My bicycle is 20 years old this year. In 1989, mountain biking was a fledgling sport done mostly by hippies in Northern California, not the billion dollar industry it is today. One of the cool bikes back then was the all aluminum Cannondale - a fat tubed, light-weight hard charger. Still an elite bike today, in the Eighties they intimidated. They looked purpose built, unlike the other ones manufactured by Specialized, Trek, or Giant. Those were still great bikes, but with the thin chrome-moly tubing, they still looked like paperboy ten speeds. My friend with the Honda Passport had one, and I wanted one too. Problem was they were pricey.Then one day, I was flipping through the latest spring L.L. Bean catalog and noticed they had branded bikes, and their top of the line looked an awful lot like a Cannondale. Turns out it was, and, with slightly downgraded components, it was priced right for this unemployed college senior. Even better, it wasn't badged as a Cannondale but with the familiar L.L. logo. Back then for me, going brand-less - the road less travelled - was my kind of trip. I still haven't seen another like it. It was the largest credit card purchase I made to date and arrived a week later in screaming red, with yellow accents. I assembled it myself in the front room of our rowhouse on Dent Place. First thing that went on it was a bat-signal sticker (before Batman was cool I stress) for its huge down-tube.
I took it everywhere, and unlike my skateboarding, I was pretty fearless with it, both on trails and in D.C. traffic. I took it to law school and enjoyed the quietude of riding through the deep woods on newly fallen Midwestern snow in truly freezing cold. It always lived indoors in those years, enjoying a favored place against a wall either in a dorm room or an apartment. When it got too caked in mud I just threw it into a bathtub and showered it down.
I brought it home to Honolulu and, sadly, I let it sit for many months until the months became years. Once, following a long distance canoe race, I pedaled it halfway around the island alongside a friend. But for the most part it stayed hidden in storage, at my parents' house, receptacle of all things old and mine. It still has the tires I put on it when I was in South Bend.Recently, my five year old was given a great BMX bicycle, also red, by his grandparents. It's great. It's not one of those kiddie-fied pseudo-bikes from Wal-Mart made by Red Chinese for Fisher-Price with pictures of Dora the Explora all over it and hard rubber tires. Toys. It's an honest to goodness machine, scaled down to my son's size, made by Redline in Washington State. It's got real brakes, tube tires, and anodized rims. We ride together now. Mostly at a nearby elementary school, or a park that has a mild hill he likes to pedal up then charge back down. Or he follows me around the big block that his preschool is on. We go 'round and 'round and 'round.So here's to my 20 year old and my 5 year old. What a time I've had and will continue to have. I think I'll go out and get some new tires for the older one, and a bat-signal sticker for the younger one.