My first bike

Michael Carlson - Missoula, MT

I got my first bike by way of my mom, when I was 16 years old. She got that bike, a powder-blue 10-speed Huffy, by way of my aunt. My mom wanted to help my sister deliver a local weekly newspaper, and my aunt donated the Huffy to her. One day, as they were out delivering papers, my mom had a mishap and crashed the Huffy. As a result, the weld connecting the top tube and the seat tube popped, and the broken Huffy got stored in the back of our garage for many months.

I delivered the daily evening newspaper for our area for several years from 1981 to 1983. Initially I did it all on foot, but after I picked up a second route in 1982, I decided I needed a faster means of getting around; walking the entire length of both routes took about three hours, and that was just too long. So, I made a deal to purchase an adult tricycle the leader of our church group was selling. I'd never learned to ride a standard bicycle, so the trike seemed like a practical alternative.

The person who inspired me to pursue learning to ride a standard bike was my high school electronics teacher. He rode his bike to school everyday, even through a good chunk of the winter, and kept it in his office during the school day. I was curious about that, and we had a series of conversations where I learned of a local bike club called Pedal Pushers, and about bike races.

I decided I wanted to learn more and participate in all of that, but trying to do so using the trike would be laughable; it was heavy, and had really inefficient gearing on top of that. So, I asked my mom if I could have the Huffy. She said yes, and I got the same church leader who'd sold me the trike to help me fashion a fix for the broken weld. We spent a number of hours one weekend day bending a narrow metal rod into a narrow 'U' shape, pressing the popped weld together using a jig, and then welding the brace around the back of the seat tube and up along either side of the top tube.

All set with my mended first bicycle, I immediately proceeded over to an unused backstreet on the way from his house to mine, got on the bike, and pushed off. I'd never successfully ridden a bicycle up to that point, and was thrilled and amazed that I made it all the way down the street. The street dead-ended into a foot path, and there was a diagonal 'speed bump' barrier at the transition point. I managed to stay up and get the front wheel over the bump, but lost my balance as I did so, and then hit a patch of wet leaves as the foot path started. So, my first successful bike ride was very quickly followed by my first bike crash, though my pride was about the only thing that got hurt that time.

The epilogue is that this one bike ride kicked off a three-year stint of high-level amatuer bike racing, during which I won one race, and commonly finished in the top five of the 'citizens' category at many of the weekly criterium races. While a fairly serious bike crash in 1985 effectively took me out of competitive bike racing, biking has remained a constant part of my life ever since, and most recently I have ridden over a 1000 miles commuting and otherwise getting around in Missoula during 2014!

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