Over the years I’ve had a number of bicycles, my favorite being a Luison Bobett in a beautiful metallic green color. My father bought the ten speed bicycle for my birthday, but unfortunately, I did not have it for very long as someone removed it from my possession. Bicycle theft was and is an ongoing fact of life and that was my foray into that reality.
When I attended Fresno State College, I used an old Schwinn bicycle my friend gave me. It was the size of a child’s bike with 20 inch wheels. I had found a set of multicolored plastic bicycle spoke covers in a cereal box and I put them on my spokes. They lasted quite a while and over the years their color faded. I placed a red seat cover over the wide seat, and the bearing race on the crankcase was so worn my dad welded it to the sprocket.
I found an old lady’s basket out back where we kept bicycle parts and installed it on the handlebar, then I replaced the brass braking cylinder several times as the metal hub was so worn as to render any breaking power without a brand new brake. I built my own bicycle rack for the back of my car, but failed to compensate the height, so when I backed out of the driveway, it hit the street and broke the stem off the front fork. My dad brazed the shaft back on and I was good to go. All in all, I made it my own.
Then someone stole the front wheel! Disappointedly, I went back to pile of parts and found an old wheel. The problem I had was the unusually sized 24 inch rim, so my dad cut the front forks and brazed in pieces of galvanized pipe to extend the forks to fit the larger wheel.
Then someone stole my whole bike! Luckily, my mother saw it on the front porch a couple of blocks away. When she inquired about the bike, the homeowner said it appeared on her lawn so she set in on the porch for the owner to find.
I continued to use that bike for years, traveling from one building to the next on the college campus. Never locking it and in fact, I would ride up to a building and because it was so small, I would simply stand up and allow the bicycle to continue rolling forward into the bushes. I would come back out after class and ride it to the next building with the same graceful maneuver. Then, would you believe it; it was stolen again. This time, I just circled around the campus and found it! I guess no one wanted to keep such a lousy bike.
Then came dental school. I lived across golden state park from campus, so each morning I huffed and puffed my way nearly all uphill through the park and into the garage at school where I locked it up. On the brighter side, going home was easy as it was mostly downhill.
One morning it snowed in San Francisco so I grabbed an extra backpack and filled it with snowballs and placed the bag in the basket as I took off to class for a snowball fight. On another day, I had a number of tests so I hiked the bicycle across the park and up the hill. There is a tunnel that starts on the downhill street that goes into the mountain to an elevator to the next street where I would park and lock the bike. Then, as fate would have it, as I was getting up to speed in the tunnel, the front fork broke off the steering shaft. So I basically pulled off the handlebars in flight and the wheel separated from the frame. I might as well been flying as it felt like I had fallen into a nine foot hole. With my knees and elbows scuffed up, I picked up the backpack and went to take my tests. When I returned at the end of the day, the old Schwinn was still there, so I picked up the bi-parted bike, carried it out of the tunnel and threw into a commercial waste bin and haltingly walked home.
It is not always necessary to have the newest things in life. Recycling what you already have can have its own rewards such as having gratitude for what you have.