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First Bicycle

Golden Seat

'I want to ride my bicycle/ I want to ride my bike/ I want to ride my bicycle/ I want to ride it where I like." Queen expressed the joy and freedom that riding a bicycle provides. If you are eight years old, a bike can transport you to magical, faraway places (or in circles around the cul-de-sac...which seemed magical to me). My neighbors, my sister, and I would traipse around our neighborhood on foot, plastic car, skateboard, and bike, pretending we were traveling in faraway places. We fled from horrible orphanages in the dark of night, rode in wagons across the prairie, and drove up and down streets drawn across the driveway in chalk. The most important thing was that I traveled in style. Long before people began to care about what car they drove, we worried about the looks of our bikes. My favorite bicycle was much cooler than the Volvo I now borrow from my mom. My bicycle, a birthday present, was little and purple and adorned in multicolored stars, a horn (so that even though I was outside I could still annoy my parents), a little white basket, and training wheels. Because of my lack of coordination, the training wheels stayed on for a while; but it was my first upgrade from the world of tricycles, and even with training wheels I felt cool riding it.

I eventually abandoned my little bike for a mountain bike with different gears so I could keep up with the boy next door in races down the hill and around the lake near our house. Though I was injured from the reckless behavior, I recall the mountain bike fondly. I took long bicycle rides with my family at my Grandpa's summer house in Michigan.

Next year, I'm going to school in a college town with lots of bike paths, and I can't wait to take advantage of non-fossil-fuel transportation. That little purple bike started it all. -- Megan Zapanta, El Capitan H.S.

My first bicycle was not some extravagant gift from my parents. It had no gorgeous Barbie or Cinderella design, nor did it have pink tassels hanging from the handlebars. Rather, it was a simple sporty-inspired bike that my dad's friend gave me. I was about six years old and still did not know how to ride a bike without training wheels, so my dad was determined to teach me to ride. We found a straight and (more importantly) flat strip in the middle of the street, and he held the bike while I balanced on it. He held onto the back and walked with me as I pedaled. Once I got the rhythm going, he let go as I glided at a speed faster than I was comfortable with. I made it down the street and into a pile of leaves and brush. Though I recall being melodramatic at the time, I suffered no serious injuries...several light scratches, maybe.

After that crash, I had more confidence to get back on the bike and try to ride again. The extent of my riding, however, was limited to around the block. I would go around the block one way, practicing my left-hand turns, and then go the opposite way, practicing my right-hand turns. I wasn't the biggest risk-taker (and still am not) when it comes to physical activity.

Once I got more comfortable riding, my mom and I scoped out a few biking paths around town. On summer evenings, we would ride down to the local ice cream shop and lock up the bikes outside while we got scoops and cones.

I am unable to remember the fate of my first bike. We never touched it up, painted it, nor gave it a makeover. My guess is that it was passed along to some other neighbor, to be used again as a trainer. -- Naomi Serling-Boyd, Mt. Carmel H.S.

I got my first big-girl bike for Christmas when I was four years old. It was bright pink with a flower design and a basket. Learning to balance without training wheels did not come easily. I used to make my dad run behind me and hold onto the seat to help me balance. After weeks of this, I could finally balance on my own. The biggest crash I ever had happened one summer day shortly after I learned to ride alone. I hadn't mastered the whole steering concept yet; however, this inability didn't enter my head when I decided to ride down the inclined driveway. All went well until I realized I was headed straight for the curb on the opposite side of the road. I panicked because I didn't know how to steer away from it. As I approached the curb, I squeezed my eyes shut. When my front tire slammed into the curb, I went over the handlebars. Upon impact, I burst into tears. It took several days and a few intense pep talks before I would go anywhere near my bike (not to mention the curb!) again.

I still have my first bike. It was hiding somewhere in the garage under layers of dust and cobwebs. It has lost some of its glamour; the pink basket fell off years ago from excessive use and the paint has begun to peel off. My younger brother Luke recently replaced the old wheels and now uses it to go over dirt jumps. That poor bike has been through so much...I'm sure there is a golden seat waiting for it in bike heaven. -- Emma Seemann, Carlsbad H.S.

I could not ride a bike until I was ten years old. From an adult's point of view, ten seems like a young age, but a child younger than ten believes someone with a decade of life experience is an elder, a veteran, a shaman. So, imagine my embarrassment when I was the only ten-year-old on the block who could not comprehend the complexities of a bicycle. My parents were not reluctant to teach me, but I was reluctant to learn. At the age of five, I had limited coordination. Every time I attempted to ride my shiny two-wheeler, I would crash into a bush, into a tree, or into a fence. Many times I had heard the maxim, "If you fall off your horse, get up and try again." But I was young and restless, so I gave up without deliberation.

My five-year-old bicycle remained in mint condition, stranded in my room, kept like a priceless vase in a museum. It gathered dust as I grew more self-conscious. Nothing was more embarrassing than telling others that I was the kid who could not ride a bike; it was like a farmer admitting he never learned how to milk a cow. I was only ten years old, and I wore a scarlet "B" wherever I went (usually on foot).

Then, one day, a burst of ambition exploded inside of me: I could learn, I wanted to learn, I had to learn. I did not care if I had to train on crowded sidewalks where all could observe. All I cared about was riding my first bike for the first time. And so I did. -- Andres Perez, Valhalla H.S.

Anyone who grew up near La Mesa knows Harry Griffin Park... its safe sidewalks, gentle hills, and soft grass are perfect for your average kindergarten cyclist. Harry Griffin Park is where I took off my training wheels. I was born into a family of worry-warts. My grandpa is convinced that one day our toaster will burn the house down, and my mom won't let me put my flute together in the car because she thinks I'll be impaled by the flute if the air-bags inflate. So, when I went to Harry Griffin Park to learn to bicycle, I thought I would break my five-year-old neck.

My bike was not one of those girly bikes with the pink tassels on the handlebars; it was red and black and named something macho such as "Xtremo" or "HotRod 360." (I can't remember.) The bike was a Christmas present, and I enjoyed it with the training wheels on. Riding on two wheels seemed impossible. Cars can't even go on two wheels! How did my mom expect me to survive?

I recall walking my bike up to the top of a grassy knoll (Mt. Everest to a worry-wart) and pretending to listen to my parents' advice before careening down. On the way down the hill, the bike under me transformed from a contraption of death to merely a maiming machine. But terror was soon replaced with exhilaration when I fell into the soft grass. I learned to ride my bike that day and survived unscathed.

Since then, I have survived kayaking, roller coasters, and white-water rafting. I don't see myself ever mustering up the courage to bungee jump or sky dive, but I start driving classes soon, a hurdle into adulthood. Let the worrying begin. -- Madeline McCurry- Schmidt, Valhalla H.S.

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