|Kevin M Klerks||
My first bicycle was an orange fixed gear. It was stolen when I was 12, I think, but I got it back. I was 13 before I learned to ride it. It was my first of five bicycles I owned.
I remember my first bicycle was stolen off our property. I went to school and found it hanging on the playground fence. I do not know who took it, but I had a fairly good list of suspects. Since I had not yet learned to ride it, I had to walk it home. I know my parents could not really afford to buy me a lot of things so having a bicycle, at all, was a privilege. I was embarrassed by it though, it had an angled bar in the middle, which gave the impression it was a girls’ bike, and it was orange. A few years later that would have been a cool colour, but we are talking boys here, blue, or black but not orange.
My father had tried a couple times to teach me how to ride it but he gave up. I was not the most athlete kid in school so the idea of balancing myself on two rubber tires took some practise. The first time I learned to ride the bike was down a neighbours’ driveway in late March. I remember the day was mild but still early spring. The snow was still covering parts of the ground and along the curb of the street. I went down the driveway in a straight line, across the road and into the slushy snow. Learning to ride a bike was much like learning to jump off a diving board once I did it I did it over and over until I was no longer afraid to ride.
I had that bike for a couple years total until one night I forgot it down at the baseball diamond under the bleachers. The park was less than a block from where I lived so it was easy to forget that I had ridden my bike there. My father recalled seeing a bike under there when he walked by, but he did not know at the time that it was mine. Someone took it from the park and I never saw it again.
The next bicycle I owned was a blue fixed gear, with cruiser handles. I rode that bicycle everywhere until the handlebars literally snapped off as I was riding it up the High School hill. I remember it as it happened. I took it home and showed my parents the handlebars had broken off, but they did not believe me and blamed me for breaking my bike. The welding had failed when I put my weight down on the handlebars to get up the hill. I think it was because there was no cross bar to distribute some of my weight, so it was transferred right to the weld between the bars and the steering column. Today it would be a serious safety recall, back then it simply meant I did not have a bike to ride anymore. They did not buy me another one outright after that.
My third bicycle was a 10 speed. I can not remember the colour, but I know I paid for most of it. I got it at McCurdy’s bicycle shop downtown. It was a nice 10 speed bike complete with a speedometer on the handlebar that clocked the speed of the front tire. I bought a battery powered light for it that was mounted next to the speedometer, with a line going to a red light on the back above the tire under the seat.
The first evening, after picking it up from the shop, I rode it home I made it almost 3 of the 4 blocks before cruising into the back of a parked car. It would have been a mid 1980s version of distracted driving; I was focused on the speedometer and not the road in front of me. Luckily neither the car nor my bicycle sustained any damage, and I rode away with a couple bruises from slamming into the handlebars at 20 kilometers an hour.
I rode my 10-speed bike everywhere. I had it for a ride out into the country with friends and I broke 80 kilometers an hour racing down the concession near the cemetery. I had it when I met my first girlfriend at age 18 and rode it several times to the park and out to the countryside to hang out with her. Do not worry, but that time I could drive and would when I could afford the gas. And I took it on a long one-way ride from Chesley to nearly Rockford (to visit my grandparents).
I believe the ride to my grandparents may have been one of the longest consecutive rides of about thirty-eight kilometres. It was nearly over before it had really started though. I got out to Scone and started heading north when I hit the break between the asphalt and gravel road at over forty kilometres an hour. It jarred me but I managed to bring the bike to a stop with no damage. It was a sturdy one that is for sure. I made it up to my grandparents and wanted to ride it back home, but they drove me and my bike home by car instead. I do not remember what happened to that bicycle, I probably sold it, or my father did at the consignment shop on the edge of town.
The next bicycle, number four, I had when I was living down in the city, perhaps it was the same bike but I do not think so? To be honest I can not remember but I thought I had bought a new one at that point. I rode it the most, all over the city of Brampton and Bramalea. I remember the twin cities had an excellent bicycle path network and you could, with only short crossings of paved roads, travel from the north-east part of Bramalea all the way west across the city, through Brampton and down to Shoppers World, the last district before the highway connecting Brampton to Mississauga.
They were great bike paths too, paved asphalt wide enough for two lanes to pass. I think there was only one time I had an incident with a car. And it was when I was walking the bicycle across a crosswalk and a truck nudged over the white line and bumped me. I even had a witness who said the driver was at fault, but I just let it go because I was not hurt at all. The most memorable portions of the trails, for me, ran through a forest near Marchmount, and along the Main Street south of Gage Park downtown. I think I ended up selling that bike, probably on eBay or to a neighbour.
My last bike, a 12-speed mountain bike, I owned while living in Kincardine and working up at Canadian Tire. I tried one of many health kicks in my life by riding that bike to and from work through the summer one year. It darn near killed me, but not nearly as much as the three flights of stairs I had to carry my bicycle up at night and down in the morning from my apartment. I finally made arrangements to keep the bike locked up on the ground floor but ended up selling it after a couple years.
I used the bike mostly for commuting in town and I do not remember any trips on it outside the town limits. That was back before 2009. In 2010 I left Kincardine and moved to Hanover. I have not ridden a bicycle since nor do I really have any desire to.
Would you believe that I once wrote bicycle poetry for a magazine that was published out of Toronto. I think I ended up getting four poems published by them if I recall. I got paid in copies. This was back in the days when the internet was just starting to enter the public market and before I moved to Ohio in 1994.