Excitement! I was a getting a new bicycle for my 12th birthday. Well technically speaking, it wasn’t going to be a new bike. It was going to be a done up second-hand one. There wasn’t a lot of money around for extras in the sixties, so a bike was a huge luxury. I was thrilled that I’d be given such a wonderful thing. A bike meant glorious freedom.
I had previously learned to ride on dad’s bike. It was a huge thing, very high for a short kid like me. It had a spring supported leather seat and a metal bar across the front as it was a male’s bike and that is what they were like. Most still are in fact and I could never work out why this was.
I would lean dad’s bike against the street-side of our fence and climb up onto the bike. When I was first learning I couldn’t sit on the seat and reach the pedals so I would lower myself carefully towards the stupid uncomfortable bar. Grasping a handlebar with one hand, and the fence with the other, I would move myself along the fence turning the pedals s-l-o-w-l-y. When I came to a gap in the fence such as a gate opening, I felt weak with fear. I would have to let go of the fence. Often, I lost balance and the bike would fall, sometimes causing a grazed knee or hand.
Time passed and I persevered. My legs grew longer, and I could sit on the seat with my tippy toes on the pedals. My sense of balance improved and there were less crashes. By the time of my 12th birthday, I could ride dad’s bike without holding onto the fence.
The happy morning arrived, and mum and dad took me outside to where the new, kid-sized bike was leaning against a fence post. It was beautiful! The frame was a glossy burgundy and the mudguards were white (all painted by mum). It had a shiny metal bell and a bicycle pump. There wasn’t a sign of rust and it had new tyres (courtesy of dad). It even had a new chain and lock so no-one could pinch it, plus a metal carrier on the back where I could clip on stuff such as my school bag.
“Hooray!” I shouted. “Thank you so much” and I kissed my parents. “Can I ride it now?”. With their agreement I took the bike for a little ride. No reaching the pedals on tippy toes. No loss of balance or grazed knees. No stupid bar in the front (it was a bike for a female).
That wonderful bike took me to school for many years. It took me to the local swimming pool in the summer. It taught me how to be cautious on the road. It took me on many fun-filled riding adventures with my best friends, Theresa and Hera who also had bikes.
Aside from getting a puppy once for a Christmas present, it was the best gift I ever received as a child.
Does this evoke memories for you? Did you ever get a bike too? Do you still ride a bike?