I was all of 5 years old when my parents took me to the little Montgomery Ward store in our one horse town to get my first real bike. Yup I was a big boy now and it was time. Up until then it was paddle cars and trikes. It wasn’t even my birthday or anything and I got to pick it for myself.
As soon as I saw that orange beauty I knew I had to have her. Ok so she was wayyy to big for a small 5 year old boy but I could not be deterred (it was orange) and if I couldn’t have that one I didn’t want a bike at all. It wasn’t that I was spoiled. This was 1965 and parents didn’t spoil their kids. It was just part of my personality that I knew what I wanted and never wanted less. My mother offered to get me a car when I was 16 but it was a four door and I turned her down flat. It was another year of walking in the hot Florida sun or riding a bike before I bought my first car with my own money and it sure wasn’t a 4 door.
So after a bit of carrying on the salesman convinced my parents that I would grow into it and my cheap ass father saw less money he had to waste on the kid long term so they put a set of training wheels on it and I literally had to climb onto it even with the seat all the way down which made the handlebars higher than my shoulder. It was practically a chopper. I suppose a 5 year old kid wanting a chopper was pretty unusual in 1965 but I was always a strong willed kid.
Well my dad got the financial windfall he hoped for. I rode that bike until 1974.
My fathers financial windfall aside that bike, that 1965 Schwinn banana seated orange beauty was the most important “toy” I even had as a kid. You might think that if a bike lasts 9 years it is well taken care of especially if it is owned by a child. Nothing could be further from the truth. I beat that bike like a red headed stepchild. We really didn’t have a lot of toys back then. My bike a few matchbox cars. Christmas was socks and underwear. So there really wasn’t much else to do but play on our bikes.
Being the opinionated, strong willed and stubborn I had to have the best bike and be the best at riding bikes. We rode our bikes everywhere even in the woods which were never far away. Racing down hills and locking up our brakes and I was a total daredevil taking risks no one in their right mind would. Consequently my fathers financial windfall was short lived as I went through tires and tubes and tire patch kits like crazy. But I learned how to take the tires off the rims and patch up tubs. Behold my baby steps into becoming a pretty skilled back yard mechanic.
My bike wasn’t just my childhood iron horse it was my canvas. When the original paint mostly chipped away I painted it red. I think I painted it quite a few times often with model paint. As I got older I wanted more of a chopper look so I cut some aluminum from some old lawn furniture (gee I think it was used or was that one of those times I got my ass beat?) and made fork extenders out of them and boom chopper. Eventually the extensions came off because the one undeniable fact about choppers is that they don’t handle very well.
My bike was my freedom. It was a chance to get completely away on my own without parents or siblings wanting something from me all I had to do was peddle away. And it was my vehicle to juvenile fame as I indeed gained a reputation as one crazy kid on a bike. At some point I stopped using the handlebars most of the time. It had become a part of me and I didn’t need to put my hands on it to tell it where to go anymore.
At 14 my mother decided it was time for her young man to get off the kids bike and get something suitable for adults.
I kinda wish I had kept that old bike. But I kinda wish I kept every bike I ever had. The Schwinn was special. She wasn’t just transportation she was everything.