Shiny New Wheels

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Do you remember your first “wheels”? Before my first car (an old beat up thing, that even as a “vintage” car was the ugliest automobile I’ve ever seen), I still remember the excitement of a new bicycle.

My first shiny “ride” was a Radio Flyer tricycle, when I was three. The thrill of riding that trike! All metal, it was red and white, with a “step on” back. When my daughter was a toddler, we presented her with one just like it, complete with a basket on front.

Me, 1970-something

Me, 1970-something

A few years later, as a kid at Christmas, Santa brought me a two-wheel bike. Every kid dreams about a new bike at the holidays (maybe that dream is second now to an iPad).

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The bike I received that Christmas was dreamy: hot pink, with a “Pink Panther” theme, I spent everyday riding bikes with the neighborhood kids. We’d ride up and down the sidewalk pretending we were in cars or on horses, never once thinking we were “exercising”; we were just having fun.

I still have a thing for pink...

I still have a thing for pink…

When I outgrew Pink Panther, I rode a hand-me-down “family” bike: an old  “Ed Dorado” model from the 1950s, which was even cooler because it really did look like a car. It had a headlamp, fenders, and tail lights. Oh! If I had that bike now, what a vintage gem it would be!

Many years ago, my husband surprised me with a new bicycle. A sweet gesture, it was more bike than I needed or wanted. Changing gears was akin to operating complex machinery, and I’d forget that braking was done with a handbrake. I wasn’t crazy about being hunched over, either. I’d use it, but felt more stressed than energized. Bike riding is something my daughter and I have always loved to do together, but not something we were doing often because I struggled with my bike. I’d learned to ride a bike on a “cruiser” with brakes that stopped by pedaling backwards and with no gears to shift; that’s what I wished for.

My friend Andrea fixed up a vintage cruiser bike. It took Andrea serious muscle to get the rust off and it isn’t cheap to have handlebars re-chromed. In the end, she has a really neat vintage bike, complete with her grandmother’s antique basket. It came out really charming.

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Photo courtesy Andrea Von Amelunxen

I recently almost bought a vintage bike, restored from 1947, for sale online. I ultimately decided against it. Priced too good to be true, it looked like it had a lot of rust under its retouched paint.

“Nothing haunts you like the vintage you didn’t buy …”

After that, I started seeing vintage bikes everywhere. In movies … (Almira Gulch did have a sweet ride before she traded it for that broomstick) … posted in front of cute campers on the Glampers-on-the-Loose Facebook page … and don’t you just adore the cover of the latest MaryJanesFarm magazine? (If you don’t have a subscription to MaryJanesFarm, subscribe here.)

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Then suddenly – there it was: a vintage-style, bright cherry-red, Schwinn “skirt bike.” New, but looking like it could have been designed in the 1950s for European cobblestone streets, complete with a vintage-style headlamp (but with an LED bulb). In a store on a quick errand, the bike stopped me in my tracks. I was so excited! My husband said he’d like to get it for me as an early anniversary present.

Happy Anniversary…

Here I am, excited as a little kid with a new bike.

Me – excited as a little kid with a new bike.

 

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I adore it! I added a bike basket, a classic bell, and a vintage hankie to gussy her up just a bit … (does that count as a bit of Glamping)?

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I’ve probably already put several hundred miles on that bike. We love to ride on the trails at Fairfield Hills (http://www.farmgirlbloggers.com/1168#more-1168).

The pathways at Fairfield Hills are so peaceful.

The pathways at Fairfield Hills are so peaceful.

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A view from my handlebars...

A view from my handlebars…

I love riding a vintage-style while seeing the antique buildings at Fairfield Hills.

I love riding a vintage-style bike with the antique buildings at Fairfield Hills.

Die-hard, serious bike connoisseurs say bikes from major retailers are mere “toys,” with frames not as sturdy as vintage bikes. My frame is steel, but the bike isn’t too heavy for me. I can easily pick it up to put on my car’s bike rack. I don’t want the expense and effort of re-doing a bike right now, nor to have to deal with flaky lead paint and hunting for parts. I’m not riding in the Tour-de-France (though I’m still getting really good, fun exercise). This one was perfect for me. The smiles and comments I get from passersby have been a fun bonus. One elderly gentleman stopped me to tell me that the sound of my bike bell was a happy sound he hadn’t heard in a very long time.

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It’s been 40 years since I first rode that shiny new bike, but the thrill is the same. It’s good knowing some things never change.

 

Until Next Time … Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a comment 24 Comments

  1. Susana says:

    Loved all my bikes too
    …Ilved it . When I first. Saw Murder She WROTE…LOVED THE BASKET ON THE BIKE…. nice blog!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Susana! That’s right! Angela Lanbury’s character rode a retro looking bike with a sweet wire basket! I had forgotten about that. Glad you enjoyed today’s post. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  2. Denise Ross says:

    Gosh your post brought back memories of my first proper bike. It was an old brown vintage thing, no gears and like yours I had to pedal backwards to brake. I now have road racing bike me a mountain bike but I’d love an old vintage style bike with a basket and a cute bell too. We actually bought my daughter one last Christmas although hers is a new bike retro in style with gears and although she loves it she hardly ever rides it. I’m hoping she will get out in it more and that we can find some lovely trails to ride like yours. It’d be so relaxing and exciting and invigorating and fun to ride your trails. I’ll have to make an effort to source some out for her nice she finishes her final school exams. Thanks for a lovely post with a nostalgic twist. Happy riding
    From Australia
    Denise x

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Denise! Glad you enjoyed the blog today. Aren’t the new retro style bikes cute? I am so glad manufacturers are bringing them back. You didn’t mention where in Australia you are living, but I bet there’s some wonderful bike trails there, too! Thanks for stopping by! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

      • Denise Ross says:

        Hi Nicole,
        I’m at port macquarie which is on the mid north coast of the eastern side of Australia. It’s a lovely place, right near the beaches and with a temperate climate.
        I’ve just got to research bike trails around here and then make the effort to get out and ride them.

        • Nicole Christensen says:

          Hi Denise, I just searched your town area on the internet – holy cow it is sooooo beautiful! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Susabelle says:

    Nicole, don’t discount the importance of gears and hand brakes! Maybe you live in a place where there are never hills…but I’d be lost without my gears! I have a Trex Women’s Navigator, a crossover bike that features the relaxed ride of the cruiser, but with gears, so I can get up and down the hills! I can’t imagine trying to get around town on a bike with no gears – it makes all the difference for my aging knees!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Susabelle! Connecticut is anything but flat! In my neighborhood, there are a few places I walk my bike up. My new bike is described as a “hybrid” so I think up hill it is a bit easier to pedal, but I don’t have to switch any gears myself. Your bike sounds great. For me, I just like my back pedal brakes and simple “just pedal” gears. It’s awesome you are biking, keep it up! Happy Riding and Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. Mary peyer says:

    Thank you for writing this. I got a beautiful, “new to me bike”, about 5 years ago.
    It also has a bell, which I love to ring, drives my kids crazy! It has 3 speeds, Perfect!
    It is a beautiful blue. I feel sad though because all the chrome on it is rusting.
    But it is a wonderful bike.
    Happy Riding

  5. Candace Segar says:

    Hello Nicole,

    I love your story about your bikes. I too, felt like I was driving a car when I rode my two wheeler. My Dad brought the bike home on a whim. He just showed up with this beautiful bike. I agree with you wholeheartedly about gears and braking and so on. My husband and I went bike hunting, and I made it quite clear that I didn’t want gears nor brakes on the handle bars. When I pedal, I want to be in control. Thank you for your lovely story which took me down memory lane.

    Here’ s to old fashion bike riding!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Candace, I am so glad you liked the blog. I will be sad when winter comes full force here and the trail is frozen over with ice. I have really enjoyed riding bikes with my family, and also some solo rides. I am so glad I decided to get a new bike, because I’ve already ridden it more than the other one with all the gears and hand brakes that is over a decade old! Enjoy your bike! Happy riding and Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. Jennifer says:

    I never learned to ride a bike, but your love for these vintage ones brings tears to my eyes.

  7. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Nicole, I had forgotten about the picture of you on your tricycle in the ’70’s. You were so cute in your bell bottoms! I did not remember we had taken pictures of you and your pink panther bicycle either, and glad you had them. Seems like yesterday you were riding it. What happened to it, do you remember? I get sad sometimes when I remember you as a little girl. We had some fun times. I really like your new red “cruiser”, always a favorite of my generation in the 1950’s. I love you.
    Mother

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Mom, Not sure what happened to that bike. Wish I had the 1950s one, though! I know what you mean about getting sad when you think how quick kids grow – I got a little teary eyed when the American Girl Christmas catalog came in the mail yesterday. Remember how excited you and I were to plan our presents for Audrey? That WAS just yesterday. Miss you, Mama. Love, Nicole

  8. Ellah says:

    Nicole ~ I so enjoy a bike ride around my town or even just the neighborhood. Several years ago when I thought about how little exercise I got in a daily routine, I asked myself what did I enjoy most when I was a child. And, yes, it was my bicycle, so I went out and found one that would work for me. It is lime green, one of my favorite colors and I get so much enjoyment out of it. Now, my grand-girls and I ride together on occasion when our schedules permit. It is such a blessing. Thanks for the memories!!! ellah

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Ella, That’s how I felt when I decided to get my bike – it was the thing I enjoyed most as a child. A lime green bicycle sounds so pretty! I love that color, too. Enjoy your grand-girls, and happy biking! Thanks for writing in. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  9. Debbie says:

    Hey Nicole!
    I just loved this post. I can so relate to your stories about riding bikes as an adult with hand breaks, etc. My hubby and I rode mountain bikes together for several years, but I’ve always had in the back of my mind to get a vintage bike ( RED ) just like your new one. I’ve seen them online… Thanks for reminding me!!! Love the photos of you when you were small with your bikes… You had some great rides, girl!
    Hugs and happy riding!
    Deb ( Beach Farmgirl )

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Deb!

      Thanks! I am just like you when it comes to the color red -drawn to it like a moth to a flame! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  10. Dori Troutman says:

    Hi Nicole,

    I was on vacation when I read your post and couldn’t manage to post a comment from my phone! Finally had time to get back to it today.

    I love your new bike. I also love the pictures of you when you were younger with your old bikes! Wouldn’t you love to have those today??? :-)

    I would just love to have a bike. But living on the farm, on a gravel road hilltop… just not conducive to biking! But, how I love yours. Maybe I need it for my porch! Ha!

    Loved this post!

    Hugs,

    – Dori –

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Dori! Missed ya, sweetie! Hope your vacation was grand! I am loving my bike, though the rides are getting fewer between because fall weather is setting in, and as of this weekend, it will get darker sooner (ya DON’T want to be at Fairfield Hills after dark). I love your idea of bikes sitting on porches as decor. I think mine will come inside for the winter if I can figure out a corner to place it in! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  11. CJ Armstrong says:

    Lucky you! It’s beautiful!
    I live in an area where gears are pretty much necessary. A mountain bike is best actually, but mine is in sad need of expert bike mechanic work. Of course, since winter is coming, no point in worrying about it now!
    Enjoy your lovely bike!
    CJ

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks, CJ. Mine is actually a hybrid, so hills are easier, but I don’t have to fool with the gears myself. I just wasn’t coordinated enough for them, I guess! Winter is coming here, too, and the trails are usually covered with ice for several months. I will miss riding my bike, but will pull her back out as soon as spring thaw comes! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

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