Bicycle Race

Riding my bike in a dress - October 1989

I’ve been searching for a bike. Really need one out here, especially since Mike has the car most of the time. I look on Craigslist, on the west side, for $100-$150. I don’t want anything too expensive, but I DO want to fall in love with my bike. Didn’t really know what type I wanted at first. I like road bikes because they’re lightweight, fast, and don’t take up too much space, but I live at the beach. So beach cruiser it is. I’ve never owned a cruiser before, and they brake with the pedals, which is not what I’m used to. Every one I’ve gone to see is just OK. Usually, they’re a little too big. I find one on Craigslist that looks awesome – pale yellow with a tan seat and a wicker basket on the front. Too cool. Email the girl and ask if I can come tomorrow. “Yes, but a lot of people are coming today so you might want to come soon if you can.” Mike has the car so I have to wait for him to get home. By the time he does, she emails back to tell me it’s sold. Damn that was fast. I tell myself not to be bummed about it. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Not my typical way of thinking, but I figure I struck gold with my apartment, so I shouldn’t get stressed out about a bike.

Today I go to see a red beach cruiser for 100 bucks. It’s about 30 minutes away. Pull up to a small house and there’s a Mexican lady sweeping her front porch. She goes inside to get her son. Daniel, a young guy, comes out and brings the bike. There’s some rust on it – which it did mention in the ad – but I take it for a spin and it rides nice. It’s only 100. I’m not in love with it. After I ride it and come back, his brother, Jose, is standing there with him. “I have a bike I’m selling, too, but for 250. I couldn’t go any lower than 200. Do you want to see it?” Well I’m probably not going to get it, but I’m here, so why not. Yea, I’ll look at it. He goes inside and I stay outside talking to Daniel for a bit. Jose walks out with a proud smile on his face, and oh my God, this is the bike. The first thing I see is the color – a crazy green that changes color in the sunlight – then I see the Schwinn symbol. I can also tell this is an older bike. Jose informs me it’s from the 1980’s. Oh my God, it’s an old, green Schwinn!

Hand-painted and custom-made green Schwinn

My last bike was an even older green Schwinn, 1970-ish. Stephen helped me pick it out from Mike’s Bike Shop in South Philly. Birthday present from Mom. A road bike, it cost $160. I loved that bike. It was a piece of crap. It had so much rust on it, and over time the brakes barely worked, especially when it rained, but at least I didn’t have to worry about anyone stealing it. I stupidly used it in my first (and only) sprint triathlon in Philly. I had obviously practiced on it, riding far distances without too much trouble. I took it in for a tune-up and the guy told me he did not recommend me using it for a race. Well, this is my bike, so I’m using it. I’m sure I could have found a bike to borrow from someone, but I’m stubborn and I wanted to use my vintage Schwinn. The first leg of the race was swimming in the Schuylkill River. I was way more nervous for this than the bike ride. It ended up being a nice swim with pretty clean water. I mean, there was no seaweed or weird things touching me under the water. Just had to watch out for people kicking you. After the swim I came out of the water and brought my bike over to the start. As soon as I went to get on my bike, the chain came off. This never happened before, so I had no idea what to do. There were about three officials standing around me, sending people off. Can you help me? “No.” What? What do you mean? “We’re not allowed to touch your bikes.” What??? Panic. I get on and just try to pedal. Amazingly, it catches, and I’m off. People were cheering for me because I finally started. I try to switch gears, and the chain comes off again. I pull to the side. I can’t get the chain on. There’s grease all over me and I cut my hand on the chain. People are zooming by me. “Are you OK?” They say this zooming by me. What’s the point? I yell back, no! I’m about to cry. I’m not going to be able to finish the race. I somehow get the chain on and start going again. I don’t dare change gears for the next 15.5 miles. It’s pretty horrible. Me and the bike went through a lot that day. I grudgingly left it behind in Hoboken when I moved out here. Gave it to my friend, Ally. You should definitely take it in somewhere to get fixed before you ride it. I don’t know if she’s ridden it yet, but I’m guessing no.

This beautiful bike is standing before me and I’m in awe. Take it for a quick ride and absolutely love it. Jose tells me he painted it himself. He likes to buy old bikes and make them new again. Even puts his trademark on there – “Big Boy Kustom.” He fixes cars, too. He used this paint for his car and had some left over, so used it for the bike. The car is in the driveway, under a cover. He takes it off to show me. It’s sick. “It won a bunch of car awards back in November.” This is just his hobby. His 9-5 job is painting helicopters. What is this color called? “It didn’t have a name, but I’d say Tiger. Actually, it’s kind of like the color of your eyes.” Oh, Jose is a sweet talker. This is his third bike he’s selling. A few people came to look at it but tried to talk him down from 250, saying 220 or 230. “I told them no, no way, but I’ll give it to you for 200 because you’ll look good riding it.” What can I say? Mexicans love me. I finally leave without buying it, but as I drive home I can’t stop thinking about. I’m practically giddy over it. I tell Mike the story. He says I should call him and tell him I want it. I do. We try to figure out a day that I can come back but our schedules are conflicting. He offers to bring it over today before I have to be in for work. Really? That would be amazing. Since he’s delivering, the price goes up to 220. That’s fair. Done and done.

My new bike!

Jose and Daniel arrive, and Mike walks out to see it. They all introduce themselves and Jose asks Mike if he’s going to try it out. “Nah, not now.” I laugh to myself at this. We bring it into the apartment because I don’t have a lock yet. I tell Mike to just sit on it. I’m so excited. He kicks the back of it as he puts his leg over. Then when he gets off he kicks it again. Jesus, Mike. “Sorry. I’m not good with these things.” He continues standing there just holding on to the handlebars. “Seriously, take it.” He acts like it’s going to break if he has to hold it up any longer. This is all because Mike doesn’t know how to ride a bike.

He was nine or ten when it happened, which has got to be a story right there. What kid doesn’t learn how to ride a bike before then? “I don’t know, I guess I had a weird childhood.” I was riding a bike when I was 6. See picture above. Just saying. So Mike is 9 or 10, and it was a nice day, so the Manfre’s decided to take a family bike ride to Grandmom’s house. Mr. Manfre had taught Mike how to ride a bike. They practiced at Rivergate Park and Mike felt comfortable riding one, but this was his first real excursion.

He’s doing fine, until they start going down a hill. The park is flat, so Mike isn’t prepared to go down hill. “It’s not even a hill. It’s barely a hill.” OK, so Mike is going on a decline. He’s ahead of his parents now. They tell him to take his feet off the pedals and just coast. As soon as he does, he panics, and instead of putting his feet back on the pedals to brake, he sticks his feet out to the sides and continues flying. The pedals are going crazy. Mr. and Mrs. Manfre are yelling behind him to brake. He’s about to reach his Grandmom’s house, but last second Mike decides to turn into the neighbors driveway. The garage is open, and he slams into the back of Mrs. Herman’s car. Mike’s not injured and the car is fine, but Mike is humiliated. He never rides a bike again. (I don’t really know if he did but it’s funnier this way).

Maybe Mike will try to ride Billy. That’s what I’ve named him. Billy Big Boy. It’s weird how excited I am about this bike. I care way more about having a cool bike than having a cool car. Next month is my last payment on my car. When I bought the Saturn, Dad told me that as soon as I pay it off I’ll probably want to get a new one. Yea right. I will drive Belle until she dies. But my bike. That’s something that has to be awesome – at least, awesome in my eyes.


9 thoughts on “Bicycle Race

  1. HAHAHAHAH Best bike story ever. I remember it like it was yesterday when he crashed into that parked car. Mike and I both started riding bikes late because we didn’t want to (probably afraid) and my parents never forced us to try anything if we didn’t want to. Like I don’t even think I ate vegetables until I was 25.

  2. The counseling never did work!!!!! You forgot that the car was brand new and she parked it in the garage so it would not get hit. How ironic is that?

  3. idk what’s worse that ridiculous bike story or when I crashed my car into TruGreen Chemlawn….I’m not good with things with wheels…maybe it is a good idea I didn’t keep that skateboard.

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