Thursday, July 27, 2017

No Thumb to Ring the Bell

It's a lot different from when we were growing up and used them as essential transportation to get to and from the field (the baseball field, of course, what else was there for a kid growing up in the late Fifties and early Sixties?) or from friends' houses. You might start out with just you and Neil, and then go a couple of blocks and pick up Bobby and then all you headed across the development, to the new Levitt houses, where Tommy lived. 

I'm talking about bicycles and as kids there was Schwinn and there was Royce Union and not much else. These were big, clunky solid yoke metal frame bikes, with balloon tires and white sidewalls. You had a mousetrap in the back, and that's where you kept your glove, baseball inside of it so that the pocket formed just right. Maybe your dad or somebody else's dad would remember to get the little can of Neet's foot oil at the hardware store and you'd work that stuff into the glove before putting it into the mousetrap. 

Twenty-six-inch tires on those bikes and maybe, if you had a fancy one, it had front and rear handbrakes, but ours mostly didn't-you just stood on the pedals hard and the rear wheel broke away and wound up sliding to one side or the other. You stopped all right. We all knew somebody whose folks had gotten them a bike with three gears, think of it! but we didn't have bikes like that. Going up the hill, you pedaled hard-if it got steeper, you pedaled harder. Screw up, you fell off and walked up the hill holding the bike by the handlebars, feeling (and looking) like a dork.

I was thinking about all of that the other day as the bikers, not Marlon Brando and The Wild One raced across parts of France whose towns can only correctly be pronounced by having your adenoids removed. And as always one or more people have gotten hurt, both riding and looking at those who are riding and I keep thinking 'nobody ever got hurt when we rode over to Resko's house' and that was over an hour back in the day (it'd be like three days in 'now' time). 

It wasn't until the LA Olympics in '84, sitting in Germany and watching the highlights of the games the Warsaw Pact boycotted, that I first saw Americans go ga-ga for the most European of sports, in my opinion (unless they make sulking an event). The oval track with the impossible angles of banking, the skinny tires that seemed to be made of solid rubber, the 'Disco in Frisco' skin tight speedo outfits and most especially those 'revenge of the Alien' head shaped helmets, all of it so aerodynamic I thought these guys could fly. 

How often did Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France before most of us even realized it was still a thing? And then all the great back story: the battle against cancer, the birth of the little boy, more bicycle races, more yellow tricots, Sheryl Crow, no more Sheryl Crow, the retirement and then the unretirement and the comeback and then the disgrace. 


The Tour de France ended Sunday and what do you suppose the winner gets? A permanent press yellow jersey? The opportunity to write 'winner of the Tour de France' on the hotel check-in form at the next competition? Do you think Duna could do that?
-bill kenny

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