Bikes were a big part of my childhood. I can’t remember a time I didn’t own a bike as a child.
Being the oldest of three sisters, bikes stayed around awhile, being passed down from one to another.
I still remember my first wheeled vehicle.
It was a tricycle with a seat on the back. It was the perfect size for a large teddy bear — or little sister.
It had blue and red streamers on the handlebars and plastic cushioned seats. The seat on the back featured a picture of a little boy riding the bike with a girl riding on the back.
I have a vague recollection that I got the bike for Christmas.
I made the bike my own with a license plate from an Alpha-Bits cereal box, my favorite at the time.
That bike got a lot of miles around our neighborhood, mostly in the alley behind our house. I’m so glad they repaved that alley just about the time I became really interested in biking.
The smooth white surface was much better than the pothole-ridden asphalt it replaced. Occasionally, I would ride around the block with my little sister on the back and mom close at hand.
I think I even rode it to vacation Bible school once.
Then came the time for me to graduate to the world of a bicycle with training wheels.
My younger sister inherited the two-seated trike, and her beloved white bear with brown ears became a ready passenger.
Once or twice I did hitch a ride on the back of my former trike.
My first experience with a bike wasn’t as great. The two-wheeler was bought secondhand outside someone’s house. This bike’s streamers were long gone before I ever owned it. The training wheels didn’t always touch the ground. But, it was better than nothing, so I tried to learn to ride it. My dad provided assistance when he could, but it was really hard to balance.
I was elated when I came home from camp one summer and found a new bike waiting for me in my room. It was beautiful and pink. It had glittery streamers on the handlebars. It was on this bike that I gained confidence in riding on two wheels, until I could ride my old, now better-suited, bike with no training wheels.
It was on this pink bike that my younger sister learned to ride, until she too graduated to the world beyond training wheels. By now, the larger bike was probably on its third or fourth kid and needed some care.
A makeover of purple with yellow striping gave the bike new life as my sister rode it around the block.
I had since moved on to a new bike of purple. It was with this bike I ended the hand-me-down tradition. While my younger sister rode it some while I was away at college, it remained my bike.
I came back to claim it and she was able to get one of her own, when she wanted it.
The two-seated trike was not discarded, though no longer ridden. Occasionally, a stuffed animal would find its way into the back seat as it sat in the basement, awaiting the day another rider would steer it.
By the time my youngest sister was old enough to ride the trike, it had seen better days. She rode it until my dad decided it was no longer safe, and bought her a red trike.
From the trike, she went on to ride the pretty pink bike.
Two summers ago, I took the training wheels off the pretty pink bike as I was determined to teach my youngest sister how to ride without them. She was starting to feel semi-comfortable with the idea when we realized the bike was too small.
As seems to be par for the course, she had outgrown the pink bike before the training wheels had come off.
And so again we moved to the first bike my parents had bought for me.
By the end of the day, my youngest sister had a scrape or two on her knee. She wasn’t quite confident yet, but she never went back to training wheels.
Today, the red trike has given joy to a family friend’s toddler and probably a few other children by now. And, I recently passed on my bike to Habitat for Humanity after not riding it for a year.
While I’m not sure whether I could still balance on a bike, I know I will never forget the memories and good times that bikes have brought.