The Most Beautiful Bike... Continued
ing systems under control. It was then we remembered vaguely that these things must have been what the mechanics were trying to teach us in their far away voices. Upon returning home, my brother and I parked our new bikes on the back porch and sat there looking at them, impressed with ourselves for mastering the complicated control systems so quickly and thoroughly.
My brother and I rode those bicycles together for hours and hours at a time. We toured our home city. We found trails to ride. We built ramps to jump. We crashed into trees. We delivered newspapers. We chased down the jingle scoop, ice-cream man when we heard his music playing on nearby streets. And living in a mountainous area of Pennsylvania at the time, we would work hours climbing mountain slopes so as to experience the joy of only minutes of high speed coasting down—tears running from our eyes to our ears from the effects of wind screaming back across our faces—at speeds of which we had not the skill level to contend with. But having no more common sense than pre-teens typically have, we were not afraid—or at least we didn’t admit to being afraid, which to boys of our age meant the same thing. Those bicycles gave us a bigger world to live in.
But those are memories of many years ago, and now the situation was reversed and it was I who was taking my dad to get a new bicycle.
Immediately upon entering the bicycle shop, my dad quickly morphed into a kid in a candy store, peppering the owner with questions concerning every bike in the shop and probably even some that weren’t. I think he had totally forgotten he was looking for a tool to rehabilitate his legs—really, I believe, he was looking for a toy to play with.
My dad decided on a hybrid-type bike for himself that day at the bicycle shop, and after dickering with the owner to lower the price, my dad also stuck him for a free cycle computer. My dad has always viewed “sticker” prices as merely a recommendation—a maximum price only those lacking bargaining powers have to pay. The minimum price, he believed, was up to the customer to find—and my dad usually did.
My dad and I rolled his new bicycle out of the shop, put it in my truck, and headed home. My dad was excited. This was the first new bicycle he had ever owned in his sixty-plus years of life. It was a pretty, metallic blue bike with curvy aluminum frame tubes, wide pullback handlebars and a springy seat.
For years, my dad rode that bike everyday. And everyday he walked. And everyday his legs become stronger and hurt less. And finally, after many years, he discovered his legs had become good as new. And finally, after seventy years of life, he owns a bike that can be just a toy. No longer does his bike have to serve as a tool for escaping the anger of an abusive father, and no longer does the bike have to double as a tool of rehabilitation because of fear of a wheelchair. For the first time in his life, he can ride a bike just for the sheer pleasure of riding.
As my dad’s legs grew stronger, my own son grew taller. When his tenth birthday approached, I thought again of the green Schwinn bicycle my dad had bought me, and I decided my son needed a new bicycle.
I took my son to the same bicycle shop where I had taken my dad for his bike. Upon entering this unfamiliar territory, my normally talkative son suddenly became quieter, speaking only in hushed tones. Passing by other customers who walked about the shop looking at the bikes hanging from the walls and bike parts displayed beneath glass countertops, my son and I made our way toward the back of the shop where bikes in his size were kept. High school age boys assembling bicycles in the back room looked up at us as we passed by.
After sorting though many bikes, I told my son to pick his favorite from amongst those in his size and my price range. It was a pretty mountain bike he selected—aluminum framed, two-tone black and silver, the two colors separated with thin red and white stripes. The black theme continued throughout the bike--black wheels and spokes, black handlebar, black crank arms, black triple chainring and black 7-speed cassette. It was my son’s first multi-speed bicycle.
The owner of the shop explained the controls with my son, adjusted the seat and then disappeared with the bike into the back room to air up the tires, check all the nuts and bolts and make sure all controls were working properly. He soon returned with the bike; my son pushed it out to my truck, and I loaded it into the back.
As we drove home, my son, grinning a crooked grin and suddenly very talkative again, looked over at me and said, “I feel like I’m in a dream.”
Upon arriving home, I took the bike out of the back of the truck. I showed my son once more how to brake and how to shift. I had him put the bike in its lowest gear and aimed him up the hill beside our home.