My first bike was a daggy, dusty pink little number, with painted white flowers and a white quilted seat. Can’t quite remember if she was a birthday or Christmas present, but in that celebratory spirit her wheels were loaded with twonkling spokey-dokes. At least, they were until they got me paid out in the playground and I made Dad take them off, cheeks burning with shame. It’s weird to think of how embarrassed I was of the pink bike, because now of course I’d love a bike like that!
My sister and I were thick-as-thieves with a family of boys around the same age, and the pink bike acquired some sorely-needed street cred when they began approvingly referring to her as “the Harley” because of her laidback handlebars. Mostly she served for the commute to and from school – sometimes accompanied by Mum on her massive blue Malvern Star, Elle strapped in behind her in a baby seat. Sometimes I’d go alone, pausing in summer months to steal jewel-dark mulberries from the huge tree overhanging the Henry Street footpath.
I have vague memories of first learning to ride on quiet summer evenings in the streets below the water tower near my house… training wheels that barely touched the ground, serving a purpose more psychological than practical, and my Dad’s hand guiding the back of the seat, cursing my anxious timidity no doubt! Later, when I upgraded to my prized aqua and purple mountain bike (absolute fave colours circa nine-years-old), the pink bike was duly inherited by Elle.
Many childhood bikes in St George came from a pine-shaded shed on the outskirts of town, where Paul & Nancy sold bikes to ecstatic kids. I’m sure Paul and Nancy had lives more complex than just selling bikes, but since I only ever saw them when a bike was being picked out for Christmas by myself or my sister, I will forever associate them with the joyous feeling of choosing a bike worth more money than I’d ever owned. If you took me to a car showroom now and let me pick one out, I’m still not sure it would be more exciting.
For so many of us, our first bike was our first taste of freedom. Reaslising there was nothing really stopping you from riding to the park, or your friend’s house, was thrilling and even a little scary.
A dear friend told me a story I just love, dating back to when he was just a little tacker with a rebellious streak. We were talking about the inevitable childhood urge to run away from home, and he remembered when he planned his escape: his toys stuffed into plastic bags, dangling from the handlebars of his BMX. Not that he could be reasoned with, but his mum just let him go. Her first clue that he was absconding was when she found him washing his bike with the hose on the driveway – the way he had seen his dad clean the car before a big trip. He didn’t go far, maybe around the block… After all, such childhood emotional crises are generally settled by the time the sun starts to dip and your tummy starts to rumble.
So I have a feeling that most of you will have a great first bike story, and I’ve already asked a couple of friends to share theirs in the hope that we can make this a regular feature. Plus what’s cuter than faded old photos of kids with their bikes?! I’d love to hear about your first bike – hit up the comments or email me…