The History of Bicycles Part 4
Four: 1964-65 (see main menu main page for complete story)
A true old-school cyclist owned the Schwinn dealership near 1800 S. Broadway; one of those guys in his 70’s with the physique of a twenty-year-old. His little antiquated shop was jammed with expensive French Motobecanes, Louison Bobets, English and Italian bikes. There was hardly room to squeeze down the single isle to his shop area. Oh yeah, he sold a few Schwinn’s, too. I was 17 in 1964 when I went there looking for a new bike.
He was balancing a wheel when I walked in and told me that he’d be with me in a moment. I was dazzled by the beautiful imports with their fancy scrolled metalwork and their elegant multiple gear sets. I had never seen bikes with more than ten speeds before. These must have had fifteen, twenty or MORE speeds!
The proprietor came up and found I was serious about buying a bike, he started asking about my riding experience and how I would be riding my new bike. He started leading me away from the fancy imports once he found out that I would be riding several miles a day to school and work.
“These bikes would be too much trouble to keep maintained. You must work and adjust these every day if you are riding like you say. They are very light and spry racing bicycles, very delicate too. You need something durable and dependable with steel rims; something that can take your day-in and day-out wear.”
He led me away from the expensive bikes and over to the Schwinns, over to several Continentals, Varsitys, and LeTours. He pointed out their features and differences. I decided on the metal flake root beer brown Continental that became the best bike I ever had.
He took me through the setup and showed me a valuable trick about preventing flats.
The rear tire gets the most flats, he said. The front tire will pick up the offending thorn, burr or tack and toss it back to the rear where it is grabbed. They won’t penetrate the tire until a few turns. If you connect a piece of wire to your rear frame so that it drapes lightly over the rear tire, it will knock off stickers and thorns before they can dig in and cause a flat. It was good advice. I never had a flat on that bike.
I got my first car that year, a 1950 Ford Business Coup. I quickly discovered that an old car was more expensive and troublesome for daily transportation than my Continental. The Schwinn remained transportation for local destinations, besides, honestly, I simply enjoyed the free feeling of hopping on it and just “going.”
I hated high-school. The only thing that got me thru was art classes and drama club and the people associated with these; people like Laura Steinbach and Terry Zito. Sometimes I would ride several miles over to Laura’s and hang out working on art projects.
Terry was there one night. He and Laura were acting crazier than usual. Neither of them could stop laughing for long and I asked what was up? They said they were just working on something with magic markers. Duh, yeah, I could see that but it wasn’t nothin’ so funny that I could see. They both broke into laughing fit, rolling on the floor. I was the “out man” on some stupid joke and was getting a bit cross.
Laura whispered something to Terry, a question, Terry laughed and nodded yes. Then Laura crawled over to me and with her mysterious and hyper-dramatic voice said, “We want to change your life, Robert. Do you agree?”
I squinted at her for a moment then, slowly nodded. She grinned with all her teeth a-glint. Still floor-bound she snuck across the room then returned with a match box. She batted her eyes and opened it, showing me my first joint. Soon, I was laughing, too. Terry was hilarious, Laura was hilarious, their magic marker art was hilarious.
The next day I came to school still covered in Terry and Laura’s indelible magic marker drawings. I was their walking gallery for a few weeks and quite proud to be, too.
One Summers evening I was at Laura’s and we decided that we wanted to see the sunrise from downtown’s Civic Center which was at least a seven-mile trip one way. I went home for a few hours (3 miles the other way) then came back at 3 a.m. Laura was outside waiting on her bike for me. We got downtown just in time for a beautiful Summer morning sunrise. We parked our bikes in front of the city and county building, laid back on the dewy lawn and Laura broke out her matchbox.
She was a great friend, introducing me to many new things. I owe the best and most notorious parts of my youth to Laura. She was a door-opener. More often than not she would open a door and push me through then leave me to fend there for myself. But I really need another story line to tell about the beat and hippy years. Now, it’s just about bikes and there are a couple of more stories about my metal flake root-beer brown Continental.