When my sisters and I were girls, we had a bicycle. Actually, it was my older sister’s bike. She found it, bright blue and shiny, under the Christmas tree when she was about ten years old. She could not wait until spring to learn to ride it. She had my younger sister and me on either side of her for balance as she attempted to ride it in the 20 foot length of our house’s sun porch. When spring came, she was off.
My younger sister and I watched our big sister with great envy. Not only could our decrepit tricycle not keep up, we were too small to ride the blue bicycle.
Eventually, we grew big enough to ride the bicycle, but we never had more than one bike. We all shared the blue bicycle. We took turns pedaling to the mail box and up and down the driveway. Since we lived in the country, we only rode on gravel roads. I think all of us lost control more than once and limped home with skinned knees and scraped elbows. We developed strong leg muscles as we slogged through the gravel and up the hill to our house. The blue bike had only one gear. We didn’t have to worry about how to negotiate riding in traffic and turn signals were irrelevant.
We did make good use of that bicycle, but riding on gravel all by oneself took some of the thrill out of biking. I never became a good biker and the thought of riding in a city terrifies me.
My kids went through several bikes. There was a lime green banana bike, a small blue bike, a couple of ten speed racing bikes and a mountain bike. The bikes often were kept at Grandma’s house in town so they learned to ride on pavement.
Even though bicycles have changed since my sister found the blue bike under the Christmas tree, this way of getting around never seems to go out of style. Biking gives kids a sense of freedom. It is good exercise and teaches balance. Around the world, bikes are a major means of transportation for adults and children. It is amazing what people carry on bicycles and the versatility two wheels can have.
I did not own my own bike until I was nearly thirty years old. My family gave me a bike of my own for my birthday. They bought it at Mike’s Bike Shop. It was made in Poland and has only one gear. It has a basket on the front. I wouldn’t know how to shift gears and using hand brakes might send me to the emergency room. I still ride on gravel roads, usually by myself.
It’s the only bike I’ve ever owned and it is blue.
Copyright © 2012 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains