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Wielder of the Rubber Mallet, Male, from SouthWest Metro MN
Happy dance, my redesigned FLO 90's shipped today, 6 months tardy, let's hope they work this time. Apr 12, 2017
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Over the years in casual conversations with my fellow cyclists, I have found an interesting trend. Those of us that grew up in the 1970’s suburbia share a deep-seated sentiment for our first real bicycles. Mine was red; it was heavy; and I had it for far too long. I did unspeakable things to it and irresponsible things with it. Whether I was converting it to a dirt bike, or sending it on far too many ghost rides; that bike was abused and loved in equal parts. It was my gateway to independence, and it will forever hold a special place in my mind. It cemented my love for biking.
Today’s youth still experience the thrill of jumping on a bike and riding off by themselves, but in the 70’s, in our sprawling neighborhoods, your bike was truly “the thing”. In those days there were no soccer Mom’s with mini-vans. If your Mom stayed home chances are you only had 1 car and Dad took that to work most days. If you did have 2 cars, well then.... this was the peak of the energy crisis which meant you simply did not drive the car if you could avoid it. Either your family could not afford it; or gas rationing meant you did not waste it.
If you wanted to go do something or be somewhere you road your bike. If someone’s Mother needed something from the store; a biker gang of kids (sans the leathers) would pilgrimage to the store to get the supplies. This was the age of the kid’s bike. We did not lock up our bikes, or wear helmets. We took our reflectors off and we put playing cards into our spokes with clothespins. We built ramps we were not suppose-to and jumped our heavy steal frames a whole 2 feet into the air. On a good day we might even pump up our tires assuming, that darn Schrader value wasn’t clogged with mud.
During my youthful immortality years, I never stopped to pay attention to the fact that I crashed a lot, but looking back I certainly did. Here are some highlights. On the day I learned how to ride with out training wheels, I failed to learn how to stop and I required an assist from a telephone pole. When I was 8 or 9 I borrowed grandpa’s bike and while coming down the big hill near the house I watched the front tire come off and proceed to roll down the hill without my bike. Moments later the now empty forks and asphalt introduced me to the concept of catapulting. By the time I was 11 I learned how to sprint to escape from the pursuit of pigtails and braces; and at the same moment I learned that slamming on just the front break at high speed does not make the chaser shoot past you... Well actually, it does; but it also leaves you lying on the ground watching your fancy 10-speed bike fly over your head and bounce on the concrete. Finally at 13 the newly minted teenager found out that if you try to free your pants from the chain on the way to school and stop looking forward; it is indeed possible to hit a parked car. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that after the dentist fixes your teeth, they send you back to school.
In high school, I parked my bike and traded it for the freedom a car provided. However, a mere 4 years later, In college, I went back to biking for a girl and stayed because I enjoyed the recreation for myself. I have been riding steady ever since.
When you consider all that, it’s safe to say I have been riding bikes for most of my life. Fortunately for me when I came back to biking I left the crashes behind. Unfortunately, I brought my perceived immortality with me.
The problems with riding a bike for a long time is you become very comfortable with the machine and riding it. I grew up in the era of no helmets and I was set in my ways. I steadfastly refused to wear one of those “ugly, uncomfortable wind sails” for years because I didn’t fall any more; I knew how to handle a bike. Besides look at all those crashes I had as a child, those never killed me, so why bother. My friends had all started to wear them, but I ignored them.I continued to ride for close to 15 years without a helmet; finally relenting when my children learned to bike because I needed to be a good example.
Long time cyclists, will all tell you that there is one truth: If you ride bikes, you will fall off. It is just something we accept. Heck, most of us have been falling off from the time we learned to ride. I certainly excelled at it as a child. Nevertheless, for 27 years I road without crashing, and in-spite of that I did wear the helmet for the last 12 religiously.
All good things end; when it was my turn to crash I did it subtle and quick. I wasn’t hit by a car, I didn’t get tied up with a fellow biker, I didn’t slip in a curve or in the rain and I didn’t get doored. Instead, I was on a solo ride on a summer day. I crested a small hill, and was accelerating back down it. That is when the forks on my bike simply failed.
They cracked halfway up on both side; and at 28mph my front tire was gone and the concrete was there. The crash was over in a second, and so were my upright road biking days. My helmet saved my life; it shattered; my skull did not.
I was very fortunate; I crashed just as I was leaving a small city; and witnesses called for help that arrived in moments. The first responder actually lived across the street from my crash. The most traumatic event during my journey to the hospital was trying to convince them not to cut off my biking shoes because I honestly thought I’d be riding the next week. Shock is a very surreal experience and bike shoes are expensive after all. The ER staff simple could not figure out the one way ratchet on my shoes, but I managed to talk them through removing them.
In the end, my neck had two fractures at the base of my skull. In my case they are non-operable injuries. I did not need a halo, but I would spent 3-4 months in a neck brace hoping for the best and another 3-4 months building back up any semblance of strength in those neck muscles. Today the neck has healed as much as it ever will and surgery is simply too high risk.
When you are a Father and a Husband you have an obligation well beyond your own endeavors. I can not today ride an upright bike without taking on an unacceptably large risk if I where to go over the handle bars again; and from a practical standpoint the pain after 5 miles makes me see double. So sometimes you have to set aside what you do and walk away while you can. So I did; for 2 years.
Fortunately for me bikers are a stubborn bread, and wives are sometimes even more stubborn. Months of research and spousal encouragement introduced me to the recumbent scene and it slowly became apparent there might be a way to ride with a pre-injury level of risk and no pain. Trikes offered at least one avenue and verified that pain-free was possible, But discovery of Cruzbike and their record setting bikes was the turning point. Maria Parker's RAAM triumph in the face of disaster sealed the deal, I would ride on two wheels again and that would be the bike, Game on.
Today I ride a Vendetta, Silvio and a Quest the bikes are fast, fun and fabulously comfortable. Most importantly they allow me to continue to do something that I have enjoyed all my life; riding free, under my own power, and on my own terms.
I am firm and fast in my belief that everything happens for a reason. If you told me today that I could be back to my traditional bike I would smile and politely ask "Why would I want to do that I am enjoying this far more."
I think this is going to be fun for years to come and and thankfully I'm far from done with this adventure. You don't need an Injury or an Excuse to ride one of these bikes; all you need is a passion for open rode. Come ride with me and see.
Oh and if you don't think you can ride one? No worries, I can teach you and then there's no going back.