It’s time to get the bikes out of the storage building.
Warm weather is back (although the high here yesterday was only 59) and when the sun shines, I enjoy a good bike ride. I especially enjoy riding when we go to Florida and we always take the bikes with us.
I had a mountain bike for a while. A Schwinn Pioneer. One of the last bikes made by Schwinn before the company name was sold and the brand became just another cheap bike found at Walmart and Toys R Us. But it was heavy and a stout ride and I wanted something more refined, since at my age, I don’t tend to do a lot of off road riding.
I had bought my daughter a Fuji Crosstown hybrid bike and liked it so much, I traded in the Schwinn for one for myself. Good move. I love the bike. The smaller tires and bigger wheels, more comfortable seat and handlebars, grip shifters, and lighter weight make it a great bike for casual in town and highway trips.
My very first bike was a Christmas gift, a total surprise. It was a red and white Columbia with chrome fenders. I believe I was about 9 years old. I had taught myself to ride on my brother and sister’s bikes so knew what I was doing. But when we walked in on Christmas morning and my step-father was holding up a bed spread hiding the bike, then dropped it to reveal this gorgeous beauty, I gasped and proclaimed “Is it for ME?” It was one of my best Christmases ever. I rode that bike everywhere. It’s a wonder I didn’t wear the tires right off it.
We did all the typical things with bikes back then. Like clipping playing cards on the frame with clothes pins to rub the spokes and sound like a motorcycle. Racing down steep hills, riding with no hands, zooming in and hitting the brakes to skid around sideways and leave marks on the sidewalk. We were Hell’s Angels on unmotorized pedal craft. Those were more innocent days. I never locked that bike. Never had to. It was perfectly fine to ride my bike to downtown Decatur, Georgia, and park it on the sidewalk in front of Woolworth’s without fear of having it stolen while inside.
I learned basic mechanics on that bike, doing all the maintenance and repairs myself. It had no gears, no hand brakes, nothing complicated or elaborate. A simple red and white and chrome bike with coaster brakes, and it was my joy and my freedom for about five years of my life.
There’s something about riding a bike that’s quiet and thought provoking. You can think clearly when riding a bike. You’re outside, feeling the breeze across your face and the sun on your back. You can smell the landscape and hear the birds. You can travel quickly or casually and see everything that’s there. It takes far less concentration than driving, and is liberating and wonderful exercise.
Over a long period of time I’ve photographed bikes. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s their style, their geometry and design, the way they look against a building or in the landscape, what they suggest, transportation at a stand still, simpler than an auto, self-propelled. Maybe it’s nostalgia. I’m not sure. I’m just attracted to them. So they’ve become one of my many series of photos, an on going project. And when I see one calling to me, I stop and photograph it.
All images are copyright © George Cannon / All rights reserved.