Metatalktail Hour: "Don't go too fast, but I go pretty far" September 18, 2021 12:49 AM   Subscribe

Hello, fellow travelers, for this weekend's chat, crank up your Melanie, and let's talk wheels. Marie Mon Dieu asks "I would like to know the first time you ever rode a bike, or didn't ride a bike, or why. Or any bike stories that you'd like to share."

Or you could just talk about what's happening with you, or other thoughts or ideas on your mind (but no politics, as per usual, per favore).
posted by taz (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 12:49 AM (67 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

My bicycle story is that I don't have a bicycle, but my husband does, and he will be hospitalized soon for some pretty serious bizness, and a friend of ours made a mixtape for him to listen to in the hospital, so I got jealous and decided *I* needed to make a mix tape (read "Youtube playlist"), too, which I did, but there was one song that kept eluding me ... I couldn't think of the artist or the name of the song, just that I used to listen to it a lot a good while back, and then somehow sort of forgot about it ... but trying to remember that one song, in my head it was so tantalizingly close, I would almost have it, several times a day... but no.

Then unrelatedly, just now, mentioning Melanie, I started wondering about other songs about bicycles, or verses about bicycles, and was searching Youtube (which has been observing my most recent actions regarding playlist, of course, snoopy little thing), and got some good songs about bicycles in return, but sort of nonchalantly tossed in there was Waiting Around to Die by The Be Good Tanyas, with no bicycles at all, and I was like omg, I think it was The Be Good Tanyas I was trying to think of! But a) omg the name / theme of that song, under the circumstances — definitely eeek, nonononono 😱 And b) it wasn't the song I was thinking of anyway, and I couldn't find the right song by them, which I was pretty sure had something about doing laundry in the song's video. However, after consulting my friend Wiki P. Dia, I realized it was actually (former? Be Good Tanyas band member) Frazey Ford and Done, that I was thinking of, so now added, via the scenic route.

And that's my bicycle story which involved no bicycling, but definitely took me places!

* and if anyone's worried about "Done" being a song I would include for my seriously ill husband, he'll just like the song a lot, and he knows I will never be done. It's been 30+ years now, so pretty stuck in there.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:22 AM on September 18 [9 favorites]


I have a bicycle-related theory: learning to ride a bike is not the very-common rite of passage it once was due to the availability and affordability of smaller bikes for younger and younger kids.

When I learned to ride it was a big deal to learn: you got a regular bike, your parents took you somewhere and held the bike up as you learned to balance, then you graduated to your parents giving you a push to get started, etc.

These days there are more options like balance bikes and more affordable small bikes sized for 4 and 5 year olds. So learning to ride a bike is much less of a rite of passage than it used to be because many (most?) kids these days for started riding when they were pretty young on bikes that were appropriately sized. And since they started on smaller bikes, they weren't as high up in the air and balancing was not as challenging. So it used to be more all-or-nothing, and now learning to ride is more of a gradual process with more steps.

If a child didn't have a balance bike or very small bike then learning on a bigger big is still a big, all-or-nothing deal. And I'm not complaining or saying one way or the other is better. I'm just observing that what was once a common big deal is now a little different.
posted by Tehhund at 4:49 AM on September 18 [6 favorites]


Aww, Taz, good wishes for your husband!

What inspired this question was remembering the time I was handed down my sister's old Schwinn bicycle, this style. It was pretty big for me, and I was furiously pedaling along the country road we lived on, behind my friends, trying to keep up.

Suddenly, the handlebars wobbled, and I lost control, and the bike just sort of veered off into the ditch. I wasn't hurt, but I laid there, thinking, "aww, shoot!" My friends realized I was no longer with them, turned around, and thought I'd just disappeared!

Being a little kid, I was into wishing on stars, and I remember wishing on a star that I would get a new bike for my birthday. I came downstairs on the morning of my birthday, and there was a brand new purple Road Runner bike in the dining room!

I was so excited. It was the perfect bike, and mine had a white basket on the front. My brother helped me put a baseball card in the rear spokes, so it would make the perfect fluttering noise. I loved that bike, and am still a fan of wishing on stars.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:51 AM on September 18 [6 favorites]


Last night I rode 10 miles with a chainsaw strapped to my bike.
posted by lharmon at 6:33 AM on September 18 [12 favorites]


I cannot remember the FIRST time I rode a bike very well. It was a bit more than 40 years ago, and involved trying to master the balancing part of things by coasting down the (unpaved) slope in our suburban back yard. It must have worked, because I did eventually learn how to ride.
What I can remember very clearly is earlier this year, when our kid got their driver's license *and* their first job in the space of three weeks, and we were suddenly confronted by a shared transportation conundrum. It seemed ridiculous to me for a family of three to own three cars, but I couldn't see a way to make things work otherwise. Until I hit on the idea of getting a bike!
I've been commuting to work by bike since March or April at this point. Omaha isn't well-suited to bike travel, but I'm loving it anyway. I've lost 60-odd pounds in that time, and a couple of weeks ago I managed to go 27.6 miles in a group ride. In total, I hasten to add...I had to stop for three or four rests. But I did it!
Later this morning, my wife and I are going to another group event, where people make a circuit of 5 local microbreweries, collecting playing cards at each stop. There's a prize at the end for the best poker hand and the worst. There's also, based on when I made the ride back in May, a lot of fairly sozzled riders when the event comes to an end. Which is why I'm grateful that we can get to and from this week's starting point without having to ride in the streets.
posted by Ipsifendus at 6:57 AM on September 18 [11 favorites]


Up until recently, I hadn't had a bike in a long time—when my now-husband and I moved in together, I sold off the big-box-store piece of junk I'd learned to ride on in late grade school/early middle school (still can't believe I got someone to pay me $20 to take off my hands)... and then somehow like 10 years passed (time, amiright?), and we'd moved out of the city into a more bikeable area but I had never bothered to get a bike again. By spring #2 of the pandemic, I was more than a little on edge, and convinced myself I needed a new rangefinder-style camera (more or less true; photography is an important creative outlet for me, but my gear was too bulky to really fit into my current lifestyle, so I wasn't actually using it) and a bike (less true) to explore with and find local stuff to shoot. So, I started skimming Craigslist for a used something-or-other, and ended up with a 1970s French-made bike, a Motobécane. Granted, I probably should have held out for a vintage Columbia or Schwinn or something for easier long-term maintenance, but the bike shop was able to fix it up nicely without any special parts this time around. And I had a particular aesthetic in mind, and oh, I don't know if you heard, but there was some kind of bicycle shortage for some reason? Anyway, the stem shifters and lack of gear indexing have taken some getting used to, but she's a beauty, so it's hard to complain. (She does need a more comfy saddle and handlebar grips, though—after about 30 minutes, my bum is done. And she also needs a name!)

I haven't ridden my new-old bike as much as I'd like (because of course I haven't; did I think that having a bike again would magically turn me into someone who isn't a hermit?), but having the option at least still feels like it's worth something. With the temperatures finally cooling off a bit, maybe I'll convince myself to go on some rides with the camera this autumn.
posted by cellar door at 7:23 AM on September 18 [4 favorites]


In my mid-20s I was living on my own for the first time and decided to get myself a bike. Got a nice Trek hybrid and started it riding a lot. I lived near the Charles River in Newton, MA and rode a lot along the river path to Boston. I had broken up with my girlfriend (spoiler: she is now my wife of 24 years) for the summer and was dating a little bit. I met a woman who was into biking and we decided to take a ride one day. So we rode out to, like, Carlisle, MA and got some ice cream and then rode back to Newton. This was a lot longer than any ride I had ever done. Somewhere before we got back to Newton she was riding way ahead of me and I hit a wall. The plan was to ride to somewhere in Watertown where we had met up and do whatever, but instead of going left I just kept going straight and went home. This was long before cell phones so I had no way of telling her "I am dying and I need to go lie down."

About two hours later she called me at home and said "what happened? Where did you go?" and I explained that I died and needed to lie down. I guess it just wasn't meant to be. I didn't ride much after that.

This summer I had a spurt of unicycling (it seems to have passed) where I'd go out on the local rail trail every night and ride. There are like five different jokes people make when they see a guy on a unicycle and everyone makes those jokes over and over and over again. "Where is the circus?", "Hey somebody stole your wheel!" and stuff like that. If you ever see a unicyclist in the wild, don't be that guy. Just give a thumbs up and carry on.
posted by bondcliff at 7:57 AM on September 18 [5 favorites]


My parents were studying at Cornell, so we lived in Ithaca (natch) in Hasbrouck Apartments. Once, when I was 4, a friend had a bike. I got on, and sped down a small slope. I didn't know how to pedal, steer or brake, so my adventure ended when I ran into a tree about 50m from where I'd started.
Nothing happened to me, the bike or the tree, and I actually learned how to ride a short while after that.
posted by signal at 8:04 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]


bondcliff: " If you ever see a unicyclist in the wild, don't be that guy. Just give a thumbs up and carry on."

Back in 2001, I was living in Berkeley. Near my apartment, at the corner of University and San Pablo, about once a week a skinny, white, bald unicyclist (looked kind of like a young Moby) would be there with big headphones on, basically dancing to music only he could hear for the people waiting for the light. It was joyous, he was obvioulsy having the time of his life, and i never saw him ask for money. He just wanted to dance on his unicycle in front of strangers.

Anyway, I preemptively took your advice, never made any bad jokes and always gave him a thumbs up.
posted by signal at 8:09 AM on September 18 [5 favorites]


(/bragging) when our son was four he declared, „I know how to ride a bike.“ (he had never ridden a bike, wasn’t even a big fan of the push-bikes lots of kids here have.) “Oh yeah? How do you ride a bike?” “You get on it, and you ride.” Around the corner from us was a bike store and they had a used child’s bike (that was sturdy enough for me to (hilariously) ride), which I bought and showed to our son, “Cool!” He said and then promptly got on and rode down the block and back - wobbly only at first. The bike was, cleverly, just his size and geared such that at a reasonable pedal rpm the bike was as fast as we walked. We took a photo of his first time on the bike because it was so surprising. He just did it.

His younger brother has been working/volunteering on a farm the past few weeks and I went to pick him up. He never had the bicycle-moment his brother did: and I always wish he had. I love bikes for the autonomy, and, just the sensation of coasting around (cf H.Miller passage about riding around Clichy) - always wished he could find the same sense of freedom (of course he’s found it elsewhere). So I went pick him up and he needed to go to the other side of the village to X or maybe to Y, and would meet us back in a bit. It was nice out, a mellow afternoon and no hurry to be anywhere - the work day was over. He had a loaner bike and set off. The road was straight enough for long enough that I got to watch for a minute and once he was out of the gate and on the pavement he sat up, hands off the bars and reached out both arms, as though he were flying.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:11 AM on September 18 [7 favorites]


I didn't learn to ride a bike without stabilisers until I was 8, and shortly afterwards I fell off in spectacular fashion and ended up in hospital (no lasting damage). My son is now 8 and still can't ride a bike - though if we were nearer the park, maybe we'd have got round to it. I'm not proud of this fact.
posted by altolinguistic at 8:18 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]


I am a very small person and until last summer, well into my 50s, had never had a bike that fit me. I learned on a boys' Raleigh, came down hard on the cross bar, then proceeded to repeat the experience with every other bike, because even a girls' bike will do that to you if you're too short for it. Then last summer I was seized with the desire for this fabulous Dutch step-through bike and I bought it. It is SO GREAT to finally feel confident on a bike.

Emboldened by my newfound love of biking, I then set out to find a mountain bike that fit me and ended up with a Liv that really doesn't. The only one I've found that actually would be right for me is $7,000 and I just don't have that kind of money. Really frustrating.
posted by HotToddy at 8:20 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]


I was a little late to learning to ride a bike - maybe 8 or so? I’d been trying for a while but it was just not connecting. One day while we were visiting family, we went out for a family bike ride and again, it was just NOT working. Bad enough that I just ditched my borrowed bike by the side of the road and went on with our activities. Later in the day we came back, and I grabbed the bike and just… rode the bike. I don’t know what the fuck happened. But I knew how to ride it.

Maybe this story is apocryphal? But I really think it happened. I definitely remember that later, because I have always been an asshole, I announced to my dad (who had been trying to help me learn) “I learned to ride a bike and I did it without you!” CWAA.

For a long time I was a near daily cyclist between bike commute and cycling for fun/fitness but I have ridden my bike exactly twice since moving to this city (Peoria il) almost 11 years ago. This place is just SO hostile to non-motorized traffic. Biking on arterial streets in Chicago? Sure! Biking anywhere in Peoria? NOPE. Doesn’t help that I never found an arrangement that kept my ass from hurting while biking (this is not an invitation for suggestions).
posted by obfuscation at 8:40 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]


Oh, and the thing that tipped me over the edge to actually buying: It was a mellow summer late afternoon and as I was walking my dog in the golden light, a very chill guy came slowly up my street on a bike with the Unplugged version of Layla playing on his phone. He was swooping left and right to the music and it was everything I wanted to feel.
posted by HotToddy at 8:41 AM on September 18


In some fashion I can’t now explain, I became fascinated with the idea of doing a back country bike tour in Iceland, despite never having done any significant bike tours in my life. I had been a regular bike commuter for several years but there’s quite a gap there.

Eventually I decided to start training more seriously to do it, and after sticking to a training regimen for a month, I pulled the trigger and signed up for a tour. I continued to train for the following few months until the tour. I was in the best shape of my life.

Oh, man, was I underprepared.

I had stamina, but not remotely enough power. I live in Flatland, so I had zero opportunity to do any hill training. I had not even done any gravel or off-road training. I had done some leg weight training, but not remotely enough. I fell hugely behind every day, and needed to ride in the hurry-up wagon for half or more of the distance.

Oh, and I got a sinus infection on the second day. On the second-last day it blew up into a raging fever, I came within inches of an asthma spasm while all alone in the wilderness, and I threw in the towel only about an hour into that morning and rode in the wagon the rest of the day.

The fever broke that night, and I was able to do the final (half distance) leg of the ride under my own power, and felt like I deserved the dip in the natural hot springs that the tour ended at.

Despite my rank inexperience, the rest of the group were very kind to me, and said I was doing great for someone who had no business being there. I took that as the compliment it was intended as!

Oh, and remember when I said I had not done any hill training? When I found myself at the first big steep downhill track of the trip, I had never done any such thing before. It was a crash course, you might say. Not literally, thankfully, but I had to learn very quickly indeed. I didn’t get injured at all. I did wind up going over my handlebars hitting a rut at one point (not on a hill thankfully), and I somehow managed to land on my feet and to this day I have no idea how.

I continue to be a fairly serious bike commuter, but I have not tried such an ambitious tour again since. Maybe someday.
posted by notoriety public at 8:42 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]


Was riding to visit a friend in the hills of Seattle on my old steel very heavy 10 speed. (always had a bike, none fancy) when a hotshot heads up the hill and passes me. Not a hotshot but in very good shape I decided to keep up. Turns out he was visiting same friend/household and showing slides of his El Cap assent. Was the best moment evah when he mentioned that on the way he was annoyed at this squeaky bike and tried to sprint away (really steep hills there) and the squeaky bike kept up and stayed close. Not sure if he realized the squeaky rider was in the room.
posted by sammyo at 9:15 AM on September 18 [4 favorites]


Over 20 years ago my sweet skinny un-aggressive daughter-in-law did bicycle delivery in Manhattan for a couple of years. I always thought it was incredibly brave of her. Of course, her mother and I, and my son- her partner-, all worried about her.
posted by mareli at 9:16 AM on September 18


I started to learn on a bike with training wheels, it always felt scary and weird. One day when I was 8-ish my father took off the training wheels, and set me going across a plot of grass in the park. I fell hard, smacked my chin on the handlebars, and one of my lower teeth was pushed through the skin under my lip. Sticking out like a tiny elephant tusk. Lost the tooth, needed stitches, never got on a bike again.

Dad had learned to ride a bike through sheer cussedness, despite having cerebral palsy. I think mostly because his father told him he could not. I think he was always baffled that I did not approach my own physical limitations with a similar defiance; he was always able to power through failure to success.

Me, I just got injured time after time until I accepted: no, I cannot ride a bike. No, I cannot do ballet, or gymnastics, or play a musical instrument, when I have no idea how long it will take any individual body part to move after I send the signal, or whether any joint will suddenly either lock in place, or hyperextend and collapse. I will be falling regardless, a bike just means I'd be falling at speed on a hard surface, entangled with a large metal object.
posted by buildmyworld at 9:18 AM on September 18 [3 favorites]


I called a friend today for our weekly speakerphone-yoga session and she asked to postpone it... because she was biking to the next town to visit her parents! I was so proud. (She lives in Davis, which is possibly the most bikeable place in the US, but until recently she only rode short distances around town.)

Meanwhile, my partner and I have acquired an e-assist for our enormous recumbent-tandem-trike-train. We may be car-free and bike lots, but that doesn't mean we're fast cyclists! We tend to ride heavy bikes and carry lots of stuff, and the assist makes a huge difference on hills and on terrifying no-shoulder high-speed roads. We rode almost to the coast the other day - 40 miles round trip - with some hills over a 10% grade. We managed an average speed of 8mph, and used most of our 1kWh battery. (Looks like a Tesla could travel 3 miles on 1kWh. *pttthbbbt*) Next step is to add solar panels for long-distance travel.

I don't particularly remember learning to ride a bike the first time, but I remember learning to ride a Python Lowracer - after I inexpertly welded it together at the University Craft Center, because you can't buy something that weird. You steer with your legs, and all the normal balancing-dynamics are opposite what they would be on a regular bike. I had seen videos and read stories about how great it is - you can ride hands-free, it feels very natural. There's just a... learning curve.

I spent months crashing in the street, all the neighbors giving me funny/pitying looks. Then one day it finally clicked, and the muscle memory and reflexes were there. Somebody asked if I had finally "fixed" my bike, and I got to tell them, "No, I learned to ride it!"
posted by sibilatorix at 9:45 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]


I met my fantastic husband through bicycling. About 15 years ago I was working at a hip and happening brunch spot called Betty's. There were a bunch of interesting and fabulous people on staff and we all enjoyed partying together after work. The restaurant was closed on Mondays so one of the cooks (we'll call him Superman because that was his actual nickname) came up with the idea for a Sunday Night Bike Ride*.

It was amazing. We'd meet up with people at a corner store and ride through the city for hours being all beautiful and young and free. Many weird and wild things happened on those rides.

* The ride has grown and endured and is now known as The Midnight Ride. We're too old for that shit now but it makes me so happy that the current crop of young adults is out there every week pedaling through the starry night.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 9:45 AM on September 18 [3 favorites]


About 16/17yo a few of us decided to do a bike ride. From our estate around several villages in the NE of the UK. All good fun and pranks were played along the way - all harmless but very funny to all but the victim.
At some point we stopped and I left my bike unattended. Mistake.
My quick release wheels were released.
We all cycle off and at some point we need to go up a kerb.
I pull up on the handlebars (as you do), my wheels bounced back off the kerb and I planted the forks into the ground.
Much hilarity from viewers.

Same time(ish). I could bike from my house to the shops doing no-hands. Easy peasy.
Got to the shops, bought whatever. Holding the bag I rode home, no-hands.
Unknown to me a car drew up just to my side but out of my view.
The 4 occupants screamed at me and hit the horn.
I careered onto the pavement, hit a low wall, got thrown through a hedge and landed in the garden (which was about 2 ft lower).
They did stop to check I was okay and my abuse informed them that yes I was.

The last one was a few years ago when I was in a Cycle club. All proper gear. We approached the known Sunday ride coffee stop. It was up a hill. Steep (Bosworth Battlefield) it was. I'd not long got all the "proper gear" which included clip-in pedals.
I slowed too much, went to put my foot down .. and slowly toppled onto the grass. Many laughs from car drivers and my fellow bikers.
posted by I shot a fox in Skyrim and it made me sad at 10:28 AM on September 18


Here's another bicycle song. You may not have ever heard it unless you listened to WRVA radio in the 1970s; they played it all the time but it seems like nobody else did.
posted by JanetLand at 11:50 AM on September 18


In my 20s, with trains:
  • Riding through the rail-yard in Cumberland, Maryland, I was noticed by security who gave chase. I rode across tracks just in front of an approaching locomotive, which cut 'em off - lost 'em & made good my escape.
  • Approaching an at-grade intersection, with a frieght train stopped there, blocking all traffic, on my way to work, I quickly dismounted, and, while dragging my bike under a box-car, a voice called out from an open window of one of the stopped automobiles: "You'll die!" But I didn't, the train didn't move.
Older and wiser now (but no, I never wear a helmet.)
posted by Rash at 12:07 PM on September 18


But two weeks ago my foot struck something unexpected and I went down, at speed. Ouch! As usual, scraped knees, hands and arms, but also, as usual, my head got nowhere near the pavement. Blessings to the baristas of the nearby Peet's coffee which supplied me with band-aids. Didn't even slow me down; rode home without incident.
posted by Rash at 12:17 PM on September 18


We were staying at Grandma's cottage at the lake when Dad decided it would be a good time to take the training wheels off my first bike. To be fair, it was a usually-quiet private road, and he couldn't have been expected to foresee what happened. The instant he let go of the bike, a big, unleashed Doberman came out of nowhere, with no owner in sight. Dog was probably bigger than I was. I'm sure he was a perfectly nice dog, but he was putting on a pretty good show of growling and chasing. I lost control of the bike, broke through the wooden guardrail like the Kool-Aid Man on wheels, went over the cliff, and landed in somebody's beached boat. Ended up with just scrapes and bruises, and some discomfort in the bicycle seat area.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:41 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


The first bike I really learned to ride on was a Gresham Flyer. These are little kid's bikes, and I was about 11, but it was one of the shedload of bikes that my friend Pete's family owned. Since Pete's house backed onto a park, it was natural that we'd scoot about on bikes, me mostly just using it as a downhill thing and falling off at the bottom. I have no memory of falling off being an unpleasant thing.

After mum (who still disapproves of bikes) got us a terrible folding bike and I learned to stop in a controlled manner, I was more mobile and able to get to Pete's place on my own two wheels. I graduated away from the Flyer and on to one of Pete's dad's roadsters, a beat up Elswick Hopper Safeway. Pete's park had a cinder track that we would bomb round endlessly. The Safeway had one delicious (decidedly unsafe) feature: the long rear brake caliper, if applied at speed and with some force, would flex and lock the brake blocks under the rear seat stays. You got a glorious rear wheel skid-to-stop which could only be undone by rocking the bike backwards to free the brakes. Wheee!

A bit later I got a ten speed. It was a pile of gas pipes, but I loved it. Rode it everywhere. This is me and my late friend Paul Carter about to own the church sponsored cycle, 1983.

I've had lots of bikes since then, including a Moulton, a Brompton, a huge heavy Post Office bike that I later discovered had been stolen from the Royal Mail, and two different recumbents. My mostly daily rider (weather and daylight permitting) is a modern Batavus that weighs the same as a main battle tank. It takes very little maintenance until it doesn't, and then things can get expensive. I love it to bits. It's like flying.
posted by scruss at 1:04 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


As a kid, bicycles meant freedom and speed to me. My first bicycle memories are from when I was 10 or 12, though I know I had bicycles before then. At one end of the otherwise-flat street I lived on was a bit of a hill up to a main road. The neighborhood kids, me included, liked to toil up the (what seemed at the time at least) long steep slope and coast back down at an exhilarating speed. The other thing we liked to do was ride along a well-trodden/ridden path through the "forest" - actually just a narrow strip of mature trees and underbrush probably 15-20 feet wide at most - that separated the backs of the houses on my street from the houses on the next one over for most of a long block, ending up at a church at the end of the block. On weekday evenings and Saturdays the church grounds were deserted, so we could zoom all around the smooth paved walkways before going back through the "forest".

When I was 16 or 17 I had a weekend job at a beachfront snack shop, with a commute that included crossing a river over a bridge with the really tall part in it so boats could pass underneath. Around the same time a friend and I had a thing where he would wake me up at like 5am on a Saturday or Sunday morning by tapping on my bedroom window and we'd go for about a 3-hour bike ride down along the river road, across the river and back up along the beach at sunrise (I didn't like the waking-up-early part but it was definitely worth it). After a few months of that job and those sunrise rides taking me back and forth over that bridge my quads grew enough that I nearly had to start wearing jeans a size too big just to fit my legs in them.

Another memory is of an early morning ride, right before sunrise so there was just enough light in the sky to see without needing a headlamp. It was foggy, and the only sound in the silence as I rode along was the quiet susurrus of my wheels on the road. Suddenly, a large owl flew out of the fog and across the road right in front of me, about 5 or 6 feet high, and vanished in the fog again without making the slightest bit of noise. It happened so fast that I didn't even get a chance to be startled until afterward.

Then toward the end of my senior year of high school I bought my first motorcycle, followed by other motorcycles and cars over the years, that upped my freedom and speed and dropped the physical effort in a major and very welcome way. Honestly I've missed cycling not at all. (and yes, fellow Mefites, I can hear your gasps and splutters of outrage even as I write that)
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:23 PM on September 18


No sputter of outrage, but although I started riding in elementary school, when the bicycle meant almost unlimited freedom, I stopped riding in high school, when even walking looked better than that. (Of course the optimum then was riding in or driving somebody's (parents') car.) But so fortunately, when I started college in '72, because of Ecology, peddling was suddenly fashionable again, and I got my first ten-speed and rode it to school every day. Of course, around that same time I was having a blast riding my older brother's motorcycle around, too, until I dropped it going around a curve too fast, and slid into the gutter. That was enough motorcycle for me!
posted by Rash at 1:32 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


I despise bicycles. I have always despised bicycles. I hate the seats. I have no ass and they hurt my ass, I don't know how people with actual asses handle them. I don't know how guys in particular don't find them excruciating. I hate being hunched over like that. I don't get how they stay up, they're wobbling. I hated every second of trying to learn how to ride one and in the end I never did, and I have done FINE without it, thankyouverymuch. (This is really hilarious given where I live, in particular.)

I will ride an upright bike that has an actual seat at the gym, but that's about it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:33 PM on September 18 [3 favorites]


I was late in learning to ride a bike. I never got past training wheels as a kid, and endured the mild teasing about not knowing how to ride all the way up until my second year of college. I had just moved into an apartment off campus. It was a little farther than I wanted to walk to class, and I quickly got tired of waiting for the bus. So I walked to the nearby nonprofit bike shop and youth program and paid $80 for a bike that I, at 20, had no idea how to ride. It was tricky at first, but I threw myself into it (mostly metaphorically speaking) and within a month or two I could do hand signals without disrupting my balance and I figured I could start riding to class.

Since then I've been a dedicated bike commuter, learned mechanics and wheelbuilding at my new town's nonprofit bike shop and advocacy center, assembled and refurbished several bikes, built a frame out of bamboo that unfortunately only lasted a year, and I'm going to ride in a gravel race up a mountain and a road century in the next two months. So I guess I ended up liking bikes. A bit.
posted by egregious theorem at 2:22 PM on September 18 [3 favorites]


Bikes bikes bikes!!! I love bikes a lot and enjoyed all the bike stories. I just got back from a long day on the bike and it was glorious. My bikes are my greatest joy in life (and my cats). Thank you for this thread.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 2:34 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


I have too many bike stories to recount. I didn't learn to drive until my late twenties, and got around mostly by bike until then (supplemented with the bus, rides from friends and family).
I think my favorite was when I was working in a bike store and had sold a used bike to someone (we sold the occasional used bike, usually a repair that was long forgotten). I got down to read the serial number off the bottom bracket for the receipt, and there, in my mother's handwriting was etched my SSN! Yup, it was my first 10-speed. When we bought it the Denver police had a program where they'd lend you a metal etching tool so you could put a serial number on a bike (many bikes sold in those days didn't have one, and SSN theft wasn't A Thing yet).
I was surprised and delighted, though I think the customer was not the least bit charmed. We sold it for what I had paid for it 10 years earlier. heh
posted by dbmcd at 4:23 PM on September 18 [5 favorites]


... but trying to remember that one song, in my head it was so tantalizingly close, I would almost have it, several times a day... but no.

Short Term Pandemory Loss strikes again.
posted by y2karl at 5:32 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


I may have said this here before, but I was basically a Stranger Things free-range bike riding kid, minus the obvious paranormal stuff (it was suburbia, and we played on the old landfill, so who really knows). I turned 13 in '83. My first bike was my brother's hand-me-down banana seat Schwinn. My second was a cheap white and red BMX style bike of an unremembered brand. My third and final childhood bike was my brother's old 10 speed Raleigh. Bikes really were freedom then.
posted by mollweide at 6:03 PM on September 18 [4 favorites]


Yeah, born 1970-ish in backwater kids roam really far and wide on bikes from terribly early ages. I think I remember the first trip down the backyard bank w/o training wheels, but that was probably after screaming down asphalt hills. Sometime early, like before 2nd or 3rd grade I was riding down the steep hill beside my house when the neighborhood bully just decided to hold a skateboard out in front of my face. These are the old 1/2" thick solid wood with steel wheels skateboards (which we also rode screaming down the hills). I made it to my front yard going Ow!, felt my face, looked at my hand which was just covered in blood. A nice scar under my right eye that matches the scar under my left eye that came from climbing up the shelves of my bookcase to leap of to the bed. "One little monkey jumping on the bed, he fell off and knocked his head".

Around 5th grade I started riding my oldest sister's 10 speed. Couldn't touch the ground, had to sorta run and jump on it and plan which way to fall over when stopping. She graduated and gave it to me. We rode bikes to elementary school, tons of kids, bike racks and everything. One day like maybe late 5th grade (about 10yrs old) I decided to test the foot in the front spokes thing. Woke up sometime later in a ditch. In sixth grade managed to get sideswiped by a car, got back up, straightened out the handlebars and continued on to school. A few minutes later and I'm dragged into the office all scratched up and such because the person who hit me had turned around to follow me.

Really, the fun riding sort of things were giant cranes, bulldozers, go-karts, I didn't ride much after going to middle school (to far to bike, my neighbor moved away).
posted by zengargoyle at 6:54 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


My bike still means freedom to me. I never learned as a kid, because I was clumsy and neither of my parents really relished trying to teach me. I tried asking friends to teach me a few times as an adult, but got put off by the minor injuries and slights to the ego that come with learning such a thing with an adult body. But then in my mid thirties I had a job that wasn’t stretching me and I thought, if I don’t learn something new, I’m going to go crazy. So I splurged on a bike and taught myself to ride, not well, but enough to reliably make it go forward and stay mostly upright. Then I more or less forgot about it for a few years. I returned to it last summer when I realized it might be a long time before I felt comfortable returning to the bus commute — I needed a plan, and the bike was probably the best available plan. I spent the summer practicing a few times a week, working on corners, hand signals, street crossings, the details I had neglected during my initial self-teaching. As I got more practice, I could feel my knowledge automatizing, moving from explicit to implicit, and my effective field of vision expanding at the same time. This summer I haven’t been as assiduous about practicing, but I’m now able to use the bike for transit: still mostly on side paths, but I can go a few miles and it’s no big deal. And the feeling of freedom that comes with being able to get somewhere under my own power is still so new and exciting.
posted by eirias at 7:13 PM on September 18 [5 favorites]


So one of my kids asked several times to take their training wheels off so they could learn to ride a "real bike". Each time, they panicked, cried and asked to put the training wheels back on. Fast forward almost a year. One day, out of the blue, said child comes downstairs and asks to take the training wheels off their bike. I was reluctant as I had taken them off and put them back on three times. But, I did.

They get on the bike ask me to push them and let go. Amazingly, they just pedaled off and never looked back so to speak. When they returned up the long driveway, I was in shock. I asked them how they did it. The reply still amazes me. "I watched my sister and her friend ride, I thought about it and just decided to do it like they did it." And they did.

I had a Schwinn Varsity 10 speed as a kid. Actually started out before that with a Schwinn "Orange Crate" one of those bikes meant to look like a motorcycle. I could do wheelies, slides, and all sorts of stupid things like jumps. We used to ride to Roosevelt Field down several really busy streets. Rode to Jones Beach which took us about two hours as a 14 year old. As a kid, my bike was freedom until my older brother started to drive. Now? I used to ride a lot. I hardly ride at all now. Not sure why. I keep meaning to switch my pedals from clips to cages which I have but have never taken the time to do.
posted by AugustWest at 7:19 PM on September 18 [4 favorites]


If I ever meet a genie, my first wish will be the ability retain for our entire lives the ability to learn new skills at the phenomenal rate we achieved when we were kids.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:06 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


*to retain... Apparently I've reached the age where I'm unlearning typing.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:51 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


for some reason i recalled the pink floyd song, "bike," as a song by the kinks, and spent some frustrating time searching, and delightful time brushing up on the kinks. (perhaps obviously, if i had recalled more about how it sounds than the tune and first line, there would have been no question that it was pink floyd; i had not, though).

i do not recall learning to ride a bike though i now have that knowledge. i had a great driveway: a straight line sloping at a pretty good grade away from the street and sidewalk, past the house then expanding to the left into a big flat square girded by split-rail fence, the site of many a bodacious jump (i don't remember what we said back then; were they keen, or groovy, perhaps awesome? pretty sure they wouldn't be gnarly for a few more years) and not a few road-rashy crashes. on two i vaguely recall shame related to training wheels. i recall the big wheel, the "green machine," (both with front wheel skidded flat) and a bicycle with big chopper-style handlebars and a banana seat (think there might have been some shame about that one, too, come bmx times). it had those translucent and slightly glittery 1/8" thick hard plastic hand grips with bumps to make finger grooves on the underside and a sort of nipple in the end that covers the end of the handlebar cylinder (painstaking description to distinguish from the softer rubber grips with the flared rig by the thumbs more common to bmx bikes). i mention those because, you may recall the ends wore off after enough crashes and dropping the bike to land on the handlebars so that the grips might slide further onto the handlebars of off. i recall one crash that drove the now-uncovered circle of somewhat ragged metal into my belly. later i had some bmx bikes. a huffy, i think, the wrangler of children's bikes (hmm, the internet tells me the green machine is a huffy product; looks like a lot less plastic now than in my day). rode like a maniac. tried a bmx racing course once or twice, but was not good at that: it was hard work. moved to different region. rode to metro station twice in high school before 10-speed was stolen. probably didn't ride again until college, from which i retain vague impressions of absolute freedom riding around, and a few specific memories of "bike derby" and a separate acid-addled and catastrophic effort to joust. and didn't ride again thereafter until just about now.

little lurk recently learned to ride, as i recounted back in the covid lockdown era threads. from about age 2 little lurk had a conventional pedal bike with training wheels and one of those glider bikes with no pedals, which struck babymama and myself as ideal for learning the balance and momentum and lean earlier than otherwise. but the child never took to the glider, which stands almost unused in the basement even now; little lurk did take to the training-wheeled pedal bike, but did not learn balance or momentum from it. i hated those training wheels, which struck me as both an impediment to the critical learning and the hazard of counterintuitive tipping risk (motorcycle racing friend used to distinguish "low-side" and "high-side" crashes, the former indicating laying the bike down on the inside of the turn and the latter, toppling over and off toward the outside of the turn -- at speed and given proper protection, low-side is the less severe in terms of risk not least because the bike is in front of the erst-rider rather than tumbling threateningly along right behind; the training wheel hazard is of a high-side. kid grew, exacerbating tipping risk with greater mass placed higher. so we got a new bike and the manufacturer's recommended training wheels -- which, when installed, were not long enough to reach the ground. at that point we abandoned them and did a lot of running alongside. then lockdown came providing the opportunity for intensive study and progress over a couple weeks in march, and the child got it. several of little lurk's friends quickly followed; two other families appeared, to use that big empty astroturf soccer field at local closed grade school to practice riding as we had, over following weeks.

somewhere during that period my mother told little lurk of her recollection of learning to ride. don't remember what age she said she was, maybe 12ish; this would be like mid-1950s. her brothers could ride and had bikes. she says she took one of their bikes alone to a little hill and tried to ride down and fell and kept trying until she could do it. then she counted her bruises. 60 years later she reports remembering that she counted 12 bruises earned learning to ride a bike alone in one day. i had never heard the story before. or didn't recall. surely she told sibling and self when we were learning, she seemed so proud telling little lurk. i'm not certain i believe her account; it seems inconceivable that a) her parents weren't involved or b) her older brothers didn't help her. of course, such lack of involvement would explain why it is recalled as such a triumph. i don't really know too much about what childhood was like for her.

i got my old bike -- unridden since college -- out of the basement and tuned it up. rode it around the neighborhood to make sure it worked and that i recalled how to operate it. one of the kids had told little lurk some thing he was doing on his bike was a "bunnyhop" (which it clearly wasn't because he couldn't yet keep his bike consistently upright); i told my kid that wasn't a bunny hop, and later tried to direct their attention to some teenagers doing wheelies and such as one did some actual bunnyhops (a bunnyhop is where the rider jumps, pulling bicycle some distance into the air with them; may be component of other tricks like first getting one's skateboard off the ground is, in case explanation is necessary) but little lurk didn't know what to look for or at so didn't meaningfully see it. so... out taking my first ride in approx. 20 years i thought it would be a good time to just do a bunnyhop: assert my prowess and puissance. suffice it to say that, trying to bunnyhop from the street up to the curb-level sidewalk i bailed badly enough that my neighbors came across the street to ask if i was okay. i am, yes, but not my puissance or prowess (nor the narrating idea of self, which persists in thinking i'm about 13 though i am far from 13). they probably thought my laughter was hysterical. i have since demonstrated a successful bunnyhop to my kid, who neither was impressed (sort of a noncommittal "oh!") nor seemed to recall the casual discussion from a year prior. the kid needs to develop braking skills and judgment, to handle hills and stop signs, before we can really strike out for the nearest bike trail.

we rode together on a trail (and a little bit of road (don't tell mom)) at the beach last summer; around the many empty parking lots of a huge, mostly-not-open-yet-except-the-cabins funpark campground combo, and a little bit at rv-campgrounds at the beach this summer. nice and flat. reader: kids in at-capacity rv-campgrounds go crazy, zooming around in gangs on various wheeled vehicles round about sundown. little lurk is on a somewhat tighter leash.

this spring we mostly focused on learning to skate, which we're now both okay at on flat, smooth surfaces, but we're not too good at slowing down or stopping yet and sometimes the falls hurt and discourage. we took the summer off for excess heat. i have been disappointed in my own failure to immediately master it. i should be able to crazy legs by now.
posted by 20 year lurk at 9:52 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


jeebus! me too Greg_Ace. so many careless little typos missed on drafting rereads! parentheses that never close! the horror. the shame. how dare i heckle headline editors.
posted by 20 year lurk at 10:07 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


My bike was my best friend! I have so many great memories of the things that I've done on and with my bike.

As a young teen a friend and I bicycled from our house to the mountains. These are pretty old mountains and so they aren't all that big, but they're still mountains. The mountains just kind of start being mountains all of a sudden - no hills to speak of in front of them. Flat flat flat them poof, mountains. So it was about an hour to the mountains from our house. Then we carried the bikes on a trail up the mountain to a road. Then we coasted down the road, at great speed, to the bottom. It was scary and exciting. Then an hour back home. We were tired.

There was a field close to my house and we made an oval from riding around on our bikes in that field. There was a bit of an incline so of course we made a jump. Silly kids, we would lie down on the ground and have people jump over us on their bikes. Total fun!

I once rode my bike into a parked car. I was mesmerized by my front wheel. Enough said.

Me and a friend would play a game we called "skinnums". The game was that you would try to get as close to the other bike without hitting it and make the front wheel of your bike "skin" the back wheel of your buddy's bike. If you did it properly it would make a "zzzzzzzzzzz" sound. Endless hours of fun.

When I was bored in the endless summer I would go for a ride to anywhere. I usually ended up down at the river and that's the end of that story. Just me and my bike, going for a ride.

A friend and I were out on the town, on or bikes. We catcalled somebody that we thought was a girl. They ended up not being a girl but a long-haired thug named Ivan. Ivan decided that he wanted to take my bike, which he did, and he took off. Well, I couldn't have that - this was my freedom he was stealing from me. I tracked him down by going into pool halls, bars and similar places to talk with his fellow thugs. Fortunately, one of the thugs was somebody that I was on good terms with and he told me where Ivan lived so off I went. Luckily enough he was home and I called him outside. I told him to give me my bike back and he wouldn't so I told him that I would have to fight him. He laughed, rightfully, because I had no skill in fighting and weighed all of 80 pounds wet. But fight him I did and I would have gotten my ass whupped except that the police showed up. I got my bike back along with a little street cred for taking on a thug and a ride back home in the back of a police cruiser.

I used to not wear underwear and it's because of my bike, sort of, that I stopped going commando. I had a sudden realization one day that if I continued to be a crazy bike rider in the city that I would eventually get hit by a bus. The last thing that I wanted to have happen was for the EMT's to start doing their thing and then stop because I wasn't wearing underwear, and then I would die. It was a totally silly thought but there it is, the reason why I started wearing underwear again.

When I was living in Ottawa I discovered that I could travel through the city on the many bike paths. I discovered two things: one, that I could get pretty much anywhere on the bike paths and it was safer and usually faster than taking the streets; and two, that Ottawa is an amazingly beautiful city when viewed from the safety of a bike path. I mean, it's beautiful anyway, but more so when you're on the paths.

Where I live, winter is a thing to contend with. One year there was a bus strike in January so I ended up riding my bike to work for two weeks, in the bitter cold. It wasn't pleasant but I'm still so grateful that I had my best friend to help me get to work.

My last bike got stolen and I didn't replace it for a long time - with three bikes taken from me in a relatively short time I finally decided that having a bike was no longer in the cards. My knees were also starting to hurt, hills were becoming a bitch and I couldn't afford the bikes that I wanted (not if they were just going to get stolen!). I got one again this summer and it was such a joy to hit the bicycle path. For a brief moment I felt like I did when I was younger - me and my bike, anything can happen, the world is my oyster.

What a blessing my bikes have been.
posted by ashbury at 11:05 PM on September 18 [4 favorites]


I was a navy-brat and learned to ride a bike round about my sixth birthday. My older brother advised me to give it a go on the grass soccer field across from home because it's a more forgiving surface if you fall off. It's also a poor surface to get up speed. Speed [rotational inertia] is essential for stable bike-riding and after a while piffling about on the buckety grass, I hauled the bike onto the metalled road surface and went for it. Two or three years later, at another posting we were billeted in a naval housing estate. There were A Lot of kids on the block entertaining themselves outdoors all day except for meal times.
One of the games we played was wagon-train; where we'd tie a bunch of vehicles [bikes, trikes, roller-skates] in a line and make circuits. Another was pony -express; a kind of relay race where a school-satchel had to be carried as fast as possible round the block. I was powering along at this one morning when the front mudguard jammed into the tire and I came off in a spectacular somersault. It looked more dramatic from a distance because a car was coincidentally over-taking me at the same time. I was bundled into the nearest house with an adult present and the rather fearsome Mrs Thwaites patched me up. Several years later a chunk of gravel emerged from the scar under my knee; so I guess Mrs T's cleaning of the wound was a bit superficial - tsk.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:28 AM on September 19


Once when I was six I was barreling along on the sidewalk half a block from our house on my little not well-inflated fat tired bike when I hit the edge of a section of sidewalk raised several inches by a root of a huge Maple tree growing in the parking strip.

The tire stopped spinning, but the rest of the bike kept going and rotated over the top of of it. I did not, for some reason, let go of the handlebars and I was still holding onto them when I came down vertically right on top of my head on the sidewalk.

I saw the brightest flash of white light I have ever experienced. I don’t think I was knocked out and finally managed to roll over onto my hands and knees and crawl to the house, up the stairs, into the living room and onto the couch, where I passed out with a great feeling of relief and accomplishment.

My parents had no sense anything had happened until several hours later when a neighbor kid who'd seen the whole thing rang the doorbell and told them about it. They called my pediatrician who told them to wake me up, which they'd already tried to do without success, and check whether my pupils were the same size. They managed to rouse me briefly and my pupils were fine so they let me go back to sleep.

The couch, however, never recovered. There were extensive bloodstains on one armrest and an adjacent cushion from the wound on my head, and bloodstains on a cushion and down the front from a cut I'd gotten on one knee as I crawled home. They proved to be indelible, but we kept that couch for another nine years until we moved to another city.
posted by jamjam at 2:31 AM on September 19 [3 favorites]


I used to ride my bike as a kid except my friends parents didn't let us go anywhere, which my mom thought was bizarre. But then it became too scary for me because they made us sit through all this bike safety education which to me was a nonstop parade of information about how dangerous bike riding is. I was like why do they even let us do this???? Because none of my friends were allowed to ride anywhere (or maybe they just didn't want to & blamed their moms) I thought of great I'm going to hit a pebble, go flying & break my neck & no one will be around.
In college my family got me a new bike because I never told them about this phobia, so I tried it but I still felt like Jesus, if I could hit a pebble, go flying & break my neck, my laptop will also break & I can't afford a new one.
I still don't understand what was the purpose of bombarding us with these messages about hitting a pebble & going flying. I guarantee none of the other kids were listening.
posted by bleep at 11:02 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]


all this bike safety education which to me was a nonstop parade of information about how dangerous bike riding is.

"The trouble is that some children are timorous and some children are reckless, and in order to save the lives of reckless children, warnings are calibrated for their safety, the result of which is that the timorous live in a state of perpetual terror. What I needed to be told is, 'you know what? Most days, you won't die. It's fine.'" -- David Mitchell (the comedian, not the author, although he IS also an author, so...)
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:19 PM on September 19 [6 favorites]


I must have been 5 or 6 years old. I was having trouble getting it, so I still had training wheels. I was out cruising the neighborhood and when I stopped the bike I fell over, because I had apparently lost a training wheel and had been riding a 2-wheeler for several minutes without realizing. And that is how I learned to ride a bike.

This was the early 70s, so obviously I was not wearing a helmet.
posted by COD at 1:50 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]


I used to like to ride bikes when I was a kid/teen. Nowadays I don't ride, because I'm in London and I would prefer to stay alive.

Today is/was Talk Like A Pirate Day in olde internet lore, and I'm feeling sudden, unexpected waves of nostalgia for the days before GamerGate, when the internet was a slightly more innocent place. (There were still trolls, of course, but back in the days of blogs and forums it was easier to keep them out.)

Anyway, tangentially related to the day, some covers of Stan Rogers songs by other people:

Longest Johns/Skàld: Santianno

The Real McKenzies: Barrett's Privateers

Longest Johns/El Pony Pisador: Northwest Passage

posted by Pallas Athena at 1:50 PM on September 19


Today I rode my bike to a favorite conservation area in my town, and when I got there I realized: I have never been alone here before. I have never felt so still. It was a real moment of wonder. I couldn’t stay long, I had errands, but I look forward to going back.
posted by eirias at 5:28 PM on September 19 [4 favorites]


Later in the day we came back, and I grabbed the bike and just… rode the bike.

Same. I was maybe 8 when I finally was able to ride a bike without training wheels. I was increasingly distressed that I could not get the hang of it. Then, the training wheels were taken off and I was given a good push and it just... worked! It wasn't 30 minutes before I was freaking out my mom by biking without my hands on the handle bars or swinging both legs to one side of the bike or the other while in motion.

Similarly, I was a late bloomer to being able to tie shoes, to the point where my mom graciously bought me shoes with velcro straps in second grade. Per her recollection, once I had a left handed teacher, I immediately picked it up (being left handed myself). I still own shoes with laces, but slip ons have been my go to for years.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 6:32 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]


My parents gave me a bike (a brand-new, royal blue Schwinn Pixie) for Christmas when I must have been five or six, but (A) they didn't let me try to ride it then because it was winter, and (2) they refused to put training wheels on it, so even once the weather changed I didn't actually learn to ride it for months. Late that summer, though, between my own level of frustration with a bike I couldn't actually use and my older siblings being patient with me, I learned in one afternoon. I think my siblings were better teachers than my parents would have been if they'd tried, which they didn't, because it was the 70s.

I eventually grew into a hand-me-down cruiser (a red Schwinn Sting-Ray, if memory serves) but agitated for a ten speed for a year before my parents got me the smallest size of Schwinn Varsity for my birthday. But my birthday is around Thanksgiving, so after letting me take it for a test ride they again put it away for the season, just like they had with the Pixie.

That first Varsity also gave me my first real crash. After I had proved I could ride to school and back, there was a day a friend invited me to his house, which was about a quarter of a mile beyond the school. The road in front of the school was a long, straight downhill run, and because I didn't actually have to brake for the school I had a pretty good head of steam heading into the first turn past the school. But that first turn had a lot of loose gravel, so as I leaned into the corner the bike went out from under me, and my momentum carried me head first into the opposite curb. Stunned, I sat on the curb for a few minutes before inspecting the bike. Not finding any obvious damage, I realized that my friend's house was closer than home was, so I rode on, maybe a little slow and shaky, but I got there. Turned out I was bleeding from the bump already forming on my forehead, so my friend's parents immediately went into emergency mode. They called my parents and then drove me home. I remember the doctor saying I'd be fine, but I'd have a couple serious shiners as the bump drained.

In my year abroad in college I had one wipeout on a bike path covered in fallen leaves that were slick after rain, resulting in authentic road rash on my leather jacket. But that was nothing compared to the time I got hit by a car when I came up on a crossing with a light. The approach was such you couldn't actually see the lights without coming to a complete stop, but there were pedestrians crossing as I approached so I followed them without stopping or even seeing the light. They were jaywalking, and I ended up under the bumper of a Volvo, my head inches from the front tire. The man who'd hit me was incredibly apologetic (even though it was 100% my fault) and tried to take me to the hospital. I feared a nightmare of insurance and could tell I didn't have any broken bones, so I begged him off. At that point he insisted he at least take me home so he and his wife could clean and bandage me up. Turns out she'd been strawberry picking with their kids, so after cleaning and dressing the gash on my leg, offering me drinks and even lunch, and insisting on driving me back to my dorm, she bagged up a bunch of fresh strawberries for me. It must have been almost a gallon of strawberries. I shared them with the people on my floor in the dorm.
posted by fedward at 8:49 AM on September 20 [2 favorites]


I once rode my bike into a parked car

My friend up the street did that when we were kids, across the street from his house. I don't know what had distracted him, but our neighborhood was all hills, and he had enough momentum from coming down the hill that he bent the front fork, split the top tube open, and needed a sling for his arm due to some kind of tear (in hindsight: maybe a rotator cuff?). No broken bones, though!
posted by fedward at 9:28 AM on September 20


I'm not sure it really works in a mixtape, but I'm fond of Frank Zappa Plays the Bicycle.

I have no memory of learning to ride a bike. I do have a memory of an incredibly small kid's bike that must have had training wheels. I'm not sure I remember actually riding it. When I was around 11 or 12, I won a lottery at a supermarket for a brand new bike, from an honest-to-goodness bike store. I was excited. My mom was convinced it was a miracle.

One of my random COVID-era purchases was a used unicycle. After something like 6-8 hours, I'm good enough on it to traverse a normal sidewalk, but I'm really surprised at how hard it is. I usually think of myself as someone with good balance. (I can walk around on a bowling ball without a second thought. Though I don't really attend those kind of parties now.) But, it's really different when you can't move your legs except in one specific circle. I'm not sure it's a skill I care enough about to become good at. But, I've gotten my $25 worth already.
posted by eotvos at 10:13 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]


There was a short moment in time, after I was invited to upgrade from my green second-hand Tinybike to something blue and bigger, following my 5th Birthday, when my bike treated me and one of my nearest like Calvin's bike treated him.

It began with prolonged sessions of my mom jogging behind me holding on to the baggage rack, while I happily stepped away, feeling safe in the cockpit (because she was keeping me safe, wasn't she).
Then one day I outpedaled her jogging capabilities on a downward-pointing stretch of straight road, and she let go. I happily wooshed off until I noticed that I was on my own. Remembering my duties as a yet untrained bike rider, I performed a glorious panic-wobble and managed to connect in a spectacular manner with the ground, the bike and my mom, who had been in the act of both catching up with me and catching me when she saw me going off course.
The result was a big heap of all of us, and a juicy hole punched into her poor shin that made her hop on one leg for a bit enunciating un-mom-like phrases, and took a while to heal.

I learned to ride that bike for real soon afterwards, and began scraping my own legs after that...
posted by Namlit at 11:42 AM on September 20


This has reminded me of another, very stupid incident during my college years, but this one was in the US. I was riding towards campus and came to a four-way stop just as a car approached on my right. The car stopped. I wasn't yet at a complete stop when the driver of the car recognized me, smiled, and waved. I took one hand off the bars (and brake levers) to wave back and instantly became unbalanced, so I fell off the bike. My friend in the car was so horrified.
posted by fedward at 1:18 PM on September 20


I always wanted unreasonable bikes (banana seats, huge high handlebars, streamers, things that went clack clack clack) and I got practical bikes. We lived in the country where you could maybe bike to the one store that sold penny candy but it involved some highway biking and so we would mostly walk there through the woods. But when I got into high school and before I could drive I rode my bike everywhere. Friends' places mostly but also into the other town to go do stuff. I had a decent ten speed and no asthma yet. Had a motorcycle, briefly, in college, and then a mountain bike when I was in grad school that I'd sometimes ride to go to library school. But my people weren't usually bike people, and once I developed asthma, and lived in a city, I mostly stuck to walking and hiking and swimming for my exercise and public transportation to get around.

I did get one of those Yahoo Bikes via some contest or other and rode it around my town about 12 years ago but it was too invasive (took pictures all the time, was hard to make it stop taking pictures) and too heavy so it never really became my daily ride. I am a decent driver but I'm not a good bike rider both b/c of asthma (I'm in decent shape otherwise) but also a combination of timidity and being in a rural area that isn't always expecting to see bikes around.

Here is the bike song I like a lot, kind of an indie tune. I actually unknowingly met the guy in the band that sang this song, friend of a friend. He lives in a fancy house kind of near where I spend the summer. I didn't want to fangirl all over him so I never said anything but man I really really love that song.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:57 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


banana seats, huge high handlebars

Man, what was the deal with those bikes back in the 60's/70's?? It seemed like everybody had them at the time (especially boys), then they vanished - I guess supplanted by BMX and off-road bicycle designs...
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:25 PM on September 20


The story behind the Schwinn version of those bikes is pretty great. 40 years later the details are fuzzy but I don't remember the hand-me-down I rode as being a Krate specifically. I've just fallen down a well of old catalog scans trying to figure out which model it was, if my memory is even correct. Seems like it was probably a '69 or '70 Sting-Ray, based on the color I remember. I remember the existence of the Stik-Shift, but it's a surprise to me now that if it had that shifter it also had hand brakes.

I think BMX bikes definitely put pressure on that design, since getting the Stik-Shift in your ribs if you crashed, or knocking your teeth out on the handlebars, was not fun. Me, I just wanted to go faster, hence the desire for a ten-speed.
posted by fedward at 4:59 PM on September 20 [2 favorites]


PSA FOR THE READERS OF THIS THREAD: If your bicycle helmet has ever been in a crash, if it is more than five years old, or even if it just seems to be getting old a bit, you should replace it. In trying to figure out if I could buy new pads for my helmet last week I realized it failed the second and third tests there, so I now have a new helmet. Counting the number of times I've crashed or fallen off a bike (four I've mentioned in this thread, and at least that many that I haven't mentioned, like a clip-out failure, a streetcar track, and a couple of uneven sidewalk transitions hit too obliquely) I can say that a helmet every five years is absolutely a reasonable investment.
posted by fedward at 5:09 PM on September 20 [5 favorites]


Back in 2001, I was living in Berkeley. Near my apartment, at the corner of University and San Pablo, about once a week a skinny, white, bald unicyclist (looked kind of like a young Moby) would be there with big headphones on, basically dancing to music only he could hear for the people waiting for the light. It was joyous, he was obvioulsy having the time of his life, and i never saw him ask for money. He just wanted to dance on his unicycle in front of strangers.

I remember this guy! He was such a joy to watch!
posted by corey flood at 8:52 PM on September 20


I once rode my bike into a parked car

In sixth grade, riding home from school. I suddenly woke up sprawled across the hood of a car, with a friend's mother running out from their house, where it happened, right out front. She was surprised but not that surprised and I got back on my bike and rode on home. Never fallen asleep again, like that.
posted by Rash at 9:19 PM on September 20


I have neuropathy in my lower limbs--started in my feet and is gradually moving up my legs. Messes with my balance so a regular bike won't work for me. I also have bad arthritis in my knees and hips (well, hip, as I've had one replaced). Because of my neuropathy and type 2 diabetes, I had a wound that I got on my toe (from trying to get more exercise by walking) that became so badly infected and wouldn't heal that I had it amputated. I had to give up my exercycle because getting on and off, and keeping my feet on the pedals was becoming more and more difficult. I have found the "Cubii" and it allows me to get some cardio without putting pressure on my feet. I would like to go back to swimming, but right now, that is too much of a pain to manage.

So, I got in my head that perhaps an adult tricycle would be a good way to get outside and not take my car for small, local errands. I was very excited to find a local(ish) dealer that had an electric-assist one for me to try. I did that on Thursday. To my great disappointment, even with a low step-through frame, it was still difficult for me to get on/off and my knee got in the way of the handles when I tried to turn (long legs, wonky hip that wouldn't let me get out of my own way) even with seat/handle bar adjustments. And other issues I won't list.

I was so disappointed. I had been having these lovely fantasies in my head about riding around, feeling the breeze, doing a little more to help the environment--all the joys of bike riding. So, on Thursday of last week I had to give up the idea that I would be able to ride a bicycle again. I am still in mourning.
posted by agatha_magatha at 8:20 AM on September 21

Back in 2001, I was living in Berkeley. Near my apartment, at the corner of University and San Pablo, about once a week a skinny, white, bald unicyclist (looked kind of like a young Moby) would be there with big headphones on, basically dancing to music only he could hear for the people waiting for the light.
I lived a few blocks north of University and San Pablo in 1999/2000. That guy was fantastic! At the time, he was almost always in very bright pink or silver, often with cape-like flowing fabric. He's weave in and out of stopped traffic, then back to safety when the light changed. I'm pretty sure I saw him as late as 2010 or 2011 in the same neighborhood, though I spent a lot less time there.

(Damn. Now I'm hankering to eat some Viks Chaat takeout while listening to the choral music coming through the windows of the Finnish Brotherhood Hall. I should really set aside time to do that next time I'm in the area.)
posted by eotvos at 8:46 AM on September 21


Just because: Queen - Bicycle Race - YouTube.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:32 PM on September 22


I'm in love with biking again, though I never fell out of love.

I still remember the freedom of getting my first bike - it was one of those banana seat bikes and it meant I could roam up and down the streets with it alone or join the other kids-with-bikes.

When I was a teenager, I used to go biking along the 101 in San Diego. It is an older coastal road with a decent bike lane that will take you from Encinitas, where I grew up, down to La Jolla. I biked just for the joy of it. I saved up an entire summer for my SR racing bike.

Then during summers in college, I stayed behind for a summer job in Boston and used to cycle to the lab where I worked from the MIT campus where I was staying up Mass Ave to the Harvard campus where the job was. That was a second-hand clunker, an old 10-speed but it was my bike.

That was the end of my biking life for quite a while. San Francisco was too dangerous. London was too dangerous.

Then we moved to Amsterdam and I bike almost every day. My bike is a Dutch bike, an Omafiets, that cost me 150 euros secondhand. No banana seat but I do have high handlebars. Its got a rack on the back I can strap stuff to. It is a sturdy, heavy bike meant for casual riding. I love the casualness of riding here. It reminds me of when I was a kid. No helmets, no outfits. You just hop on your bike and head across town, There's people with suits on bikes, small kids on bikes, moms and dads with three kids on one bike. It is glorious.

I'm always asking my wife for errands: "Didn't you need to pick up a book at a bookstore across town? Do you want me to get you a pastry from that bakery you really like?" and if she gives me the affirmative, that means I can jump on the bike and ride across town in the bike lanes, not always taking the most direct route.
posted by vacapinta at 4:08 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


My first bicyle was a red BMX bike that I think was a birthday or Christmas present. I started with training wheels, and my crash survival technique was leaping off the bike and landing on two feet. I really loved that bike.

I've told the story of my last childhood ride on metafilter before, but have changed usernames since, so I thought I'd re-tell it.
I had upgraded to using my Mum's bike. It had gears! Gears mean you GO FASTER. Except I didn't really understand how gears work, and instead of the more traditional shifter, this one had a lever on the column below the handle bars. With the trusty BMX, I would pedal down a long driveway (approx 250 metres?), accelerating down a concrete path before rushing along cobblestones and then skidding to a dramatic stop. So, I decided to do this again, except this time I was bigger, on a road bike, and didn't understand gears. The first part of the ride went well- lots of acceleration. Then I reached down and jammed the lever all the way up and clunk, the chain fell off. My feet spinning meaninglessly, the bike bucked along the cobblestones, with me clinging on, trying to guide the bike into the best path. Braking wasn't working and I didn't want to brake too hard and wipe out on the cobblestones. I lost control, the bike mounted the kerb, and I really clearly remember the tree, getting bigger, the detail of the bark and the beads of sap... and the next thing I remember was waking up under the bike. I called out for help, some guys at the nearby construction site came and picked me up, and I limped home. Innocence lost.

My second big crash happened at work (a school) - we were in the process of combining two campuses, which meant the staff had a bike share program to help us get to our classes on time. On the day I was trying to get ahead of a group of students who were moving lockers. I was rushing, so didn't see the groove on the path, and similar to a tram-track crash, came over the handlebars. My Year 7 class witnessed the accident (lining up for gym class) and came over "I thought you were dead, miss" - they untangled me from my bike and sat me up, handed me my hanky to hold to my bleeding head, and I was told later, used their water bottles to hose off the path! I was bundled into a colleague's car and off to hospital, several stiches, and impressive black eye and a broken arm later. I was so so proud of my students that day though.

Despite crashes, cycling is something that makes me feel good. My most recent success was riding to school every day for one school year (Term 2 2019-Term 1 2020), including being pregnant for about half of that time! (Although because of my crash history there were a few nervous people!)
posted by freethefeet at 9:03 PM on September 25


I would like to know the first time you ever rode a bike, or didn't ride a bike, or why.

not counting bikes with training wheels attached: turning wide, slow, wobbly circles with my best friend from primary school in a cul-de-sac of the tiny coastal suburb where my mum and her uni girlfriends jointly owned the beaten-down shack my family journeyed to nearly every school holidays. nowadays I'm a uni graduate, long out of touch with the friend, the shack was sold to cover debts and razed by its new owners, the next time my family is together in one place will be when one of us dies, an immense bushfire bore down on the suburb two years ago ... and I haven't ridden a bike in ten years or more.
posted by Panthalassa at 12:06 AM on September 27


« Older [MeFi Site Update] September 16th   |   happy first 20 years Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments