First Fridays, First Memories: Charlie

April 04, 2014

As a way to show you the people behind PeopleForBikes, we do a short interview on the first Friday of every month. The theme? Bicycling firsts. This month, we turn our four questions to our vice president of membership & development, Charlie Cooper.

What is your first memory of bicycling?
I really don’t have memories before bicycling. My memories start about the same time that I started riding which was a few months before I turned four. We lived in Southern California at the time and our neighbors up the street were moving. They had assembled trash and giveaway piles in their driveway. I’m not sure which pile I pulled it from but there was a little purple bike that must have had 12- or 14-inch wheels, and I guess I thought it looked about right for me. I had been watching my dad teach my sister to ride in a school parking lot for the previous few weeks and I felt pretty good about what I learned from that experience because I got on that little purple bike and rode it home. I think this is the first time I remember a look of horror on my mom’s face. My grin was ear-to-ear, so proud of my new prize. My mom wasn’t quite so excited, she was more perplexed about me jumping on it and riding it home before my dad had a chance to give me riding lessons and my big sister was still rockin' the training wheels. The most exciting day of my life then turned into my first big bummer of life. When my dad got home, after he and my mom talked, they came out and told me the little purple bike was going back to the neighbors trash pile, but that I would get my first bike when we moved to Florida later in the summer.

I always had in the back of my mind that the training wheel chapter could easily be skipped, but never had the foresight to think about the Strider approach. It came full circle last summer when our 3-year-old, Reid, jumped on a “big boy bike” (his term… it was actually a 12 inch Trek Jet) with no training wheels and managed to pedal himself around Nottingham Lake in Avon. He just turned 4 and now he’s already a two-bike guy. He loves his Strider too much to give it up, but loves pedaling the little Jet too. 

When did you first fall in love with bicycles?
Before I can remember. As early as I can remember I was crazy for motorcycles and race cars. I think for my first 8+ years of riding I was mostly pretending to be Kenny Roberts racing a Yamaha dirt track motorcycle. Then came Hurricane Bob Hannah riding motocross and the early years of Supercross. By the time I was 11 or 12 my heroes were motocrossers Ricky Johnson and non-factory sponsored fan favorite, Guy Cooper. I spent most of my time pretending to be one or the other while riding my yellow Schwinn Stingray to many (fantasized) victories! 

When did you first know bicycling would be part of your career?
Still pinching myself about this. As an adult I didn’t start riding for fitness and for the bike to be part of my day-to-day lifestyle until about 2001. For the previous 12 or so years, I was an occasional mountain bike rider. Around 2001 I was attracted to getting a road bike to get to a better level of fitness. I had moved to Northern California and subsequently wanted to be in better shape so that mountain biking would be more fun and less suffering. One of my road riding mentors, Bryan McCarthy, had worked in the industry (Spinergy Wheels and also Bicycling Magazine ad sales). It was very cool to learn from him about the industry. I wouldn’t say that I knew at that time that my career and the bike would become intertwined, but I think I started fantasizing about it being the case as a 30-something-year-old the same way I was fantasizing about racing motorcycles as a 12-year-old. 

What is your favorite thing about bicycling?
I don’t know which to pick from the following:  air, sky, sun, speed, exhilaration, open, outside, freedom.   

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