Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Boy and His Bike - A Girl and Her Trike

If you are my mother, just save yourself the heartache and stop reading now!

So, thanks to this post from Sweet Juniper, my husband finally got his way and made us into a biking family. I've been holding out on his pleas to get us all biking, but once he saw Dutch's "popscycle," I could tell by the glint in his eye that I had lost the battle for good.

My objections to biking were twofold: first, I don't like the idea of carting our children around with nothing but a foam and plastic helmet between them and the rest of the world speeding by. Second, I completely lack the balance and coordination to ride a bike.

I grew up riding bikes all the time - it was the ticket to freedom for every suburban child. In fact, one of my favorite pictures shows me riding my infamous "Dusty Rose" pink bike while wearing a ruffled pink dress. The image is nothing but a pink blur with a horizontal brown smudge that represents my long hair streaming behind me.

However, occasionally my coordination handicap got the best of me. One time I was riding down the sidewalk and I just...fell. I didn't hit anything, wasn't startled. I just fell. Now add on top of that being out of practice riding a bike for 15 or so years, and you have a disastrous combination.

Despite my well-reasoned concerns, Robbie was on the internet searching for a bike for me within seconds. (He is on his third bike from Craigslist and the first two never saw the light of day.)

As I watched helplessly, I saw a picture that intrigued me. "That's what I want - a bike with three wheels!" I blurted out. "That seems much more stable and safe."

Robbie laughed. "First of all, if it has three wheels, it's a tricycle, not a bicycle. And second of all, those are for old people."

"No it's not! I've seen people riding them around town," I retorted.

This really got him laughing. "Yes, because we live right next door to a retirement center!"

I rolled my eyes and left the room, not wanting to waste my energy. When I came back, he had Craigslist open and was searching for tricycles. To both our surprise, a brand new post advertising a "bike with a third wheel - $50" immediately popped up. Now Robbie was really on fire.

"I'm going to call him first thing tomorrow and set up an appointment to see it."

I hoped he would forget about it overnight. He did not.

When he came home from work the next day, he announced we were taking a family trip to middle-of-nowhere Michigan to see this contraption.

"What did the man say when you called about it?" I asked.

"He said: 'It's in good condition. It' know...for old people.'" Robbie couldn't even finish the sentence without laughing.

Apparently he told his co-workers that we were going to look at a tricycle and one man said, "Don't make her buy a tricycle. That's just mean." Robbie tried to explain to him that I WANTED a tricycle, but the man didn't believe him.

Suffice it to say, by the time we pulled off a rural highway and into the seller's yard, I was mortified.

The seller was a middle-aged guy typical of rural Michigan (he was no Farmer Mike, though). We'll call him John.

Apparently it was his sister's bike, but she had become too old and frail to ride it. So I guess tricycles are only for sort of old people. Or really old people in really good shape. Anyway, John motioned to the wooden garage and there stood the three-wheeled, maize and blue beauty.

"Take it for a ride if you want," he offered.

"It's actually for my wife, so I'll let her try it out," Robbie said, clearly stifling laughter. When John looked confused, Robbie continued. "She's afraid of regular bikes."

It's hard to regain one's dignity in a situation like this, so I did a mini circle with the trike and called it good. John, however, wasn't satisfied.

"No, no. Take it outside and ride it as far as you want."

I begrudgingly peddled into his tiny driveway and then veered dangerously toward the garden. Within a couple of seconds, I was stuck on some rocks and had to get off to push it out. I could hear Robbie and John talking behind me all the while.

"She can drive it on the highway if she wants. It might be easier," John offered.

Robbie was downright gleeful by now. "She's too scared to ride a regular bike, so there's no way she's going to ride on a busy highway!"

I made my way back to them and tried to close the deal as quickly as possible. I thought Robbie could just throw it into the back and we'd be off again, but apparently a tricycle takes up a lot more room than you might imagine. Robbie had come prepared with straps and had a plan to tie it to our roof.

I was more than doubtful about this, but we were stuck now. John looked equal parts doubtful and amused, but he said nothing. Several minutes later, this giant hunk of metal was perched on our car and strapped down. As we waved goodbye, I called out to John, "If you hear about a horrible accident involving a tricycle, it's probably us."

He snorted and shook his head in amazement as we pulled away.

The slow, painful drive home was made worse by the deafening hum of straps in the wind and the constant fear that a tricycle was going to bounce off our car and into someone's windshield. As we made our way, I also noticed what a strange shadow we made, bouncing up and down the fields on either side of us.

We did eventually make it home without incident, thanks to Robbie's ingenuity. I immediately tried to take it on a ride around the block, but only made it to the end of the street before feeling so humiliated that I turned back. I let Robbie ride it for a while and the sight of him only confirmed that you cannot have any dignity while riding an overgrown tricycle.

The second trip out, I rode while Robbie pulled the boys in their wagon. I was just discussing which hand signals to use for turn signals when a man in a vespa pulled up behind me. We immediately came to a stop sign, so I did the left hand turn signal I just learned and made a drunken swerve to the left. I could hear the man on the vespa chuckle and say sweetly, "It's ok, that's the way to do it."

If I hadn't already felt like a 3-year-old, that certainly would have done it.

When Robbie returned to work that Monday, several co-workers asked him "Did you do some triking this weekend?" And then burst out laughing. Robbie found it just as amusing, but he was also a little jealous of my new wheels. So at least in that sense I was vindicated.

Meanwhile, he began collecting bike seats and helmets for the kids to make this a truly family affair. We realized too late that a tricycle is not made for the kind of seats that hook on, so both of them ended up on Robbie's bike. I decided my job was to ride behind them and absorb the blow of cars and/or carry cargo in my giant basket.

Finally, last night we took our first official outing as an entire family:

(Do you hear that? It's the sound of my mother hitting the floor after fainting from fright. I knew she would ignore my warning and keep reading.)

The good news is that the boys loved it. Emerson had to be dragged out of his seat at the end. And I was finally proud of my unique ride. Mainly because a neighbor stopped to admire it for several minutes and never once called it geriatric.

The bad news is that I quickly realized a single-speed bike is not ideal for a city with lots of hills. That became unpleasantly clear when I had to stop and push my bike up 7th street while a grossly overweight man snorted and huffed past me on his bike.

This leaves me with three options:

1) Sink another $75 into a kit that will turn it into a 7-speed tricycle.
2) Take it to the campus bike shop and exchange it for a real bike of equal value.
3) Give myself enormously muscular legs.

Any votes?

Why is nothing ever easy in this house....


  1. Oh, Cassi. That's good stuff. Drew and I are talking about getting bikes but I won't do it until we move back to Memphis. We have hella hills and very few sidewalks here, plus all the narrow roads. I admire your bravery- and your new wheels.

  2. What a great story! And I love Robbie's setup. I hope he gets as many crazy reactions as I get here.

    If you ever want to go triking with my grandpa, he lives just south of Ann Arbor!

  3. OMG! I am going to kill Robbie, if some cell phone talking motorist doesn't do it first. Oh well, at least you'll be in fine physical condition for your viewing. Hurry up and get my grandchildren to Utah where I can protect them.

  4. Option 3, Cass, option 3 (amidst snorts of laughter)...a'cuz that I've *gotta* see.

    (Seriously, though, I can't really talk. I can't ride my bike down a wooded trail without running into a tree. I swear they just jump out at me...)

  5. Cassi I love it!! I'm reading at work and had to shut of office door I was laughing so hard!

  6. Ok, I've been pondering this post since I read it. I'm an adult with albinism. FWIW, I also have a drivers license, but I use a bioptic to drive but not while riding my bike.

    My bike is a hybrid, it isn't quiet as heavy duty as a mountain bike, but is more robust than a touring bike (the type Lance Armstrong rides). I like it because when I hit that 1 inch gray rock that blended in completely with the pavement or that rut in the dirt road, the bike might jump a bit, but the tires are wide enough and knobby enough to make it easier to maintain my balance.

    Here's my suggestion, spend the $75 and get the gears. Get comfortable riding and in your "spare" time, work on your balance and core muscles (a balance, ball, pilates video or a Wii Fit will do the trick). Eventually, you will get comfortable with biking and can move to a two wheeled bike. For now, just enjoy the ride.