my world…you had whatever bike ya had…and just used it as-is for whatever ya needed it to do! 🙂 (And they were tough enough to take whatever punishment ya inflicted upon ’em!)

        Remember lay-away? Shoot, that’s how my mother bought my first two bikes!

        AHhhhh! The good old days!
        (I had a grass green Ross, with banana seat, and these funky D-shaped “loop” handlebars! I think that was my favorite possession of anything I’ve ever owned in my entire life! It was unique! It was beautiful! I lived on it. It was me!

        • I had a spider bike when I was younger, but I can’t remember what make and model it was; I only remember it had ape hangers, 20″ wheels, and the banana seat. Later on, I had a Vista Cavalier, which got stolen. Then, the last bike I had in HS was an old, used, single speed, red Rollfast. Since the Jersey Shore area is pretty much flat, the single speed wasn’t an issue.

          After I got out of the Navy, I got a 12 speed (upgraded to 14 with a 7 spd cog) Marukin road bike with downtube mounted shifters. It has thin, 27″ wheels. It has Suntour components. It’s made of 031 chromoly, my favorite frame material; any form of chomoly is good though. It was similar to Fuji, but it didn’t have the brand recognition or cachet. It’s an old school road bike with geometry somewhere between the extremes of touring and racing. 15-20 years ago, I was BSing with a bike shop guy who wanted to buy it, because it’ll handle pretty much all kinds of road riding; I told him thanks, but my old Marukin wasn’t for sale. I still have that bike… 🙂

          My other mount is a 1999 Raleigh rigid 21 speed MTB with an Altus/Acera groupset. I’ve thought about upgrading the chainring to an Acera, not only to make it a pure Acera groupset; it would also allow me to change individual chainrings. The Altus chainring on it is 22/32/42 or 44, I think. When I rode more, I used the bike for riding canal trails, and exploring any neat meadows I’d see along the way. I also did the local powerline trail some years ago-good times!

    • Well, here is one kid from that era that DID have allergies.. SERIOUS asthma. At ten years old thd allergy specialist declared to my Mom and I, sitting across from his big Doctor Desk in his office, that I would probably never live past my teen years, and that I’d NEVER be able to participate in any endurance type activities. I should note that both he and Mom must have smoked about four cigarettes during that morbid conference.
      Well I was too stupid to believe either of them, had been riding my Dad’s three times too big 26″ ballon tyre two speed newspaper bike alraedy for a couple years, to schooll friends’ houses, etc, and it seemed to be OK, so I kept it up. We moved later so I had to ride four miles each way on that pigbike to school. Started high school, rode four miles each way to that. Going into second year I informed Dad that I “needed” a ten speed bike.. I’d been out on his old PigBike riding back from somewhere ten miles away or so, and some other kid passed me on his ten speed. I gave it everything I had, but could NOT reel him in. I HAD to have a ten speed. We found one in the paper that summer, an older but decent Italian one with 27 inch wheels, and a jockeystick front shifter. I began to ride farther and faster. Two summer later we were visitng family in another satate and I let my cousin ride it to work. He was a landscaper, laid it down on the lawn in an out of the way place, a dump truck delivered some fill dirt and backed over it, pretzelling it pretty will. We both felt TERRIBLE about it but neither of us had any money to DO anything about it. Next day he called the house and gave me thephone number of the dump truck driver’s insurance company. He had “done the right thing” and filed a claim on the happening. I brought the crinkled bike to a bike shop, they informd the insurance company it was a total loss, and that it would cost about $80 to replace it with a new equivalent bike. Next day I was back whith the check. I picked out the one I wanted, but it was $120. I had been asked the day before by an Uncle to come along with him for compay as he would drive down to see my family where we lived. Thus my bus ticket was no longer needed, and GreyHound bought it back from me.. you guessed it, twennydollah. SO I had a hundred toward the new one. The shop guy felt badly for me, he realised how much I loved that Italiana ten speed and wanted a replacement. He let me leave the wreck there and considered that the difference. So I rode back to my cousin’s house on a brand new Legnano Gran Premio, not top of line but close. Later that summer I stopped at a bike shop for a tube, and he had the identical bike up in his showroom, and it had SEW UP TYRES. I informed him I really wish MY bike had those… but they didn’t have one like that when Ihad to get mine. HE said he wished his new showbike did NOT have them, cause no one wanted to deal with the hassle. On a stroke of genius, he asked me to bring mine inside, where he carefully examined it, and offered to swap wheels with me. How much? No cost to you. I can’t sell this one with the sewups, and your wheels are still brand new. I rode outta there with a HUGE Cheshire cat grin…. that next year, my senior year in high school I logged ten thousand miles on that new Legnano was literally all over Southern California from Camp Pandleton in the south up the coast to Los Angeles east into Riverside, San Bernardino March Air Force Base, Lake Elsinore, up and over the ORtega Highway between there and Capisrrano, Big Bear lake.. I think my longest single day was just above 140 miles. I still ride, have a handmade custom with the “now antique”Campy ten speed drive train, but it works well for me.

      I am convinced that my penchant for riding is precisely what preserved me to rise above the serious debilitating asthma and overcome it. I still have some hayfever, but the scary asthma attacks lessened as I continued to ride. I have often thought it would have been fun to hop on my bicycle during that senior year of high school and pedal the 25 miles down to that doctor’s office and ask him if he remembers that sickly little kid he said would not live through hgh school, nor would he ever be able to participate in any endurance actiities.

      The summer I turned 55 I rode in the annual Seattle to Portland bike classic, did the one day ride…. 204 miles…. in twelve hours gate to gate, averaging 20 milies per hour over ten hours of ride time. I also had to ride from where I stayed the night before, 8.5 miles, to the start gate, and once I crossed the finish line and downed my regulation HUGE plate of Hawaiian chicken double meat (I think at least a pound…) washed down by two pints of New Belgium Trippel Dark Ale, I STILL had to ride another 26 miles to the house I would be caretaking for the next week. Total 238 miles from wake up in the morning to crash hard that same night. Net afternoon after church I joined some young friends on a five mile hike up in the COlumbia Gorge. Had to do SOMETHING, right?

      I’ve also turned into somewhat of a bike collector…. they are at least as fascinating as the older classic cars, take up a LOT less space, and still are a fascinating study. Somewhere near a dozen of them now… some of which I ride. My annual mileage has shrunk from a high of 6000 about 20 years ago, I still get in close to 2000 a year, but living in the Pacific NothWET tends to put a damper on yar round riding. The water, salt, silt, are death on the lightweight bikes and their precision drive trains. Not to mention my own aversion to being cold AND wet at the same time.
      I know.. sissieboy, right? So what?

      • GREAT stories, Tio! I read them, and feel like I’ve been there, vicariously!

        Ya know, even what kids I remember that did have asthma and such back then….seems like no matter how bad, and no matter how dire the prognosis…they all lost it sooner or later as they aged a little. My guess is that it was the childhood vaccines causing it.

        Seems like as the number and frequency of vaccines increase…so does the asthma and allergies and everything- and more so now, than when kids grew up in smoke-filled homes.

      • Hi Tionico,

        Great story. Thanks for sharing. Wow, your Italian road bike had a jockey stick front shifter, that’s old school. For those who don’t know, there was a lever attached directly to the front derailleur, requiring the rider to reach down between his knees to access the shifter. The first improvement was down tube shifters, then bar-end shifters, then integrated “brifters”, now full electronic.

        I spent a summer camping in Crested Butte, 7 miles from town, right after college. The most intense ride I did was a trip to Aspen from CB. We started on a sunny, warm morning up Pearl pass. Halfway up, it started to rain. Near the top, hiking through a scree field, it started to hail, then snow. Made it back down the other side to Aspen, cold, wet, tired and hungry. We spent two days in Aspen, then decided to get back to CB riding over Maroon pass and Star pass. We got hopelessly lost, climbed at least 6,000 feet, ended up at the top of some pass when the trail disappeared. Saw a dirt road in the distance and had to hike down on unrideable terrain. Finally hooked up with what I thought was Brush Creek road, turned out to be Cement Creek, which put us way further away from town than I expected. Anyway, that day we rode over 70 miles, mostly in extreme conditions. We were tooling back on the main road into Crested Butte when some guy on a bike passed us and muttered something that my wife took to be an insult. She exclaimed, “fuck him”, jammed it into the big ring, stood up and hammered the last 7 miles, leaving that guy in the dust. I said, “fuck it, and kept crawling along at a slow pace. Met her at the bar twenty minutes after she got there and had burritos and margaritas. Holy crap, that was a tough day.


  26. My first bicycle was a red Western Auto Tricycle,,,, then to small bicycle then to a Columbia paper boys bicycle as a teen. It was a beautiful red and built like a tank. I carried four, sometimes five satchels of papers for the local newspapers. That and lawn mowing made enough to buy my prized Honda 50. Today the coppers would probably bust me for not having a permit. From there to a Honda 350 scrambler to a Chevy Nomad. From there I got my Private Pilots license.

    Yes Eric,,, you are correct in how that little bit of freedom makes one yearn for even more. Problem today is, as you say, the saaafety folks and government regulations which takes the fun out of everything. The Millennials today are trapped and funneled into their ithingies and other digital gizmos which are the chains of their prison and a life sentence of depression.

      • Honda made a 350 scrambler too; it was the SL350. That was GORGEOUS bike! I’ll never forget the first one I saw @ Lebanon State Forest in NJ. It was burgundy with high, chromed exhaust pipes on the left side…

  27. Eric,
    I was born in 1961, so when we rode to the park to play some unsupervised, uncoached, nonuniformed, snack free baseball, not everyone had a bike. This put one kid up front riding the handle bars and another kid riding behind the peddler on the back end of a banana seat. It goes without saying that one of the kids is carrying a duffle bag full of mitts, balls and bats. We got hot and sweaty, bruised and battered, and when we got thirsty we drank from a nearby hose. We all thrived in this wonderful environment…I just hope that it was saaaaaaaaaaaaafe too!

  28. I was listening to an Adam Corolla podcast a while back and he was talking about how his son had crashed his bike and landed on his face, doing considerable damage. Adam thought back to his own childhood and how he had ridden bikes all the time – and a unicycle – and he had crashed too many times to count but he had never once landed on his face. So he asked his son what had happened – how did he land on his face instead of bracing for the fall? His son said that he had been too scared to let go of the bike! So his hands were locked onto the bike instead of preventing him from landing on his head. That really just says it all. Today, kids all wear helmets when biking, but wouldn’t it make more sense just to learn how to fall so that you didn’t land on your head?

  29. But where will the kids of today go? They have no “woods” to play in, no vacant lots, and certainly no side streets.

    Of course all those things still exist, but might as well not:

    The woods are all fenced off and posted no trespassing because the insurance agent and lawyers told the land owner to do it because you never know who’s going to sue you, start a fire or other such nonsense.

    The vacant lot, well, probably not after the housing booms and bubbles. Or it’s becoming a tent city full of filthy drug addicted homeless.

    Playing in an empty side street will summon the wrath of the busybodies and AGWs on the parents.

    So instead it’s off to the planned playdate location, sporting activity or indoor family fun center. Too far away to ride a bike and besides mom and dad need to get out of the house for a little socialization with the other parents.

    And worst of all, those places away from parents might lead to smoking, or playing doctor, or boredom. And then next thing you know the kids aren’t kids anymore, and the parents aren’t their best friends.

  30. Eric, this kind of childhood isn’t gone just because of the government, though it contributes, but it’s due to parents being idiots. I’m doing my best to teach my kid that nobody is his boss, that he can do what he wants, and as soon as he demonstrates that he can bike safely by himself, I will let him go out by himself. We live in easy biking distance to a small downtown with candy and ice cream shops, and I really hope that he’s going down there by himself by the time he’s seven, I just have to teach him how to deal with traffic and drivers who are hostile to people on bikes. You should see the looks I get from parents at his day care when I buckle him into the back seat without a massive space-program style seat, just a cushion to raise him to the proper seatbelt height. I’m probably breaking a lot of laws with this normal behavior.

    Check out the current recommendations for car seats. Kids have to be tied down like Hannibal Lecter until they’re about 12.

    • My boy is six. He rides in the front seat unless mom is with us. No cushion or belt unless he wants to–which is never. None of my kids have car seats after they are about a year and a half. The seats are expired too. I refuse to go buy new seats simply because they arbitrarily expired.

      My three oldest kids ride their bikes all over. No helmets. No adult supervision.

        • Eric,

          You’re welcome. I just turned 40 this year. I’m just at the tail end of the Gen X generation, or the beginning of the millennial’s depending on who you ask. I think there are a few of us born up to about 1984-5 that lived some of this life you talk about. We rode bikes everywhere. I rode to school, the local store/butcher shop until the winter weather didn’t allow it. I sat on my dads lap to drive. We never wore seat belts. My dad gave me rides on his Suzuki road bike with no helmets for either one of us.

          I do and encourage the same things with my children. Ironically, the safety cult always cries “for the children”, when, in reality, I’m the one actually doing what I do–for the children.

          I have a daughter 9, son 6, daughter 4, and two 6 month twin daughters. I am doing everything I can to ensure that my 5 kids–especially my son–aren’t clovers and worshipers of the safety cult. No government schooling, no supervised play and no organized sports until they are older and start asking about it or really want to play.

          I love my kids, so I want to provide them with as much of the freedom that I was afforded in this un-free world. The Soviets are all around. I don’t need to be one of them. Hopefully it’s not off to the gulag for me before my youngest are raised.

  31. Eric,

    I had a spider bike similar to those in the opening pic. They were the BEST for popping wheelies too! Your weight is toward the rear, making it easier to lift the front wheel. As a kid, I didn’t feel complete UNTIL I could pop a wheelie! Then, I wanted to be able to ‘ride a wheelie’, or hold it as long as I could.

    The ULTIMATE spider bike was the Schwinn Manta Ray. I wanted one of those so bad when I was a kid! It was bright yellow, had 24″ wheels, and five speeds. That’s when Schwinns were REAL Schwinns, i.e. made in Chicago, USA…

        • Mine too.

          I was camping, 12 years old when the folks next to our campsite loaned me one of their scooters, thus allowing me a first taste of motorcycling.

          That would never happen now.

          • Had the bike with training wheels when I was about 4. Training wheels came off in a month or two. In nearly 50 years of bicycling the only serious injury occurred when I was about 5. I was learning to ride with no hands – turned my head to wave to mom & dad. Of course the bike turned with my balance shift, hit the curb, over the handlebars and head first into a telephone pole. I was out for an hour or two, woke up in the hospital.

            oddly, I can also name every vehicle I have ever owned. And, until recently, could do all maintenance and most repairs.

            I’ve only ever bought one new car in 1994, it was a 1995 Nissan 240 coupe, 2.4 4 cyl. rwd the limiter kicked in at 120 mph the hood opened from the windshield. Damn I miss that car. I think I paid $12,000. lol the stereo I put in cost 1/3 the value of the car. On the hwy it got about 35 mpg if I kept my foot out and cruised at 75.

    • Hey MM we had several of those Schwinn made in US bikes and they could take a beating. I liked to run into trees and hit the tree roots sticking out of the ground and lift the front wheel at the same time. And feel the back wheel hit the root at the same time as the seat came up to meet my ass. We had a road next to us that had a steep hill at the end. One day i got a speedometer for my bike. Went to 50 mph. One day I pedaled my bike as hard as I could and watched the speedo peg past 50. Then had to hit the brakes to avoid the fence across the dead end. Took all my energy to get to 50 on the level road before the hill. No helmet, none in those days. But what a thrill, going past 50, almost fast enough to go out onto the interstate highway being built across the fence.

      • I had one of those “bike speedos” too, lol! It said 50 mph, truth was, pegged, you were going 25-30, tops. It was still fun, and as a kid, it sure FELT like 50! When I started riding a motorcyle at 13, I found out what 50 mph really was, lol!

    • At 8, I got a well-used Schwinn Spyder, Green with Silver lettering, no front fender. you could spin the ape hangers and front wheel in a full 360, or just 180, and ride around with handlebars backwards, lol! It had really extreme low-gearing for a one-speed, and was perfectly balanced for wheelies. But if you slid off the seat stopping too fast, the steering stem top nut was a crotch-crusher!

  32. 8 years of “Clinton-ization” decidedly flung open the door for Uncle to come in and “have his way” with anyone, and everyone. 1992 was the beginning of the end for any and all manner of “freedom”, thanks to the plague of pant-suited safety-nazis and their castrated male drones, formerly known as “husbands”.

  33. I personally HATE the adult cyclists. They have miles and miles of trails specifically for riding bikes and, what do they do? They ride on the streets, streets with no shoulder, during rush hour. Idiots. And if you happen to get in the way of one, they will scream and yell and throw a hissy fit. Instead of cities making more bike lanes on streets, they should BAN THEM!

    • Hi Bill,

      Another libertarian unleashing his inner authoritarian. BTW, we “don’t have miles and miles of trails specifically for riding bikes”. At best, “we” have access to shared use trails that are completely inadequate if you need to get to a particular place. I have been riding on roads for 45 years, in that time I have never inconvenienced a competent driver. Also, I have never seen a cyclist “scream and yell and throw a hissy fit” merely for a car getting in their way (although I’m sure it happens occasionally). However, I have seen many drivers intentionally harass and endanger cyclists, occasionally to the point of actually hitting a cyclist. This is the behavior that cyclists correctly object to. As has been tirelessly pointed out, there are some asshole cyclists, but they are a minority.

      Drivers are endangered/inconvenienced far more by other drivers than the occasional cyclist. But, for some reason, bike haters obsess over the rare times that they are actually inconvenienced by a cyclist and seem to ignore the numerous, daily occurrences of such perpetrated by other drivers.

      Here’s a thought, maybe those drivers lacking the low level of skill required to safely and easily pass a cyclist, should be BANNED from the road. Of course, I’m not serious about this, I don’t wish to ban you, or anyone else. I don’t care about your irrational hatred of cyclists, unless you try to harm me.


      • Several times I saw adult bicyclists riding 2 aside in the road doing about 12 mph with traffic backed up for miles on a two lane road. This went on for several miles. Not once did they try to go into single formation to the right of the road. I got around them with my bike but even had to go into the oncoming lane to do it. And I got flipped off.

        One time I spoke to one of them, he claimed he had as much right on the road as anyone else. I mentioned he had no license plates and not needing gas he paid very little for his ‘right of way’. I was told where I could go….

        As a motorcyclist I have some sympathy but I can stay with traffic,,, have a paid for license plate and pay fuel taxes when I gas up. I can’t see backing up traffic just to make a point.

        • Ken,

          My sentiments are with Jeremy. No, bicyclists don’t pay for gas or road taxes; but then again, they don’t inflict the same degree of damage or wear & tear on the roads, either, thanks to their lighter weight. Furthermore, bicyclists have as much LEGAL RIGHT to be on the roads as you do.

          That said, as a cyclist, it pisses me off when groups of cyclists don’t ride single file in traffic. Riding double file is ok when either there is enough space for both cars and bicycles, or when there’s little vehicular traffic. Otherwise, they should ride single file. That’s why I never joined a cycling club; too many of them ride like a-holes, and I don’t want to be associated with them.

          That said, the leader can’t stay up front; he’s doing a lot more work to move the air out of the way than the cyclists behind him. The leader has to rotate out every so often. He does this by pulling out, then dropping back to the rear of the pack. This will create a sort of double file condition for a few seconds while the changeover is made.

        • Hi Ken,

          You write: “I can’t see backing up traffic just to make a point.”

          I agree completely! This does happen but, in my considerable experience, it is very rare. Also, Brent, Nunzio, myself and others who cycle and frequent this blog, despise those people. I have never defended them; I consider their actions selfish, inconsiderate and detrimental to other cyclists, and drivers.

          What I, and others, object to is the blanket condemnation of all cyclists, and the call for banning us. Every day, as a driver, I am inconvenienced or endangered by the actions of other drivers, multiple times. At major intersections, 2 – 4 cars routinely run red turn arrows, usually after the lead group crawls into the intersection, which cuts in half the number of drivers who could have gone through, had they not been clueless. People routinely change lanes without looking, tailgate or suddenly slam on brakes for no apparent reason. People routinely block access to side-streets, preventing cars from turning, even though it costs them nothing to let someone through; they are stopped for God’s sake.

          I, and I’m pretty sure all the other cyclists on this blog, have never initiated a post with a statement of hatred for other road users, nor a call that they be banned. We’ve never posted videos showing a cyclist maliciously harassing or endangering other drivers and thought it was funny. We’ve never claimed that our desire to use the roads as we wish, supersedes your right to use them as well.

          Many assume that we’re the ones obsessed with this, but we’re not. We’ve only responded to comments initiated by others, essentially calling us selfish assholes who should either ban ourselves from the roads, or literally be banned by law.

          Finally, there are very few cyclists who are not also drivers. So, the gas tax argument is mostly a canard.

          BTW, I appreciate the measured tone of your response.

          Kind Regards,

            • Hey Eric,

              Thanks, you perfectly captured, and expanded on what I meant in an earlier comment.


          • I personally have no problem with cyclists,,, this particular time it was hot,,, the oil temp was going north of 350. Many very angry car drivers which could get serious.

            I could get around because my bike was pretty quick and I didn’t need a much space from the oncoming traffic. From what I gathered down the road, a cop finally intervened and forced the cyclists to allow the traffic to clear.

            What bothers me is it will be folks like you and other courteous cyclists that will get burnt when some law is passed limiting your rights because of a few bad apples.

            As for the license plates and fuel, I agree with you. No big deal. That said I have a small 50cc Chinese Scooter and a Whizzer Motor Bike. I voluntarily put plates on both so other drivers would realize they were road worthy and legal. With the Whizzer I stay on the right of the right white line. Most have no trouble passing.


            • Hey Ken,

              Thanks again, given the tone of your previous response, I assumed that you did not.

              I appreciate your comments.


          • Hi Colin,

            I’m an avid cyclist and have been since I was a kid, and I’m confident that very few drivers will be convinced by the article you post, it is more likely to cement the, mostly false, idea that cyclists are selfish assholes. After all, blocking traffic so cyclists can “talk to each other”, is not likely to resonate with drivers stuck behind the group.

            As a cyclist and a driver, I’m not convinced by any of the points.

            – they are more visible to motorists.

            Really? I’ve never failed to notice a single cyclist on the road, let alone a train of cyclists riding in single file.

            – they signal to passing drivers to give them more room (and pass in the oncoming lane)

            No, they piss off drivers who could otherwise pass them without matching their pace and waiting until the oncoming lane is clear.

            – they shorten the length of the cyclists’ train, allowing drivers to get past them more easily.

            This is nonsense, the amount of time required to pass a group of side by side riders if the driver has to slow down to match their pace and wait until the oncoming lane is clear will always exceed that of passing a group of single file riders if the driver can maintain, more or less, his speed.

            Ken was complaining about cyclists intentionally blocking traffic and asserting their “legal” right to do so. He is right to do so, and thankfully, such cyclists are rare. He is also correct in observing that those few cyclists negatively impact the rest of us.

            From the article you post, “with Rule 66 of the Highway Code only stipulating that cyclists should ride in single file ‘on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends’ ”

            Look, I’m not opposed to riding abreast if the situation warrants. It’s enjoyable and adds to the experience. But, the roads are shared; it is incumbent on everyone who uses them to be aware of, and considerate to, others on the road.

            Kind Regards,

    • You hate the cyclists you can see. For every moron tying up traffic on a main road there are hundreds of others who are intelligent enough to ride over a block or two where there’s no traffic at all. And I’d venture many of those riders aren’t all that enthusiastic about being there either. Of course sometimes there’s no other choice. If you have to get somewhere and there’s only one road, that’s the road you’re going to have to take. But 90% of the time there’s probably an alternative route that’s just fine.

    • Bill, most of those “trails” go nowhere. The trails that do go somewhere take a stupidly long path curving in and out. The trails have numerous idiots on them. Pedestrian and otherwise. Speeds are much lower on trails than streets and may have 8mph speed limits. Up in WI I’ve even seen toll bike trails.

      Roads are faster and more direct to get from A to B. And the reason you find bicyclists on major roads is because people much like you didn’t want a grid system of streets because they didn’t want outsiders driving down “their street”.

      I don’t like biking arterial streets but I do because of a lack of options. That said the worst incidents I’ve had are usually on lesser roads that go somewhere. See motorists like yourself use those to get away from “traffic”. Then they are enraged because there’s a bicyclist on a 35mph two lane residential road they want go 50mph on.

    • Road bikes do NOT ride on dirt or gravel trails. Deal with it.
      ROAD bikes are for the, uhm, get this, ROADS?

      By using ROADS to get fro home to wherever and back, I am NOT using my CAR to block the road in front of you. MY tax dollars build those roads, and my vehicle fees also, not to mention the halfbuckagallon road use taxes…… but gummmit dweebs have now figured out how to triple the actual cost of any highway project by all their make work, divisioin of labour, union scale, and other rules, so our road use tax dollars now build about a quarter mile of road for what used to be the cost of a full mile, And that’s not to mention all of the stupid useless nuisance “add ons” now mandated for SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaafety on those new “roads”.

      I will continue to brave the hzards in the form of angry self-centred drivers like you as I ride my BIKE on the ROADS for which I have paid. And unless one or your kind manage to HIT me and put me in a pine box, I will outlive your ilk by a few decades because I am USING my body as an instrument ofwork…… precisely what it was designed to DO.

      Yes, I also drive.. but being a cyclist myself (thousands of road miles per year, all of it saving vehicle miles and “pollution”) And it is no big deal making reasonable space for those out there on two wheels. Now that aside, I WILL admint there are plenty of egghead cyclists out there… three abreast in your face clogging streets idiots on two wheels. No more a nuisance than their equivalent on for wheels… tailgating 55 in the fifth lane over when thousands pass on their right at a safe legal 70, holding back when the light chnages, AFRAID to enter the intersection for their left turn until they can’t SEE any oncoming traffic, or, the worst, using roundabouts like four way stop signs, refusing to move into the Ring of Terror until they cannot SEE another car coming…..

      • “Road bikes do NOT ride on dirt or gravel trails. ”

        I’ve used my road bike lots of places where it isn’t supposed to go. Including single track dirt trails. Some of them pretty rough. I get through via skills.

        However people like Bill are the people I have to deal with around here. I don’t even pass motorists anymore because it makes them so angry.

  34. Great article Eric.
    And why I had my kids on bikes as early as possible. My younger brother held the record for riding a 2 wheeler back in the early 70’s, we believed it was 3 yrs and a few month, only because he had to try and keep up with us. And it was spoken loudly at every family gathering for 30+ years.
    So when I had our first boy, I told my bro that I was gonna beat him. As an engineer and motorcycle racer I knew the physics of riding 2 wheels and why it is hard to teach a kid to transition from 3 to 2. It’s all about counter steering. 3-4 wheels don’t, 2 you do.
    I started him at 2.5. Well, did I catch a lot of crap from everyone. Didn’t care. Bloody elbows and all. he was riding at 2 years – 10months and his record still holds at the local bike shop. (I told the shop owner to display it to hopefully sell more bikes, haha).
    That kid was smokin bikes at 5-6, so I naturally put him on a motor. Beware, not smart to put very young kids on motors, they just don’t have the thought process to keep them out of serious danger. 7-9 would have been smarter. Just FYI. He lived though, haha…..
    It’s just physics and a little determination.

  35. Hey Eric,

    Thanks, great article. It captured the spirit of freedom that most of us took for granted as kids.

    What I find really depressing is that many parents who grew up back then have been infected with the helicopter parenting pathology. Years ago, I visited one of my oldest friends and childhood cycling buddies (we did just as you describe). Anyway, he had his son covered in padding and helmeted just to ride a bike in his Back Yard!

    Bummed me out,

  36. well written. Describes my situation growing up perfectly. I pedaled all over my town. Sometimes after sneaking out in the dead of night ha. Went camping with my friends one night and got back before the morning.


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