Memory Lane: Bikes You’ve Owned

If you could choose the greatest bike you’ve ever owned, which would it be? Has one delivered better memories than your other bikes?

My Torelli Gran Sasso is delivering terrific riding memories today. It’s the best bike I’ve ever owned. Granted, I don’t have the wealth to indulge in the best bikes available. In fact, as I racked my brain recently to recall all the bikes I’ve owned since my youth, none of them can be considered top of the line machines. But the memories of them are all top tier.

If you are of a certain age who grew up in the United States during the 1950s, you may have been lucky enough to ride a Mercury or Murray Western Flyer. Like many kids, I got mine second or even third hand from a cousin who had outgrown it. It was heavy, caked with rust, and clunky, but oh-so liberating.

Every child who learns to ride a bike also learns to explore realms far beyond home on their own. Certainly, “far beyond” is a relative term, but to a child it only needs to be around the corner, across the street, and out of the neighborhood. Beyond the basic skill of riding, inspiring riders to venture further into the big, bad world is the greatest lesson cycling imparts on the young.

My Raleigh and Schwin Continental, which were also hand-me-downs, taught me the genius of the pulley system with their gears. I discovered that hills, once daunting, could be mastered with a little technology, liberating me even more.

After I got my driver’s license, cycling became less important than sitting behind the wheel of a car. Still, I did have a Chiorda 10-speed, which I used as backup for when my teenage clunkers broke down and I had to get to school. It was my first bike that got stolen.

In college I went through a series of bikes, including an Azuki (which was stolen) and a Motobecane Nomad (ditto). While in graduate school at the University of Kentucky I seldom owned a car and depended on my bikes. The best of the bunch was a long-term loan of a Motobecane Super Mirage from my  sister-in-law. I racked up thousands of miles on it and managed to keep it out of thieves hands.

My next great commuter bike was a Peugeot mountain bike. I used it two or three days a week to pedal to and from my editing job at Sun Microsystems.

As my publishing career in the Bay Area took off, however, I seldom commuted to my jobs on a bicycle. As a low-level executive, I discovered that arriving sweaty to morning meetings did not further one’s crawl up the corporate ladder. Still, I did own a Giant Farrago hybrid that I used to burn off the frustration and anxiety that those jobs created inside me.

Now that I’m a freelance writer, working from home, I can keep my career frustrations to a minimum. I also get to ride frequently. So in addition to my Torelli, I ride a Bianchi Denali mountain bike. Each one cranking out memories for me one ride at a time.

Which raises the question: Am I less frustrated in my work because my job has changed? Or am I less frustrated because I get to ride so often?

© Mark Everett Hall 2011

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2 thoughts on “Memory Lane: Bikes You’ve Owned

  1. Just how often do you ride? I know some freelancers who go out at lunchtime and then again in the evening almost every day. Not being a freelancer, I’m lucky if I get in two rides per week, let alone per day.

    • Weather permitting, I ride about five days per week. Each road ride is about 2-3 hours long on average; mountain bike rides 1 1/2 -2 hours in duration. I know quite a few people who ride more often and for longer stints than me, but it’s the best I can do and fit my non-riding life into the hours allotted in a day.

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