Here’s my first bicycle, a Huffy Convertible, named for the ability to lose its training wheels, (or maybe to use them for other purposes). It’s shown on 27th Street, on the far side of our block in Lubbock, just feet from the spot where a few years later I would break my arm in a skating accident. I don’t recognize the extra fender stays, and I’d forgotten about the bell. The camera was a half-frame 127 model that I think I got in the mail in exchange for box-tops. Circa 1956.
My second bike was a 24″ Firestone. Santa failed to notice that, unlike the floor model, this one had pink tires as delivered. I worked hard to wear them out as fast as possible, while avoiding being seen by anyone I knew. I know that I was riding this one to school by third grade, because I remember an accident that involved the basket on the front. The bike was stolen once, by an older kid who lived in the next block, but soon brought back, with a few broken spokes. Photo: Kodak Verichrome Pan; Brownie Holiday Flash in open shade, about 1961. This was a square-format 127 size camera. You could buy Sylvania Blue Dot flashbulbs at the neighborhood grocery store! The flash attachment made it look like a tiny press camera, though the neck strap detracted from that image.
The J.C.Higgins Era. The next couple of bikes I had experience with came from Sears. My new friend Jim Hudson took pity on me and let me ride his 26″ (at the time I was the taller). Here’s a picture of me in my Little League uniform standing in my front yard with Jim’s bike.
Some while later I came into a modest sum of money that I didn’t spend at the hobby shop, and made a trip to Sears in the hope of securing one of those “English Racers” that everybody wanted. Parental opposition made this impossible, and I came home with a chrome-plated bike with a sprung front end, a “tank” with dual headlights, and a carrier that I think had a little taillight built in. I’m not sure that I was happy being seen with this one either.
I got my first grown-up bike, as a second-year law student, in 1977, a “champagne” colored Motobecane Super Mirage. Features included Weinmann rims and center-pull brakes, stem-mounted shifters, brake cheater-bars, plenty of reflectors, and a buffalo-hide saddle. Oh, and cotterless cranks, something of an innovation. A hundred and eighty bucks at WheelSport in Spokane — this was a pretty good bike, for store-bought. I built my first pair of wheels in this frame, and kept it for thirty years. For a while, you could still get brown cloth handlebar tape! Photo: Minolta SR-1, Tri-X; exposure not recorded.
One day I was doing a hilly ride with my friend Dave and noticed that he was a lot faster — and never seemed to shift. When I saw my first fingertip shifters (with two or three times as many gears) I knew it was time for me to catch up to the new technology. I tried out a bunch of bikes this time, and got a professional fitting at Gregg’s Greenlake. They had a demo Serotta frame they were selling (hence the green color) and I went all-out. The shiny bits all said Campagnolo and (there being no Chorus triple at the time) some of them said “Record” as well and, without the pedals, the assembly weighed 17.5 lbs., a big step up. Or down. Photo: Canon Digital Elph, about 2004.
My trail bike. We found ourselves moving to Baja California, to a place where there wasn’t a lot of pavement — and there was a lot of dirt. I rode my Serotta to Recycled Cycles and traded it in for a Kona “Blast” (seen here years later, in 2018, photo by Pixel smartphone). The store pays a maximum of $600 for used bikes, so I ended up forking over some cash. When I said I didn’t need the shoes with the cleats any more, the guy handed me another $50, and I realized that I probably could have unscrewed the pedals and gotten another hundred bucks for them.
This hardtail was my first bike with disc brakes. I got the large frame, and the bars were so wide that I ended up sawing a bit off the ends. The tires were fat and gnarly, but not puncture-resistant, resulting in a lot of grief the first year or two. We left Mexico in 2013 not sure if we’d be back, and I essentially abandoned the bike at our old house, What a treat to see it again on a visit years later!
Though still living in Mexico, we started spending our summers in Seattle again. I bought a road bike to ride for a season and then sell — but ended up keeping it for eleven years! A more complete description can be found on a page called My Touring Rig. Photo: Olympus VG-130 (2011).
My gravel bike.I would have been happy to replace the Novara with another one just like it, but the bicycling world had moved on. Ask for a touring bike these days and you’re likely offered an “adventure bike,” with lots of room for luggage, and with big (and probably tubeless) tires. This is about the size and shape of the old one (I haven’t yet replaced the wider bars, but it doesn’t seem as reachy as it did at first). It does allow us to go places that we might have avoided before. Photo: Pixel 6 Pro (2022).