What did I ride before this bike came into my life? I don’t remember, really, but I do know that I knew how to ride. The Royce Union three speed banana bike was my first real bike. That I know. I was a proud seven year old boy. I rode that bike to an early death, beat the snot out of it.. all without a helmet.
I likely have a little brain damage due to that fact. No helmet meant that I saw stars, as well as lost a lot of skin and blood, many times while riding that bike. It wasn’t the most safe bike in the world to ride, something I was destined to prove over and over again. My parents bought that bike for my birthday, June 1, ready to attack the summer months of Sacramento, California. We lived on the outskirts of town, in a new housing development with plenty of open fields, places to ride like miniature Evil Knievels. The neighborhood game was a modified version of chicken, played in the middle of the street with boys lined up across from each other to form a gauntlet. Each player had to try to ride their bike successfully through that gauntlet. My banana bike had that cool little sissy bar in the back, a perfect handle to stop me. The speed it took to try to make it through the gauntlet was my worst enemy — I was stopped suddenly, my forward motion launched me over the handlebars, my elbows and chin out in front of me as I hit the pavement. I still have scars on my elbows from that crash, the skin hung from my elbows as I stumbled through the front door to show my horrified mother. She knew the emergency room techs by their first names that summer.
I am also lucky that I was able to father children. That shifter wasn’t exactly in the best position. Ever heard of the term ‘racked’? Any boy who rode a bike like mine knows the term well. Just thinking about it makes me lose my breath. Mom kept an ice bag close at hand and an ample supply of ice in the freezer.
Thus the love began, a love that hurt me, that kept me healthy even as the injuries healed, that taught me a few things. I will always remember my first love.
Now… where is my ice bag?