Pedal to the Metal

I live next door to a five-year old.  It’s fun to see her growing up; she has a different temperament than YA had as a child.  On Thursday, she was sporting a brand new pink helmet and then her dad took the training wheels off her bike.

They started in the backyard, on the grass – doesn’t every parent do this, hoping for a softer landing than on concrete?  On Saturday, they went up to the high school, where there is a lot more flat grass.  Then on Sunday afternoon, as she was working on it in the driveway, her dad let go of the seat and she was biking!  She practiced for about another 30 minutes; she still needs a little shove to get going but other than that, she’s got it!

It made me think about YA learning to ride a bike.  We didn’t even try in our yard, since it’s very bumpy, but we did practice at the high school.  YA was not a natural rider and for a couple of weeks she was incapable of seeing an obstacle and then being able to avoid it.  I remember thinking that learning to ride a bike is way more complicated than it appears on the surface.

I was five when I learned, starting in the grass like my little neighbor did and eventually graduating to the elementary school parking lot.  I still remember the thrill of realizing that my dad wasn’t holding me up any longer and I was flying along on my own.  According to Nonny, I fell and scraped my knee rather badly but I don’t remember that part at all, just the wind on my face and my legs pumping the pedals!

Do you remember learning to ride a bike?

 

 

78 thoughts on “Pedal to the Metal”

  1. I once encountered a poem–it might have been on Garrison’s Writer’s Almanac–that presented a child learning to ride a bicycle as a metaphor for the larger process of a kid growing up and assuming control of their own life. The poem described a parent who pushed to start the little rider, then stood there anxiously as the kid wobbled off into the future. I thought, “Damn! That’s the perfect metaphor for watching your kid grow up.” I remembered doing that for my own daughter.

    About a week later, I saw another poem in which a parent removes the training wheels and watches a kid wobble off into the future. Weeks later, I saw a third poem about that same exact moment. So, yeah, that’s an iconic moment, alright. Somebody should capture that moment in a poem.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I don’t remember learning to ride but I certainly remember my first bike—a green 24” Schwinn Spitfire with no frills or accessories except the occasional playing card clipped in the spokes with a clothespin. Packs of us would ride those bikes for miles in every direction. You backpedaled to brake. Bike locks were unheard of.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. i do remember.
    i was kind of old, maybe 7 or 8
    i remember standing the bike up next to the curb after getting the pedals set just so and crawlinling on to push with that upper foot as you got the first 3 feet of the road back behind you. about the 10th try it was a success and i went until i came around the block and basically dumped the bike in order to stop. mike herboldt was there to cheer me on and loan me his bike without fear i’d scraping the paint . his was an old beater with paint from the coffee cans in his dads shop bench. his dad had the best shop bench… mike taught me mumbly peg. how to cut tire inner tubes to make giant rubber band gun, how to eat tomato’s with a salt shaker out in the garden and how to ride a bike. son is 35 now but still saves his teenage mutant ninja turtles bike with special memories
    turtles on the half shell

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Oh yes, I remember it well. I was five, and my bike was turquoise. It didn’t have training wheels, and I didn’t have a helmet. Nobody did.

    I learned to ride on the paved street in front of our house, I don’t think anyone considered it an option to ride it on a lawn. At the time, there weren’t that many people in Stubbekøbing that had cars, so traffic wasn’t a concern.

    My uncle Leo and Kathleen, the twenty year old daughter of mom’s best friend, taught me how to ride a bike. They’d take turns running alongside the bike, holding onto a broom handle fastened behind the seat. They kept me from tipping over, and encouraged me to keep pedaling and remember to keep the handlebars straight. I was a bit wobbly a first, and it took several days before I got the hang of it. Eventually Kathleen thought I was stable enough, and she let go of the broom handle. I cruised on by myself for a short distance, until I realized I was riding by myself. Then I panicked, forgot to steer, and promptly crashed. I skinned a knee and my hands, but not badly enough that I wanted to quit.

    During the ensuing six months or so, I pretty much had skinned knees and hands all the time until I perfected my technique. I remember on one occasion I bicycled through downtown to the local dairy to by a pail of whipping cream for mom. On the way home I somehow managed to run into the back of a parked car, spilling the cream all over myself. On another occasion I crashed with a basket full of freshly picked raspberries. That caused quite the stir among onlookers because it looked like I was badly hurt with all of the smashed raspberries all over me.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It was a pretty common practice, possibly because training wheels had not made an entry into the Danish market at that time.

        Like

  5. My bike was probably the first in Ames to have a gear selector near the right grip. Everybody else had a Schwinn type of bike with balloon tires and no choice of gears. Since Ames was built on the site of an old marsh, the land is level, and I didn’t need more than three gears. Schwinn eventually became annoyed by the presence of European style bikes with gears. They promoted their bikes with the slogan: Steer with your hands and brake with your feet! As if using your hands to brake was somehow unAmerican.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never had a bike with gears or anything other than coaster brakes until I came to the US. Can you imagine riding a bike with only one gear and coaster brakes all the way from Switzerland to Denmark? Seemed perfectly normal to me at the time.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I didn’t get a bike with gears until I was an adult and I have to admit that I’m still not good at it.I tend to leave the bike in a middle gear and just leave it like that most of the time.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. What I mostly remember is riding my little red Schwinn (a hand-me-down from my brother) up and down the sidewalk with its training wheels on – only one training wheel was attached higher than the other, so I could only use one at a time. It made for awkward biking. And a weird experience once I gave up on the training wheels as I had to think about biking fully upright. We lived on a slight hill, so starting was a little easier – could point south and have the advantage of a hill to help me get started. I do remember using that hill for awhile, even if I needed to go the other direction in the end.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. My first bike was red. I always wanted those streamer things that trailed out of the handle bars, but I never got them. I vaguely remember training wheels, but I don’t think I had them long. One street near our house had a pretty steep incline. There was a lot of fine sand at the bottom, and if you braked there you would skid and crash. The closest house at the bottom was home to Sparky, a terrier type dog who chased us as we sailed past. He nipped.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. i took so long to ride a bike because i loved my tractor. before big wheels they had tractors with 3 wheels and pedals like a trike and a steering wheel instead of handle bars

    i lived i brainerd from age 1 to age 2 1/2 and the tractor was my salvation. i had high energy and i remember riding all over town i would head off to where my heart called me. my parents got reports of my showing up at the church services of nearby churches and the story that lives on is the one about when i went out to visit my grandparents horses which were stabled about 5 miles out of town
    i was at the stop light waiting to go out on the highway and trying to remember if you went in green or on red and a mettlesome police officer pulled me over and took me home.
    i wore the tires off that tractor when we moved to bloomington. bloomington has everything. streets with hills and parks dirt roads, corn fields rope wings a tree in the middle of the road on the way to the store a mile away the river the woods. my tractor and later my bike connected me to all the possibilities the world offered.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. It would be hard to convey to younger folks how empowering it was to have a bicycle in the 1950s. We rode everywhere, and nobody worried about “stranger danger” sorts of fears. My mother was hyper-protective, but she didn’t know where I was when I left the house, not within three or four miles. Bikes were our magic carpets then. They took us anywhere we wanted to go.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I so agree Steve. I think back on my childhood when I would leave the house in the morning and not come back for hours. No phones no check- ins. In fact when I was in the fifth and six grade, we used to ride our bikes over to the pool in the summertime and then hang out at the pool during the day. No adults just kids. So different from today’s world.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Kelly and I have been talking about that freedom in regard to daughter. Daughter likes to take walks and usually we make sure the gates are closed and she walks up the road. But one day, when I had farm stuff being delivered, we thought she could walk in the pasture. And that’s the first day she got stuck in the mud.
        The next time I took her out on some field roads to be sure she knew where she was going and we let her walk that way. And she went off in a totally different direction, got into the neighbors, and crossed a small creek before I tracked her down and got her out of the weeds. Mid summer those weeds would be nettles and such. So we talked about finding a better place to walk. She went that way, which eventually led her off into another swamp and got stuck again. Gosh. We know how much we all walked around without limits when we were kids, and we LOVE her to be able to do that around here. But first she’s gotta learn about weeds, and next she’s gotta learn not to get stuck in the swamps…
        And when we were kids, mom and dad were not tracking my movements via my phone. There’s another technology use!

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Why don’t you mark a path with colored ribbons or something to show here where to walk and how to get home.

          Like

        2. That’s not a bad idea. Our place is pretty visible from wherever she’s walking so I’m not worried so
          Much about her getting lost, it’s her leaning- or becoming- more adventuresome.
          Like the other day, we looked and talked about where to go. Then she didn’t. Darn independent kid!

          Liked by 1 person

  10. I vaguely remember learning how to ride. About age five, since we were living in St. Louis Park by then. I don’t remember using training wheels, or falling much, if at all. I probably learned on my neighbor’s banana-seat whatever-they-called that kind of bike back then (the term eludes me).

    I was most proud that I learned how to ride days (hours? minutes?) before my older sister did. Or at least that’s how I remember it. 🙂 She’s 16 months older, so to me, that was a big deal.

    I’ve only owned three bicycles in my life. (He said with some sense of wasted pride.) My trusty old Schwinn one-speed with a red body and silver fenders; a Raleigh Grand Prix 10-speed my parents gave me for HS graduation (No way any of us kids would get a car for graduation!), and my current ride, a Trek 1000-C 24-speed touring bike. For some reason, I can’t let go of that classic riding style and get a road bike with those upright handlebars and a cushy seat.
    Call me a masochist. But I’m not an idiot. I don’t ride 100 miles at a pop. Ten is plenty for me in a day.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 3 people

      1. On that trip home from Basel, I did several of those. Unfortunately, this was before spandex cycling pants were invented. Riding that far in a pair of regular trousers rubbing against the inside of your thighs was not a good idea. I’ll not get graphic, let’s just say, I could have been a member of the Ministry of Silly Walks for days afterwards.

        Liked by 4 people

  11. Hi- I always wanted the 20” Schwinn Stingray. Never got it. Always had hand me down bikes and usually a girls bike to boot.
    For my maybe 10th birthday I got a used 24” bike. My legs were only 22” long and I had quite a fuss about that. Dad was sure I needed a 24” and not that 20”. I don’t think he ever rode a bike in his life but he knew what I needed! (Sarcasm)
    Also for my birthday, got the banana seat, a headlight and a flag for the back. Rode around that night waiting for it to get dark enough for the light to be effective.
    Yep, I too started on grass. All gravel around here of course.
    Neighbors driveway is a steep hill. Maybe 200 yards downhill. Ran Into Steve at the bottom because I got going too fast and couldn’t steer. I also remember trying to switch hands on the handlebars. That was not a good idea.
    There was a girls bike I called my train bike. I could ride it on the cow paths getting cows. Small enough to be maneuverable and it was kinda fun.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ben’s comment reminds me of the old boy/girl bike distinction. My buddies would have died of embarrassment if they were seen on a girls’ bike. But, man, do I remember the sensation of driving into a tree, falling forward and landing hard on the bar! Do that once, and you’ll spend the rest of your life making sure you don’t do it again.

      Liked by 4 people

  12. Rise and FInd Your Balance, Baboons,

    People seem to remember this event well, and so do I. I was 4 or 5 years old. My mother had found a rusted boys’ bike somewhere for me to learn on. It was rickety requiring that the fat, bald tires on the spoked wheels be filled with air often. She brought it home for me, then she spent time running behind the bike, holding on to the seat until I found my balance and rode off. There were no training wheels. I must have complained about this bike, because I remember her telling me that I was so lucky to learn to ride on “smooth” cement instead of the gravel driveway that she learned to ride on.

    I learned very early on in this process that I did not want to lose my balance and land on the bar that made this a boys’ bike. It was so painful. After learning to ride, my knees were covered with scabs and cuts in some phase of healing. But like Steve, I rode all over town. It must be said, the town was so small that if there was any trouble, someone would contact one of my parents by phone and they would know about it before I arrived home.

    Three years later my sister learned to ride. This was very difficult for her due to complications of untreated RH factor that affected her coordination. She sported a used, restless GIRLs’ 24 inch bicycle WITH training wheels. I was jealous. It took her a long time to master balance. Years later she had a terrible bike accident after running my “English bike” with narrow tires into a draining grate and flipping herself over the handlebars onto the street. She was black and blue for weeks afterward and never rode a bike again.

    Liked by 4 people

        1. Good grief. I spend a couple of hours over engineering a Mother’s Day card for Nonny and look what you guys get up to. LOL.

          Liked by 1 person

  13. I was I think 6, and we finally had enough $ to buy me a small blue BRAND NEW bike from the local hardware store – I know this because there is a photo of me with said bike in the shop. Until then I had been using my aunt’s old adult size one with some guide wheels, so I’d never sat down on a bicycle seat while moving, just had to stand up and pump. The learning was just as VS describes, on the grass with dad…

    It’s interesting that we didn’t have to go through this with Joel. We had, inherited a tiny (girls’) bike from a friend, maybe 16″. When he was about 5, he could sit on the seat with feet touching ground, could push off from stationary posn. and was able to balance with his feet out to the sides – he basically taught himself.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. May 4th marks two important anniversaries for me. Today is the 75th anniversary of Denmark’s liberation from German occupation during WWII. The anniversary is still celebrated every May 4th with live candles in the windows of Danish homes, and that’s how we’ll mark it at our house, as well.

      The second anniversary is more personal. Today marks the 25th anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, so maybe I’ll light an extra candle in celebration that I’m still around, something I don’t take for granted.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Just remembered, today also marks the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings. I’ll definitely have to light more candles tonight.

        Liked by 4 people

  14. The classic Schwinn was the “24-inch tank” model. The number refers to the size of the wheels. Tank model Schwinns had a metal tank just below the bar; like the gas tanks of motorcycles. Inside was a battery and a buzzer that emitted a bleat when you pushed a button. But the tanks were not weather sealed, and I never saw one that had not rusted until the horn became mute.

    Those big balloon tires were inefficient because they increased the pedal effort needed. But in my hometown in the Fifties, sidewalks didn’t end in wheelchair-friendly ramps. Sidewalks ended in curbs. It wasn’t smart to do this, but you could go down a curb and even go up the curb on the other side . . . IF you had those cushy balloon tires.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never saw one of those bikes with the balloon tires until I arrived in the US. Don’t know if it was because it was unthinkable that you’d ride your bike on the sidewalk. It was just not acceptable, and you didn’t do it.

      Stubbekøbing was a small enough town that there weren’t bike paths anywhere, so everybody rode in the street on the right hand side, with the flow of traffic. And you used hand signals to indicate your intention to turn right or left, and stop. I don’t think most of us little kids learned or mastered that until it was time to go to school at age seven. If we lived a certain distance from school, we were permitted to ride our bikes there. In Stubbekøbing that was very few students, most of us lived within walking distance, but kids from farms in surrounding areas could ride their bikes to town. At the school there were racks for the bikes, each bike equipped with its own individual combination lock on the rear wheel. Don’t really know what for, bike thefts were so rare that I never experienced or heard of one while living there.

      When we moved to Lyngby, most busy streets had separate bike paths, and bicyclists always had the right of way. It was also assumed that bicyclists would obey all rules of traffic, including traffic lights and signs, and have a functioning light after dark. It was not uncommon to be stopped by the police and be issued a warning, or even a citation, if you failed to comply with these rules, especially a missing light.

      In reading these comments, I’m once again reminded of the very different bike cultures of Denmark and the US. Here’s a link to an article written by a couple of American expats, giving you a pretty good insight into this phenomenon:
      https://ourhouseinaarhus.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/this-explains-so-much/

      Liked by 3 people

        1. A major difference to this day, I think, is that Danes and some other Europeans think of bike riding as a mode of transportation. Here it’s thought of as recreation, something you can do for fun if you’re so inclined, but not as a necessity. That means that the infrastructure needed to support adult transportation on bikes, hasn’t been developed here. It certainly has never been a priority.

          I’m amazed every time I’m in Denmark how much emphasis is put on making biking a viable alternative to driving a car. It was in its infancy when I left the country in 1965, but even at that time, way ahead of where America is today. Since then it has expanded with incredible creativity, it remains a high priority there.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. When we visited the Netherlands, the various kinds of bikes were so interesting. Amsterdam has such an active bike culture that they have developed cargo bikes, bikes with up to 6 baby seats, and bikes that are not locked and anyone can just grab and ride. Everyone rode them. There were cars present in the city, but they were secondary to bikes and public transport.

          Liked by 2 people

        3. Those two cities, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, have a friendly rivalry as to who can inspire more people to ride their bikes.

          Like

  15. My first bike was a 20 inch Schwinn. Initially it had training wheels but like Anna’s bike, they were uneven which made for wobbly riding. Both my sisters and I first learned on the grass but our yard was uneven so riding was tough. Our small town streets had not been paved yet so that when we moved to riding on the street, there were plenty of scraped knees and elbows but riding itself was easier. Like others who grew up in small (< 100 people) towns, my friends and I were on our bikes all day. Sometimes we would just dump them on someone's yard or in a field or by the road while we went off to play. The bikes were always there when we came back for them. Of course, in such a small town everybody knew whose bike belong to whom so stealing was a nonissue. When I was finally tall enough for a 24 inch bike (no gears/coaster brakes) I did get streamers for the handlebars. I could never ride a "boys" bike – I was too short to get my leg over the horizontal bar. My younger (by 4 years) sister's first "real" bike was the Schwinn Stingray – I was so jealous of the banana seat and high handlebars. Nowadays that's probably the only bike I could comfortably ride. My shoulders and wrists won't let me ride bikes with drop or straight across handlebars. The bike I own (which rarely gets ridden) is my "Granny" bike – big comfy seat and handlebars which allow me to ride sitting straight up.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. The amount of time I’ve spent on my hands and knees trying to get a derailed chain back on after trying to change gears is considerable. A much messier job than fixing a punctured tire, which I’ve numerous times as well.

      The first five or ten speed bikes were just not that sophisticated, either that or I didn’t know how to shift properly (which I wouldn’t rule out entirely). Oftentimes when I’d try to change gears, the chain would slip across the sprockets as the chain sought it’s way to a new thingamajig, and the pedals would have no resistance at all, often resulting in me almost being catapulted off my steel steed. I’m content to no longer have a bicycle.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. When our daughter was in Grade 4, she wrote a poem as part of a school assignment. In the poem she said she loved us more than the “old red Schwinn”, her first bicycle.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. That’s an impressive ranking. I never had a red bike. Guess I liked the blue, green and turquoise ones better.

      Like

  17. I have a fairly ancient Trek touring bike but about 10 years ago I had it seriously retrofitted at Eric’s. So now instead of the curl over racing bars, I have standard handle bars do I can sit upright and the gear shift is now on the handles instead of on the down tube.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. OT – A neighborhood friend stopped by this evening and gifted me with shopping bag full of freshly picked stinging nettles, keeping a proper social distance, of course. Tomorrow I’ll turn them into one of our favorite spring ritual meals, stinging nettle soup. Of course, tomorrow is also Cinco de Mayo, so we’ll probably whip up some tacos al pastor, just for fun.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.