Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Big Red

When I was approaching my 10th birthday, I read a book featuring a boy detective who solved some sort of crime involving rare coins.  I don't remember much about the book, just the bare bones.  The kid was a numismatic prodigy of some sort, someone was doing something nefarious involving collectible money, and the kid ended up with a one-of-a-kind US Mint proof coin of some sort as his reward for solving the case for the police.

One thing I remember, though, was the kid's bike.  He had a 26-inch wheeled bike, like a paperboy, and his rival had 20-inch wheel bike, like me.  At one point in the story, the hero and his rival were both trying to get to a neighboring town, for some reason,  and the hero was able to ride faster because his bigger wheels gave him better rolling efficiency.

So, I decided that I needed a 26-inch wheeled bike, and I started lobbying my parents for one.  I explained to them a few times (more than ten, not more than a thousand) about the rolling efficiency and what that meant for day-long rides.  I told them how it would be years before I outgrew it, because the new bike would have a bigger frame to accomodate the bigger wheels.  I whined and wheedled and generally made a pest of myself.

Finally, in what I've always assumed was a bid to get me to back off, my parents told me that they would get me the new bike...if I gave my old bike to the church for a poor kid.  I figure it was quite a shock when I agreed to the deal.

So, I got a shiny new Western Flyer, bright red and huge.  I had to hook one knee over the top tube to reach the ground with the opposite foot, when I stopped.  But, man, would that sucker roll.  It's the bike I wanted to put wings on so that it would fly, for real, because riding it made me feel as if I was already flying, even though I never left the ground.

One day, not too many months after I got Big Red, I was riding through the neighborhood on my way to somewhere.  I happened to look down the street as I passed an intersection and I saw a kid riding my old Buzz Bike, with the tiger-skin seat.  A momentary pang of regret hit me as memories of riding with Rusty Fox, and making endless rounds of the Dead-End ran through my mind.

But, then, I looked forward and pedaled into the future.  That bike was in the past, and I had many miles to go on Big Red.

I still have Big Red.  I had Momma and Daddy bring it with them, the last time they drove out to visit, in 2004.  Daddy had ridden the bike, for a few years, and even took it to Thailand for a couple of years when he was working over there.  So, Big Red was looking a little tatty, with rusty wheels and faded paint.

I pulled him apart, and had the frame and fork stripped and powder-coated in candy-apple red.  New stainless steel fenders, chrome wheels, and cleaned up original components went back on and, once again, the bike was a beauty.

I still kinda miss my first bike, and I hope that the kid who received it from the church enjoyed it as much as I did.  But, I've always been glad that I got Big Red.  And I'm very glad to still have him around.


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