Twelve years old to the day, I was. My knees weren’t banging off my chin just yet but they were getting close. The trusty CCM Pursuit 5 that I ventured farther and farther from home on was slowly shrinking beneath me. At day’s end (actually, I don’t remember exactly how this part went down so I am making it up) as my Dad came home from work I caught a glint of sunlight sparkling off steel from the back of the family wagon.
Heaven. My folks, who have always encouraged in me and shared with me life’s passions, had scavenged a Puegeot from the dump. Sure, there was a bit of rust, a dent in the toptube and the tires were flat and cracked. But this was a real Puegeot! It was made in France and had words on it that I couldn’t read … I think these words were written in European. Giving my parents a hug, my Dad (I think it was my Dad), stuffed $40 into my hand. I had $40 precious dollars to make the bike shine.
On the old CCM, weeks of riding to the closest bike shop to deliberate over parts, bar tape and a saddle followed. The old fellow at the shop took time to show me how to true the wheels, break the chain and among other things, how important it was to care. When it was shined up and rideable the Peugeot became my proudest possession.
The first day on my new (old, battered) bike was the first of the rest of my life. At that age every kid finds some thing that they are certain they will do for the rest of their lives. Often those dreams turn to dust but the trusty Peugeot has stayed with me for ever. I don’t know where it has gone and no photos of it remain but it is alive and well inside me. I wonder now if my parents or the old guy at the bike shop had any idea that being part of transforming this old bike was equally transforming me into the person I was to become.
At the risk of sounding creaky and old I can’t can’t help but wonder about our current need for immediate gratification. As a young cyclist I rode that Peugeot with heart. I was, at the beginning, a terrible racer. A flash bike would not have made any difference. In fact, although I wanted one, a new bike would likely have put pressure on me to perform in a way that I was not capable of. If I had been given the slick new racer when I was 14 would I still be riding today, thirty years later? I can’t answer that but what I do know is that years later, when I finally got a real racing bike I paid for it with money from two summer jobs and prize money from races I had performed well in. I felt that I had earned that new bike, that I was worthy of it.
I often marvel now at the array of ultra high-end gear that glints in the sun as a pack of junior racers wheels by. How much heart is in those bikes? How committed are the riders on them? Will those kids be passionate riders in the years to come? I don’t know the answers but I do know the question is worth asking.
Please, hit the comment button and tell us your story. Whether it happened when you were young or older for many readers the bike has changed you in some way. My story started in my childhood but maybe yours started last summer. If there is a bike that has a place in your heart then it is a good story, if a bike has helped define who you are today the world should know!
About the Author Kieran Andrews
Here are three facts about me. I grew up in the country. My parents bought me a trike when I was very young. They are lucky they ever saw me again. The freedom of three wheels turned addictive when I graduated to two. Sure, I do other things, but above all I love riding my bike(s). Many years, many places, many races, but I still love the riding close to this place I have come to call home.