What do you remember about your first bicycle?
My first bike was a silver BMX bike that I rode to school when I was in fifth and sixth grade. My next door neighbor and best friend, Matt Bockal, had a matching bike and we thought we were pretty darn cool because we could jump off six inch street curbs.
When I entered my teens, my parents bought me a Giant mountain bicycle, but it never really grew on me. The bike felt funny and I never really liked to ride it. It just didn’t feel like me.
Then, in 2001, when I began making plans for my first long-distance bike tour down the California coastline, I started thinking about the bike I would ride on my journey down the coast. The obvious answer would have been to ride my Giant, as it was really the only bike I had… and it was in near perfect condition.
But I didn’t end up using the Giant on my bike tour. Instead, I rode my fathers old mountain bike instead – a Sierra Schwinn.
For years my father had had this old black bicycle in the garage and I rarely ever saw him ride it. It has been just sitting their, collecting cobwebs for years and years, so I decided to fix up the old clunker and use it for my trip down the Pacific Coast.
The bike was a 1980’s Sierra Schwinn. I’m not exactly sure what year it is, but if you happen to know, please get in contact with me. I’d love to know what year this bike is actually from.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I fixed the old thing up, stuck a couple racks on it, and successfully pedaled the beast from Oregon to Mexico.
On the last day of that trip, upon reaching the Mexican border, I loaded the bike onto the front rack of my aunt’s VW camper-van and took off back to her home in Coronado. But when my aunt sped through a large dip in a major intersection, the front wheel of my bike was pushed into the pavement, ripped off of my aunt’s van, and immediately run over! Once my aunt had made it though the intersection, she stopped the van and I jumped out, practically in tears. The bike that I had just spent the last 30 days riding down the coast had been run-over by a two-ton vehicle and parts of it were now scattered about in a large San Diego intersection.
I jumped out of my aunt’s van and ran around the intersection for a few minutes, dodging cars and picking up the few pieces of my bike that I could find in the road. A day or two later, I made it back home with my twisted wreck of a bike. It wasn’t how I imagined returning home after my successful trip down the California Coastline.
In college now, I started to think about how I would spend my upcoming summer. My bike trip down the California coastline had been so great that I wanted to do it again… and this time I set my sights on riding over the Rocky Mountains – from Kansas to Wyoming. Now without a bike however, and still without much funds in my bank account, I decided it would be cheaper to simply repair my old Sierra Schwinn than to buy a new bicycle. So what did I do? I hammered out the frame of the Sierra Schwinn as best as I could, bought two new wheels, installed a new rear derailleur and off I went!
In the summer of 2002 I spent a month riding my Sierra Schwinn over the Rock Mountains. It squeaked and strained the entire time… and riding it made me extremely sore and uncomfortable. When I reached Rawlins, Wyoming, I knew I could go no further with the bike. It had reached it’s last leg… and so had I. I wanted to keep going, but my bike and my body were done. We had had enough. It was time to go home. So I boxed up the bike, boarded a Greyhound bus and rode for the next day or so with a tribe of Native American firefighters back to my home in Southern California.
The next year I bought a new bike for my touring exploits (a Fuji Touring Bike), but I kept the Schwinn around and have continued to ride it over the years.
Today, the Sierra Schwinn is my main commuter bike. I use it on a near daily basis to run errands, pick up groceries, take items that need to be mailed to the post office… and sometimes I even ride it to the ski resort with my skis in tow. I’ve fixed the bike up so many times, I now call it the “Resurrection 9000” because that’s how many times I’ve brought it back to life. The bike today is still incredibly hard to ride, only a few of the gears work and you can’t put any pressure on the pedals when you are riding or the chain will fall off. The bike may be a piece of junk today, but it just keeps going… and I can’t stop riding it.
The Sierra Schwinn my father gave me ten years ago may not be the best bike in the world, and even though it may not technically be the first bike I ever owned, I will forever think of it as my first bike.
The following photos show my Sierra Schwinn as it is today:
What do you remember about your first bike?