Today I had the pleasure of listening to the bicycle stories of many people, both men and women, of all ages and nationalities. This I learned today: everyone has a bicycle story. Bicycles stories seem to stand the test of time as well as, or better than, those of a first car or first love. The elements of the stories are quite consistent. They involve family members usually in the role of “bicycle giver” some mention of cost (sometimes together, e.g., a week of my father’s salary paid out over a number of months) and then the event.
The “events” can be categorized into two groups: love affairs and near death experiences. Love affairs are all about a special bicycle or bicycle ride. One lady spoke of how she longed for a bicycle with ”pneumatic” tires. As the youngest in her family she was tired of getting her brother’s hand-me-down bicycles and wanted a “modern” bike of her own. Her story had a happy ending.
As much as the love stories are sweet, the near misses are equally entertaining when told some 60 years after the event occurred. Maybe it is in the telling. My favourite was from a gentleman recounting his wipe-out as a young boy on a bike equipped with a belt drive instead of a chain. The problem was the belt would wear before long, making both going forward and braking inefficient at best. So the story goes, he was speeding down a hill and got up a little too much speed. As he tried to back-pedal to brake, the belt began slipping and he got to know the trees along the side of the road. He suffered a number of cuts, the scars of which are still with him. The story ended with an inventory of his injuries and viewing of the scars. He later returned to show me a scar he had forgotten to mention in the original account.
I was witness to the making of bicycle story last summer of the near death type. One of my seven year old daughters (then 6) had just learned how to ride without training wheels and was really quite good at it. During a camping trip we were riding to the beach when she encountered some loose gravel on a downhill section and wiped out. After realizing she wasn’t dead, the fear and pain set in. I was terrified. I rushed over to ease her distress and address her wounds. I soon realized that much of the pain and fear we shared was that of letting each other down. As I assured her that she was an excellent bike rider, she agreed to get back in the saddle only to fall a second time. We now recall this event as an example of her resilience and courage. This story will always have a great deal of meaning to both of us.
What’s your story? Love affair or near miss. Or is the story not over yet?