A “Practical” Ridiculous Looking Ride

Drew Frakes - Minneapolis, MN

A “Practical” Ridiculous Looking Ride

When I turned six in October of 1967, my parents figured I was old enough for my first bike. I was excited about the prospects of getting one of the popular new styles - a 'spider' bike as they were being called in my suburban Detroit neighborhood. Something with a banana seat and a 'sissy' bar - the taller the better! The gold standard was the Schwinn Stingray.

Well, my folks were far too practical to purchase their eldest child something they saw as nothing more than a short lived fad. Besides, shouldn't such a thing allow for growing room - say until your old enough for a drivers license?

So it was off to Sears, where the rule in the sporting goods department was pretty much one size fits all. I might of had a choice between a red bike or a blue one. And so red it was... 26"" wheels and a seat that adjusted no lower than my chest was high. Not sure how I ever managed to get on the thing, but I can assure you it was a long way to the ground when I fell off. Having never been on a bike before, falling off happened frequently.

After a couple of bruising summers I grew enough to manage the bike pretty well. Stingrays were more popular than ever and when it was time for my little brother to get a bike, it was back to Sears. By then even they had caught on to the popularity and had a Stingray facsimile. My parents buckled to my brother's desires. To appease me, they bought me a banana seat.

My bike looked more ridiculous than ever. The saving grace were those 26"" wheels though. Living in a neighborhood full of boys my age - all of which had 20"" wheeled 'spider' bikes - I was able to out ride all of them regardless where we would venture off to.

That bike ended up teaching me a lot. I learned how to overhaul its hubs and to understand why those big wheels gave me a mechanical advantage over my peers. Needless to say, I now have a deep appreciation for a well fitted bike. Most importantly, I discovered that a bicycle allowed me to explore where the roads out of the neighborhood led to. Whether despite that bike or because of it, I developed a life long love of cycling.

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