How did you start biking?
I don’t know if there’s already a thread for this, and I might have even told mine before, but I thought it would be cool to read about how other people got into biking as an adult (Or if you just never stopped).
I really wanted a bike when I moved to PGH in 2006, but was content walking everywhere instead. I had been working at Mancini’s for about 6 months in 2009, and seeing all of my co-workers, and countless other strip district employees, bike into work made me super jealous. the store manager at the strip collects bikes from dumpsters, craigslist ads, etc, and fixes them up. So in September, she sold me an old steel mountain bike that was too big for me for $20. Three weeks later, I crashed it into this fence:
The bike afterward:
My face afterward:
3 stitches in my eyebrow, a liquid stitch to patch the hole in my upper lip, and 5 or 6 stitches to re-attach the inside of my lip to my gums. (I still didn’t buy a helmet until over a year later)
Anyhow, being as stubborn as I am, I got one of my co-workers to help fix the bike, and kept on riding.
That’s a great story – other than that nasty accident bit…!
Mine’s not nearly as interesting. Rode all over the midwest as a kid and well into college. Move to Pittsburgh and stopped riding. My ten speed and my unfamiliarity with hills were a poor match. So, stopped riding for several years. Picked up a hybrid, started riding again. Somehow I had never viewed that old “lead sled” as a changemaker, but is clearly was. Now pretty much fully back into riding on a regular basis, and loving it now as much as I did as a kid, all those many years ago.
Never rode as a kid or young adult…too afraid of crashing, I suppose. That, and, well, when you can drive a tractor, who needs a bicycle?
Back in 2004 or thereabouts, a buddy picked up his first recumbent, and invited me to borrow his Cannondale to go check out the Montour Trail. I crashed into a bollard, wiped out in some mud, and felt utterly exhausted after my epic 12-mile ride…so, of course, I was hooked. I bought a cheap Trek comfort bike, rode it a handful of times, then put together my first ‘bent.
Started riding longer distances on the roads in 2005; started commuting occasionally to Cranberry in 2007, then commuting full-time(mostly) to the South Side in 2009.
Growing up I was horrible at ball sports (basketball, football, baseball). Not a good fate in a small Southern town. The guys I played with started riding bikes for cross training and that part I really enjoyed and it stuck.
I got lucky that the local shop had some really good guys working there who also raced and let me ride with them. There was also a small club that I rode with a lot too.
I always liked riding bikes and would tool around the different places I lived. When I was living and working in Emmaus, it felt stupid to drive to work (2 miles), and my next door neighbor ran a bike shop.
He encouraged me and loaned me a bike until I bought my road bike used. His wife also took me out on novice group rides that got me into it.
Then I moved back here and took probably 2-3 years off because of hills, traffic, and weather. I realized that I had a choice: sell my bikes or learn to deal with hills, traffic, and weather.
And here I am!
about 1 mile from the south park bmx track,
which was basically a free babysitter from
the age of 9 on.
The other free babysitter was the Push trails behind the old K Mart on Baptist Road, before they dozed them for that awful-looking development.
@steevo: believe it or not, my brother raced at the BMX track 2 weeks ago. Made the main but had to get home to the kids!
I’ve been riding bikes since about 2 or 3 years old. Spent most of my childhood on BMX bikes, and continued to ride them until about 20 or so. I got into mountain bikes as cross training for motocross, supercross and GNCC racing, which I did for about a decade. A friend gave me a road bike about 10 years ago and I’ve been on them since.
Steevo – I like how the lines on your posts are short, it makes me read them with the rhythm one would read poetry.
A few friends told me that they were doing the MS150 in 2006. My aunt has MS and I thought it would be a great thing to do. Got a hybrid type bike and I have been mashing since then. I lived close so I drove my bike (d’oh) to north park and did 35 miles a day 7 days a week, which was overkill for training for that ride.
After I met my husband, I got a better bike and rode from the north hills to regent square and back to hang out. Then I started to commute regularly in 2010 maybe?
Anonymous 08/15/2012 at 2:48pm #
Started in tricycle around 4 year old. Then got my first adult size single speed around age 7. It was heavy as hell — around 18 kg (or 40 pounds). Since I could not even stand over I rode it from under the frame (classic geometry) with saddle taken off. You start it on foot one pedal pushing ground by another (does not matter what foot) and you dive under move your hips aside basically looking as big letter Z. By age 11 I was toll enough to stand over on pedals but still no saddle. And getting on the bike was standard procedure standing on one pedal with one feet and using other foot to accelerate a bit. Next 7 years I used this bike to go everywhere with my friend. And then I got accepted to the college where I got married and bike was in storage for 10 years. At age 31 I moved to Pittsburgh in 1995. In 2001 i bought $40 old Fuji Monterrey Road Bike and started to ride on trails doing about 800 miles per year. I started to collect bikes on a “garbage day”, restore them to some degree and give away to my friends. Last one was in July, I brought 4 bikes to work and gave them away to get out ladies (I am trying them to get started).
OH! I remember when I was 7, my sister first taught me to ride a bike without training wheels. I wish I had pictures of me back then. Wearing big ugly 90s dresses and skinned knees (We had a rocky gravel driveway that was a hill)
Geez, most of you started really late. I always rode. I got my first two-wheeler handed down from my sister (and repainted red by my dad) when I was 5, I think. By the time I was a teenager I was way into bikes, dreaming of Campagnolo the way other teens dreamed of Plymouth Dusters. Way before the Internet, I used to have a printed, i.e., on paper, catalog of bike parts (can’t remember from where, any ideas?) I would drool over. I had no money for the actual parts but would order a tool now and then… My first real bike, bought at 14 I think, was a Raleigh Gran Tour, which I sold to my brother a couple of years later and bought a Gran Sport. Man did I want a Professional Mark IV back then. I still have the Gran Tour — my brother gave it back to me a few years ago and I converted it to a fixie.
I rolled around on a series of hand-me-down bikes as a kid, but pretty much stopped once I got my driver’s license. In my early 20s I started dating some guy from Pittsburgh who was really into bikes.
Big Wheel. Then Green Machine. Then graduated to a Huffy BMX-type bike that my brother and I painted three or four times. Ultimately it ended up metallic purple which we thought was awesome. As a pre-teen I borrowed/took over my sister’s unisex ten-speed. It was yellow and brown and had rubbery grips.
When I was 13 I obsessed on the Schwinn World Sport for a whole winter, and finally got it for my birthday. It was awesome. I rode everywhere every day that I could. In town. Out of town. Country roads. I’m still kind of amazed at the places – and how far away – I rode that bike at that age. That lasted until I was sixteen, and I moved away from my small hometown to a more suburban circumstance – complete with cul-de-sacs and zero-foot shoulders. The bike sat more and more.
High school ended that way. College came and went. A second-hand mountain bike never saw a lot of action. I essentially didn’t ride for 20+ years.
Then, four or five years ago, I was discussing stress with a friend, and how I thought some form of exercise would do me good. He mentioned he rode a couple times a week. He invited me along on his next weekend ride. I had my then 20-odd year old second hand mountain bike. He had a fast-looking road bike, lycra and fancy glasses. He literally rode circles around me. He was very patient, though, which was good, because I started to remember the kid I was who rode all-day every day.
I bought a hybrid/commuter and rode the rest of the season on that. Over that winter I found a gently used Cannondale cyclocross on Craigslist. It leapt beneath me on the test ride. I’ve been riding it since. My friend who re-introduced my to cycling and I the next spring started a cycling group in our town to give others the opportunity he gave me. Since then we’ve grown to 20+ riders, many of whom have rediscovered their love of riding.
I haven’t been able to ride for a few months due to illness, but I think about it every day. I can’t wait to get back on my bike when I’m better. I need to get back out and find that kid again.
Had my first dirt bike when I was 2, it had training wheels. Rode that around then got a 20″, then a few mountain bikes, and then a bunch of 20″ as I got into street/dirt riding. Went to college, grew up, got mountain bikes and then last year finally bought a road bike. Been all road ever since. Started commuting soon after.
This brought back memories of my first two-wheeled bike. Sweet Thunder!
Another early biking experience came when I was in high school. My friend an I wanted to bike to the mall, so we did.
I remember feeling as though no one had EVER biked that far. Also, we found a dead turtle on the highway, and that was one of the last times that I biked until 2009.
I grew up riding BMX and freestyle bikes. Much like others, I sucked at traditional sports, and found a home in the weird sub-cultures of 20″ wheels and skateboards. I think I had a quarter-pipe around age 10.
I gradually shifted into mountain bikes in high school and rode them all through college, and once back in PGH after university, I started commuting. Cycling has often taken a back seat to climbing since college, though.
I always disliked and avoided cars. Mainly I walked and rode buses.
My brother a bike mechanic at one point insisted that I get a a bike with sew up tires and slammed stem. I wasn’t into it. He screamed at me for that, but then got my parents to pay for such a bike as a christmas present. This delayed serious biking for me by a couple of decades.
Eventually I got a decent utility bike. For me, “decent” means very high handlebars, otherwise, it causes serous neck pain that only gets worse with additional riding. Decent also means fairly fat, flat-resistant tires,fenders, rims that can ocassionaly handle a curb, and adequate racks.
As bus service deteriorated, I used a bike more and more. Now, even with free bus passes as a Pitt employee, I rarely ride buses.
My brother will still occasionally start screaming at me for not wanting a bike that he could boast about. He’s really into arguing, giving orders and boasting. He rarely has a bike discussion beyond that. Kinda sad.
Anonymous 08/15/2012 at 3:36pm #
In my small neighborhood BMX ruled. I started on a Huffy Desperato, then a Huffy that was yellow and blue (real 70’s), then my first BMX a GT Performer, lilac purple with axle pegs and a gyro to spin the bars. My dad and I went to South Park every weekend to ride the paved trails. Time ticked away and my freshman year of college brough some extra weight and my current Nishiki Blazer 21 speed. This bike sat in the parent’s shed until earlier THIS year! I wanted to start communting to the waterfront for exercise and the love of riding. I have been commuting almost once a week since March.
I wonder who on the board learned to ride at the oldest age?
I never learned as a kid. In winter 2011 (age 23) I took a job across the river on a convenient bus route. About a month in, PAT cut the route. So I bought a cheap no-name hybrid and started taking it down to the FedEx parking lot under the 28th St. bridge a few times a week.
I was a 5-day commuter within a month.
@schmenjamin – There was an interesting article on another thread this week that was written by the NYTimes Transportation reporter. He was just learning. I guess it is so prevalent in NY that Bike NY has an adult education class. I can’t find it now but will send it if I do.
I just started writing my story for my blog and for a E-Book. I will post link to long version here when it is up on the blog but short version is
easter about 8-10 years ago I was with my family and we were all sitting around the table laughing and joking when I guess I laughed a little to hard and blacked out. (that isnt supposed to happen I checked)
That is not a good sign
I’m old I’m fat and now if I get to happy I pass out.
turns out my blood sugar was high and that caused all kinds of problems. So i knew I had to either accept it and die sooner or try to do something about it.
I eventually started biking. started with a schwinn that I got a walmart and after 4 months and 1000 miles it basically gave up the ghost. so I got a better bike, the Big Orange Bike (BOB) that I ride now.
I’m still old, I’m still Fat
but at least I dont pass out when I’m happy.
Which is a good thing because biking makes me happy.
I learned to ride when I was a kid in the 70’s. I loved my Schwinn Scrambler (knobby tires and a banana seat!!). I rode until I was 12 when we moved to a farm and the bike was tough to ride through fields.
In my late 30’s (about 5 years ago), I bought a big heavy and cheap mountain bike to help get back in shape. I got in better shape but no thanks to the Mtn bike, it never went outside. Ever. Until I moved in early 2010.
I started riding it around my neighborhood and ran into neighbors that rode. They took us on a ride of the trails to the southside. After that first ride, I put a “FREE” sign on the bikes and set them out front (they were terrible! For the curious: they last about 90 minutes in a quiet neighborhood where we were the last house!). I bought a Trek road bike, then another. Since then we have been increasing the length, and frequency of our rides. Over 1200 miles so far this year.
Thanks to my neighbors, PMTCC, fellow riders and the folks on here for making my bike something that I love again.
as a kid i rode big wheels, tricycles, and my beloved huffy bmx style bike, with the checkered tube pad, that i always dreamed was a sexier real bmx like some of the kids in the neighborhood had. i outgrew that bike and didn’t get another until after college.
at my first job out of college, i lived in squirrel hill and worked at west penn hospital. the standard procedure for employees was to drive to a lot in lawrenceville and catch a shuttle bus back to the hospital. that turned out to be almost an hour commute, each way, and i truly hated driving past work and coming back a half hour later. two of the people i worked with biked every day, one from squirrel hill, and they suggested i give it a try. i bought a specialized crossroads hybrid, and began commuting 5 days a week. a year later i bought a road bike, and started riding that regularly. for every problem i had, and every question that i had, i had some people around who had been riding for decades to mentor me. now, my car was stolen a few years ago, and i don’t want another, and i bike essentially everywhere. so, big up to those guys.
I rode everywhere as a kid, but stopped in my early 20’s. In 1995, my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I signed up in 1997 for a fundraising bike ride, and bought a Raleigh hybrid to do it on. Only rode occasionally until late 2004. My Dad passed away in 2004, and before he did, he ripped me a new one about my weight, my health, and my lack of exercise. Because of him, I got back on the bike, and now ride about 3000 miles a year between commuting and road rides on the weekends. Happier and healthier…
Thanks for the stories. This thread is making me very happy, which is much appreciated, because at the moment I’m on hold with the IRS.
I rode ‘salvaged’ bikes which were mostly too big for me all through my childhood; riding jumps in the woods and all around the neighborhood. In high school I was really into running and after I got my drivers license the bike was history. Just after college I rode a girlfriend’s mountain bike and I was hooked. I bought a MTB and we’d go camping and riding whenever we could. I got talked into doing the MS150 by a coworker in the early 90’s and did it on knobbies twice and slicks one last time before I wised up and bought a road bike. I started to try commuting a few years ago when my car was in the shop for two weeks and I didn’t want to spend money on a rental. After getting my car back I continued to commute via bike a few times a week. Two or three years ago I started to go on a few group rides (that I learned about on this message board), and now I do about 4k a year.
I stood beside the bicycle with my hands on the handlebars, threw my leg over, positioned the far pedal so that it was ready to be pushed on, put my foot on it, pushed down, as it started rolling I stood up on the pedal and then sat on the seat. Some people do running starts and wait to throw their leg over until after they’re rolling, though.
I read “No Impact Man” blog, came across the idea that I could, and couldn’t come up with any good reason why not. That was in 2009.
In 2001 I realized I could bike to campus in 5 minutes, where walking took me 20 – the extra 15 minutes of sleep seemed worth it to buy a second hand walmart special off craigslist for $40. It had gears but I didn’t use them, I didn’t know how (or need to, really).
I grew up riding up and down the street on a hand me down Schwinn with a sparkly blue banana seat, but the daughter of someone afraid of bicycles unless on a trail (she’s still afraid, but more polite about it now).
My grampa taught me to ride when I was 4, maybe 5, in their driveway – one of my favorite memories of him ever.
I grew up in Iowa (nice and flat) in a suburban development with dead ends. “Going to ride bikes” was a thing that would occupy whole days. I had a black & blue Huffy with a banana seat. It was stolen in third grade (right out of our garage!) (heartbreaking!) but recovered (Mom pulled me out of school to tell me she’d found it in a ditch).
(I think my sister had a ‘Sweet Thunder’ bike)
Rode in college some, just utilitarian oh-god-I’m-late-for-class type rides.
Ended up living on the side of a hill after moving to Pittsburgh, which kept me (and my kids) from riding. until a couple of years ago, when I moved to a flatter neighborhood and the whole family started riding. The bike commuting actually spurred the riding; I had a coworker who commuted by bike and I envied him, so for my birthday I picked up a Trek hybrid and off I went.
@jonaweb, I’m almost as old as you (50) and I had that same, or at least a similar catalog of bike stuff printed on cheap newsprint back in the mid-70s. I have no idea where I got it from but I bought my first wool bike jersey and my first pair of wool bike shorts with a real chamois from it.
I remember learning to ride a two-wheeler on the sidewalk in front of my house in Denver which means I was less than 6 years old when I learned. I’ve ridden more and less over the years but have ridden thousands and thousands of miles the last 8 years or so because I finally met some people who knew how to ride and wanted to ride a lot.
Growing up in Denver I had a friend who worked at a bike shop and hung out there, and an art teacher in junior high who had an Italian racing bike with “sew-up tires” which everyone calls tubulars today. I’d never seen such a thing, but when he let me take it for a spin around the parking lot..well that was a revelation in many ways. It made me want a better bike. My first “good” bike was a Centurion Super Elite that I bought in LA in 1978. It had Suntour Superbe derailleurs and Dia Compe 500 brakes which I later donated to Free Ride. The Tange steel tubing is still in good shape, and I still use the original Sugino BB and crank and Sakae bars and stem. I rode that bike in it’s current incarnation as a SS/Fixie (flip flop hub–I built the wheels myself) to work today in Dayton and realized it’s 34 years old—parts of it anyway.
I biked to elementary school, but high school was close enough to walk, so I stopped riding. Never got a car; I walked most places. Around 1990, I bought a $99 Dahon folder from an infomercial, tried to ride it twice, and then off it went to the basement.
Around 2000, I started getting into the local theatre scene, at first just Cultural District venues. Took the bus. In 2003 I started seeing shows by Quantum Theatre. They perform in non-theatre venues where they’ve built a stage and seating, so I learned about bus routes that didn’t just go downtown. By 2006 I was taking the bus (and sometimes walking a few miles) to theatres as far as South Park, Hampton, and Cranberry.
In 2007, Quantum was doing a play outdoors at Hartwood Acres. No bus back. And the bus options for some of the other theatres were vanishing. So I bought a used bike to see if I could learn to ride again. Since then I’ve biked (really rack’n’rolled) to theatres as far as Washington PA, Delmont, and Hickory.
Cool thread – I am enjoying these stories!
My mom would give me & my brothers bikes as gifts for milestone holidays/birthdays. I rode around the neighborhood & sometimes to school up until about age 12 or so. I lived in a craphole Central Valley town & during an era when the SoCal custom car culture had worked its way into HotWheels & trading cards at the corner store & there were low riders in my neighborhood, so we had a lot of fun putting cards in our spokes, stickers on our bikes, and riding around the Gilsizer Slough and school grounds. One of my brothers got chin stitches trying to do a bmx handlebar trick on his sears bike.
Then I moved a whole lot for a long time. My mom gave me a shiny new JC Pennys 10-speed with drop bars when I was 14 but it never got much use & I actually have no recollection of what happened to the bike. Then a few thrift store beater bikes in college. Then a whole lot of no riding.
Fast forward to post grad school in Pittsburgh. By that time, my youngest brother had gone from being a bike mechanic to having his own small repair shop, so we talked about bikes on and off. I noticed that there were some easy trails and mellow side streets & my brother recommended a Trek comfort bike. I loved it it went on some Pedal Pittsburgh rides and was encouraged by a friend of mine who was older and much heavier than me, but who kicked my a** on hills. Tried commuting to work in Garfield for a bit about 10 years ago, but got tired of being screamed at by drivers. Started working downtown and after a few years of busing, driving, and stress at work, decided to save $ on parking and gym membership and figured out a commute.
Now my job is moving to the suburbs, so I need to rethink my cycling routine.
(I think my sister had a ‘Sweet Thunder’ bike)
i forgot to mention. i know my sister had one of these. that picture brought back a lot of memories. and this is the bike i learned to ride on (without training wheels):
@jamesk: I love that you mom pulled you out of class to tell you that your bike was recovered. sweet!
I rode bikes a lot when I was a kid, and bought my brother’s low-end Trek MTB when he joined the army. I rode it everywhere in high school and my favorite thing to do was climb on and ride as far as I could until the sun went down. Then I went away to college and it was stolen out of my mother’s shed.
A few years later, my buddy bought a new mountain bike and I immediately asked about his old one. I ended up trading him a wireless keyboard/mouse combo for it, and promptly stuck it in storage where it sat unused for years (but not totally forgotten). I sometimes dreamed about ditching the car and riding the bike into work, but the traffic and hills intimidated me and I never thought seriously about it.
My kids were born four-and-a-half years ago. When they were two months old, I needed to change the brakes on my car. It’s a simple job that I’ve done many times, so I figured I could do it while they took a nap so I wouldn’t leave my wife alone to deal with a pair of screaming infants. I hit a snag (a stuck bolt), and in my sleep-deprived and hurried state, I broke out the big guns (5 foot pipe slid over a breaker bar) instead of thinking about the situation and immediately snapped the head of the bolt off. The car could not be driven in that state, and the neighbors were not home, so I dug the old mountain bike out of the basement, wiped years of dust and cobwebs off, put air in the tires, and set off for Advance Auto Parts on Rt. 65.
The ride down the hill was *exhilarating*! I almost barfed on the way back up (but still made it without stopping) and was instantly hooked again. It was all I could think about all weekend, and I decided to make my first attempt to ride into work the following Monday after realizing I could do almost the whole trip on trails.
I rode into the Strip two or three times a week for the rest of the summer until the front derailler went out of whack. I hadn’t learned how to fix anything yet, and it seemed silly to pay someone to work on a 20-year-old department store mountain bike, so I went and bought a shiny new Specialized ‘cross bike. I cancelled my parking lot lease and became a full-time bicycle commuter and haven’t looked back.
My favorite part about it is that I snapped that bolt off because I was turning it the wrong way. If I’d taken five seconds to think about the situation I never would have done that, but then that old mountain bike might still be gathering dust in the basement.
I never didn’t have wheels, though the number of wheels per item of transport has varied with time. Age 2, I had a tiny trike, then moved up to a bigger trike. Even at age 5 I was taking solo trips up and down the sidewalk near my house in the city of Buffalo.
Age 6, we move to the countryside, and I discover two wheels. Six years five months, I remember biking to see a barn fire about two miles from the house, along two-lane tar-and-chip roads.
By 10, I was taking solo trips of 5 to 10 miles radius. I knew, or got to know, every road within that circle.
Age 15 Christmas, we got the unicycle, and by April I was riding in 10+ mile charity bike-a-thons. I biked to school, four miles distant, as often as I could, because I discovered I could beat the school bus there if I worked at it. This landed me on the WKBW-TV 7 news one night in May 1975 as a feature story.
I took a for-credit bicycle class at college, Fall 1977, for which my parents bought me the Raleigh that I still ride daily. I rode from Geneseo to West Falls, about 50 hilly miles, a couple of times in the span of that class, as a final exam.
Adulthood, the bike sat and gathered dust for 20 years. Noplace I dared ride, just scared to death of Pennsylvania’s narrow roads. County roads around Buffalo are wider than state roads here.
2006, I was out of work, broke, and the wife had the car. If I needed to get around, I either waited an hour for a bus, or I could dig out the old Raleigh and get it working again, so that I did. I rapidly regained everything I had learned about road cycling, and I haven’t looked back.
I joined the message board in late 2006, and have contributed thousands of posts, sharing what I know. What else is there to say? This community has become a major part of my life.
Anonymous 08/15/2012 at 9:58pm #
Great stories, keep em coming!
Rode a lot as a kid with my dad and older brother. We had close family friends in Harpers Ferry WV and always loved going to visit and cruising 25-50 miles on the C&O canal trail. We also lived in a really hilly neighborhood which is probably where I picked up my love of going down way too fast.
That tapered off in high school/college and I didn’t ride for quite a while Moved to PGH about 3 years ago and a lot of my friends either had been riding for a while or were just picking it up. Once I started missing out on rides and bar trips I decided I had to get in on it too.
Did the earn a bike thing from free ride and fixed up a nice old steel frame. Took her out on my first ride downtown at night and fell in love with it all over again. It was funny going into my parents garage and seeing my old bike all these years later, looking at it through the lens of the road bike snob I’ve become. What a junker.
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