A ‘Star Wars’ Speeder, a Light Cycle from ‘Tron’ or a getaway horse after an old west showdown at the ‘OK Corral’, my first bike was all of these and more. It became whatever I needed or wanted it to be, when I asked. While not truly my first bike, my Huffy Nitro BMX (made in the USA) bike was my first bike that I can recall. I was probably too young to remember previous bikes.
Given to me for either my 5th or 6th birthday, my Huffy stood tall next to me. It’s handlebars came nearly up to my shoulder, the seat just above my waist. With a fall birthday, my folks had bought it to be grown into to ensure that come next spring, it would still fit.
It was painted black and white with orange accents on the frame. It had white grips, pads on the top tube, handlebars and a padded stem cover. The original seat was white plastic with vent holes in it; all the rage in the mid to late 80’s for BMX because it was lighter, I suppose. That seat was soon replaced with a black padded version.
At that age, a bike to me was everything; a toy, a tool to explore, a status symbol in the neighborhood and most importantly, it was an outlet for creativity. It kept me outside, often well past my curfew, but my parents didn’t seem to mind because I was out of the house. This bike was also a connection. My father rode motorcycles and dirt bikes and it was a way to imitate what I admired. Toss a card in the spoke, twist the grip and off you go, just like dad did.
As I grew older, my range of travel within the neighborhood became greater. Growing up in a metro area suburban neighborhood, there were plenty of landmarks to earn. At first I wasn’t able to leave the driveway, then as I became older and “more” responsible, it was the end of the block. After that, it was around the corner to the neighbors house to play with friends. Within a few short years, although it felt like decades to a 8 year old, down the street several blocks to play with my best friend Pete.
Some of the most memorable moments were the sweet jumps. Any any kid can attest to, a pile of bricks, a piece of wood and some Evil Knievel spirit make for an afternoon of fun. Even more that homemade ramps where the ditches. The neighborhood I grew up in had ditches running the length of the street, in front of each house. Some were better than others and we longed for the time when we’d be allowed to ride to that part of the neighborhood for them.
As a creative tool, it allowed me to think outside the box and pretend; a powerful tool for the youth. However, some of that creative energy lead to trouble. I remember once, just after having watched ‘Tron’, my younger brother and I were outside, when I decided to cut him off in an attempt to win the game. A bloody nose later and I had lost my bike privileges for the weekend.
Some of the best memories that I can remember though, were at a friends house who was just around the corner. The house across the street sat on a corner lot, which gave a nice 90 degree ditch. This could be used as a berm, it could be attacked from multiple angles or with the right speed, a double; with one jump leading into the next. It was nice and deep, at least in relationship to the size of a bunch of kids and gave a fierce amount of kick when hit with speed. In retrospect, I’m sure we never made it more than a foot or two off the ground, but I would swear to this day that we were flying.
Looking back, that bike was a lot of different things; some real, some mythical. But what can’t be denied is that it help build the foundation for my life on a bike. Even now, as I’m out putting in miles, I secretly let my mind slip back to those glory days and instead of training, I’m racing Steve McQueen through the desert or I’m riding along with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.