I flip my bike over in the driveway where I’ve lived for 25 years here in Metro Atlanta, 900 miles away from where I grew up in Mineola on Long Island in New York, and I feel my body transport back to 1974 almost immediately.
I am eleven years old again in the midst of the USA’s biggest bike boom ever. I am running a half-filled bike tube under water in the slop sink in the basement where we wash our rescue dog to see if I can isolate a flat and patch it.
I am tightening brakes and replacing pads bought at the E.J. Korvette’s store nearby or the Mineola Bike Shop across town, my long unruly hair still wet from the public pool pulled back in a ponytail.
I am cleaning my gears by flossing them with a cut strip of an old Police Boys Club team t-shirt from an annual league where I play third base.
I am waiting for my friends to come so we can ride three-on-a-bike in flip flops to climb that big tree at the library or go bowling or buy hamster food at the pet shop, or wherever we end up wandering as long as we’re home by dinner.
I am a kid again, time traveling from my current bottom-of-a-hill in suburbia where kids right here right now in 2020 rode their bikes as if it were 1974 again for one brief moment during this pandemic back in April, but no more. They walk by with their parents (hardly ever alone) and dogs that go to groomers, and they ask me what I’m doing and I’m not sure really where to begin. All I know is that if you don’t ride your bike when you’re a kid, you can’t feel like a kid again when you ride your bike, or even just when you floss it, and there’s really no way to explain this to them just yet.
Today is my third Saturday teaching bike skills to two girls in Clarkston, Georgia. It has been awhile since I co-taught an earn-a-bike series of lessons and bike rodeos in the City of Decatur* (I typically teach women and teen girls), and the joy of it all came back quickly. Their story is theirs to tell, although I can tell you the girl in the photo below had a big smile across her face and a thumb’s up as she told me the thing that has surprised her the most about bike riding is how good the breeze feels.
I think I’m gonna create a little template of rubber-hits-the-road lessons for teaching kids (like I did with the senior-on-trikes curriculum — see my Bonus Resources for that) in case anyone would like to use it right here right now during what was, for one brief moment, a second bike boom. In case, maybe just maybe, we can get it going again.
I’m also going to add a video of this “flossing” technique to my series of 30-second Bike Tips videos. Stay tuned . . .
If you enjoyed this little flashback (especially if it brought back memories for you as well), you may specifically enjoy the first chapter to my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike. All proceeds are used to help more women and girls ride bikes.
* from bike rodeo in Decatur, GA