The Man About TOWN embraces a childhood desire
Whenever someone compares the relative ease of relearning a task to “riding a bike,” it is safe to assume they have never seen me ride one. I grew up on a mountainside in western North Carolina where there were no sidewalks or bike lanes, and the roads were narrow ribbons of blind curves with low shoulders. Riding a bike in this area was nearly impossible, so the kids rode go-karts and ATVs and in certain cases lawn mowers. To be fair, the riding lawn mower was an acceptable form of transportation in this small community, especially for those who’d lost their driver’s license. It was not unusual to see a John Deere or Troy-Bilt parked next to Fords and Chevys at the convenience store or laundromat. Driving past such a scene, my mother would usually point and say, “Looks like Randy got another DUI.”
But as a child, even one with access to a riding mower, I still wanted a bike. Each Christmas morning, I would rush downstairs, certain that a shiny new Schwinn would be sitting next to the tree only to discover in its place a saxophone or chemistry set. The closest I came was on my fourteenth birthday when I unwrapped a unicycle. My parents seemed to be working on a theme because just three months earlier they had given me a pair of stilts for Christmas. Perhaps they felt my poor grades and disinterest in sports warranted a suggestion toward circus life.
But I’ve long since left the mountainside and now live just steps from the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail. From my kitchen window, I see all types of bikes and all types of riders. From the logo-covered, spandex-wearing road cyclists on their $5,000 Cannondales to the bearded hipsters in sport coats and selvedge denim pedaling their antique “fixies,” it seems everyone has a bike, except me.
So, ignoring my rule to never do anything that requires wearing a helmet, I decided it was time to purchase a bike. A friend suggested I visit Kip at Lucky Bike (2 Sidney St, Greenville) just off of Poinsett Highway. Kip gave me an enthusiastic thumbs-up when I told him I was in the market for my first bike and showed me his inventory. Kip collects used bikes and refurbishes them, replacing most of the parts: tires, tubes, gears, etc. It’s like buying a used car from a reputable lot run by a top-notch mechanic. Kip said that if I planned to ride mainly on the Swamp Rabbit I should consider a “hybrid” bike, which is a cross between a road bike and mountain bike. I took Kip’s advice and am now waiting for my “hybrid,” which should be ready in a couple of weeks.
In the meantime I have borrowed my friend’s bike a few times to explore the trail and get the hang of riding. Despite never owning a bike as a child, I’ve found each time I ride, I feel like a kid. I swerve and hop. In one brief moment of enthusiasm, I leaned back and jerked the handlebars up in a feeble attempt to perform a “wheelie.” And this is the appeal of the bicycle, to young and old alike. A bike is freedom. No motor, no noise, just a quiet means of escape.