It all started when my grandma stopped for a garage sale. The woman could spot a bargain a mile away, and this particular find was perhaps the best dollar she ever spent. She brought it home that day, sent it halfway across the country, and suddenly it was mine.
At just a few years old, I opened the box, pulling out the shiny, bright red tricycle. It was plastic with three jumbo black wheels, complete with fenders and a set of long, silver handlebars. The seat was just the right size, and I did no less than twenty laps around the dining room table that night. The next day, I raced around the driveway, enjoying the sound of the thick wheels crunching on pavement as I quickly pedaled around the sharp turns. Taking the bike down small hills, I felt my stomach giggle on each dip, and I even let my stuffed animals take turns riding shotgun.
I rode the Big Wheel constantly until the day my knees brushed against the handlebars, and soon after, a jagged crack formed in the plastic seat. After several desperate duct tape repairs, the bike was finally retired to the basement. Eventually I moved on to my first real tricycle and remember my grandpa walking patiently along as I pedaled down the sidewalk. Soon it was on to training wheels and eventually a ten-speed bike, though I still returned to the red bike occasionally, forced to kneel on one knee as I pushed along.
Now, after twenty years, the bike’s red luster has faded to a dull orange, but it still sits in the basement. My grandparents both passed away, leaving an inheritance, and closets full of garage sale finds, behind. When my check arrived, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. At the time, I was riding a steel-frame department store bike, that made a downhill bike feel like a feather. I didn’t have a clue about suspension, disc brakes or special shoes with cleats. I didn’t realize that serious riding meant going beyond pull brakes and grip shifters.
When I walked into the local bike shop to pick out my first real hardtail, I was suddenly overwhelmed. I felt like I was ordering dinner in a foreign country. There were so many interesting shapes and colors, though I quickly learned that these things weren’t nearly as important as frames and components. Within minutes, I was bouncing on several forks and riding over curbs in the parking lot.
Eventually I was introduced to a Kona, and it was love at first sight. It was “radar” green with hydraulic disc brakes, a plush fork and lightening fast shifting. Everything about the bike felt right, and I knew in an instant that we would be fast friends.
I rode into the woods later that day. The soft crunch of gears broke the silence of a cloudless spring afternoon, and I bounced over winding roots and through fresh mud. In the serenity of the woods, I thought of my grandparents, and my mind wandered back through nearly two decades and the evolution of bikes that eventually made their way to the basement and the garage’s dusty corners. It was a study of life and death and how we choose to spend our time in between. Right now, I couldn’t think of a better way.