To quote Chief Jim Hopper on the Netflix original series Stranger Things: “bikes are like Cadillacs to these kids.” I couldn’t agree more Hop. From the time I learned to ride a bike without training wheels, till the start of high school, my BMX bike was my most prized possession. Well that and maybe my Sega Genesis. The bike represented freedom and independence. Pretty much everything Harley-Davidson owners say can be applied to kids and their bicycles. Time to grease up the bike chain and ask your mom for some slurpee money. This my story of a boy and his BMX bike.
My very first bike. A black and yellow Huffy with training wheels. I remember my parents talking me out of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed one. Their thinking being that I’d potentially grow our of my turtles phase and not like my whip anymore. Maybe they were right. We went with the black and yellow Huffy. I loved that tiny bike. I tore up the sidewalks as a little dude on that rig. I lost the training wheels around age six and never looked back.
At 8-years-old, we moved to a new house and eventually my parents expanded the allowed territory of unsupervised bike exploration. Each following birthday saw the boarders of the zone get pushed a block or two. Soon, I had bicycle dominion over the whole neighborhood. I spent every day of summer glued to the bike. I honestly thought I was going to learn a bunch of tricks and go pro. But that dream required a proper big-kid ride which I didn’t have.
Without the funds for a whole new bike, I had to build my own. Part by part. I saved all my lawn mowing money with the hopes of buying a chrome dipped PK Ripper frame and forks (the skeleton of the bike) but it was still too rich for my blood. I would just stare at the bike in the store window like it was the guitar in Wayne’s World. After hearing my sob story, my elderly neighbor gifted me an old Schwinn that was buried in his garage. The bike was an antique and was not cool. But my dad encouraged me to not give up.
Time for a make-over montage. I stripped down the bike and completely took everything apart. Then went steel wool crazy on the rust and old paint on the frame. Fresh paint and new rims and tires and it started to look like a vehicle again. But I still needed lots of little pieces and I was broke after the new wheels. So I did what most kids did. I stole.
A crew of us would go into the bike shop and I’d fill my pockets with whatever I needed/could get my hands on. I stole pedals, pegs, brake handles, grips, whatever. Before you call the cops or cop an attitude, let me say in my defense that the store we took from was run by a total asshole. Who would routinely hire thug older kids to steal bikes from young customers and resell the stolen goods. So if anything, I’m Robin Hood.
My frankencycle was now complete. It was solid matte black with silver pegs and handle bars. No kickstand. It looked like the Batmobile and I cherished it. Now I could finally get serious about the sport of BMX. But a strange thing happened, I wasn’t instantly amazing. It didn’t make sense. I had the perfect bike, the will of a champion and a chain wallet. What was I missing? Why was I always falling? And getting hurt?
Undeterred, I kept practicing. More curbs, rails and stairs. And with that, more cuts, scabs and tears. I want to say I was getting better but I really don’t think so. I couldn’t tail whip, bar spin or consistently land any legit tricks. Hell, I could barely bunny hop. Then, one afternoon, my whole BMX career changed forever.
I was pedaling down the sidewalks towards an intersection. The signal just flipped from the “walk” dude to the blinking “don’t walk” hand. Meanwhile, a green sedan approaches the intersection from a perpendicular street. It accelerates into a right turn at red light, just as I make my way into the cross walk. The bumper of the car plows into my front tire. Thankfully, I’m thrown forward unlike my bike which crumbles under the car as it screeches to a halt.
My knee scrapped so hard along the blacktop that it rubbed through my jeans and left pieces of gravel embedded in my skin. Total pink, bloody road rash. I was majorly shook up. The driver, a middle aged women, gets out and helps me up, she then frees the wreckage that was my prized BMX from under her shitty Ford Taurus. She tells me she is going to call the police on her car phone. In a daze, I watch as she gets in her car and drives away.
I drag my bike home two blocks and my parents naturally freak out. They call the cops (for real this time) and we file a report but no luck in finding the driver. Next time that happens, I know now to get the license plate number. I was devastated about the loss of my bike. But secretly, it was a godsend. I now had a great reason to stop pretending I was Dave Mirra and I could let BMX go. Without looking like a quitter. It was exactly what I needed.
Don’t get me wrong, that lady fucking sucks and I hope she has nightmares about what she did to me. But also thank you. Because BMX might have killed me if I didn’t stop.