Who doesn’t remember their first bike? Perhaps it was a trusty hand-medown or brand new with a banana seat and streamers you found under the tree Christmas morning. Bikes continue to evolve in the years since Frenchman Ernest Michaux introduced the modern bicycle in 1861. Technology has made bikes lighter and faster, but the memory of that fi rst bike remains the same.
“The spirit of adventure is still there, whether you’re finding a road you haven’t explored before or hitting a new pothole in the city of Mesa,” says Ken Patterson, co-owner of Pat’s Cyclery in Mesa.
Mesa was a small town when Bill Woolf got his fi rst bike.
It was a green Schwinn with fenders and training wheels. He learned to ride it in front of his home on Temple Street.
“The thing about having a bicycle was that your bicycle was a means of transportation,” says Woolf.
But the real bike he explored with, the one he purchased with the help of his father, was a purple Schwinn traveler from Pat’s Cyclery.
“My Schwinn Traveler was the one I had the most adventures on,” says Woolf, who was 11 when he got that bike. “We’d ride our bikes from one side to the other because it was a small town. That was an OK thing to do back then. Mesa was a different place. We’d ride to the hobby shop where we could get model airplanes. Pat’s bicycle shop was on South Macdonald, and Mesa was surrounded by farms and ditches.”
Woolf delivered the Mesa Tribune on that Schwinn bike and let his older brother, Mac, use it in a 25-mile ride to get a merit badge.
“I was too young to get the cycling merit badge, so my dad made me loan it to him,” says Woolf, now 60. “It didn’t seem fair.”
Now Woolf can be found riding his Trek bike through Usery Mountain Regional Park.
“You’re out there, and it’s good thinking time,” says Woolf.
July 4, 1978, was truly independence day for Andrew Cope.
On his fifth birthday, the Mesa resident and his twin sister received new Schwinn bikes. Cope’s was red and had no training wheels.
“I had that bike for a good 10 years, and it was my getaround-town bike,” says Cope, who grew up in Los Alamos, N.M. “I would ride around the cul-de-sac, and I would keep crashing on my left knee.”
Like so many adults, Cope put his cycling days behind him after high school. This year Cope became one of the fortunate few who rediscover the joy of that first bike.
Cope, a triathlete, recently bought his first adult bike — a Fuji Aloha triathlon bike.
Scott Hembree was 8 when he got a new bike to call his own.
“I had taken home a bike that was not mine, and my parents figured it was about time,” says Hembree, the manager of Global Bikes in Gilbert. Nestled under the Christmas tree alongside his bike was a Superman costume. Hembree put the costume on and flew out of the house, ready for adventure.
“Off I went on my bike in my new duds, the cape flying behind me,” says Hembree of Chandler. “I hit an uneven part of the sidewalk and went straight over the bars just like Superman.”
Adventures in cycling became part of Hembree’s life. He raced BMX for a few years and won two national championships in 1979 and 1980.
“Twenty-five years later I ride and race with the masters to stay fit and sane,” says Hembree, 46. “You never know where a kid’s first bike will take them.”
How to pick the perfect first bike
Now that the holiday season has begun, parents are scouring bike shops and “bigbox” stores such as Target and Wal-Mart for the perfect first bike.
Shopping for a bike as if it were just another toy is a mistake many parents make, says Ryan Padgitt, a bike mechanic and salesman with Landis Cyclery in Tempe. Spend a little extra money, and your child’s bike will last longer.
“Unfortunately, the majority of parents go to big-box stores, and you definitely get what you pay for in terms of quality and durability,” says Padgitt, who says advantages of buying that bike from a bike shop are that a mechanic will assemble it, the bikes are better quality and some shops offer free or greatly reduced services.
Whether you buy the bike in a shop or at Wal-Mart, here are guidelines to help you find a perfect first bike:
• Don’t buy a bigger bike in the hopes that your child will grow into it.
“It’s just as important for a child to be properly fit to a bike as it is for an adult,” says Padgitt. Choosing a bike that’s wellmade and sized correctly will ensure that the bike doesn’t sit in the garage waiting for your child to grow into it.
Your child doesn’t have to outgrow the bike. Adjustable seats and handlebars should add years to the longevity of a bike. Higherend children’s bikes such as Trek’s Mystic (above) for girls and Jet (top of page) for boys feature interchangeable parts so the bike grows with your child. $119 to $260.
“The bike grows with the child so parents aren’t having to invest in a new bike every year,” says Eric Bjorling, spokesman for Trek Bicycles in Waterloo, Wis.
• Sturdy construction is essential for safety, says Padgitt. A good rule to go by is to check if the bike supports your weight. Make sure the frame is welded together.
• Training wheels are standard on 12-inch and 16-inch bikes. Check to make sure the bike you buy has an all-steel construction and is securely fastened.
• Get a tubed tire, says Padgitt. They handle better and are more forgiving.
• Talking your child into knee and elbow pads will be difficult, but don’t let them ride off without a helmet. Companies such as Giro and Bell make colorful helmets for kids that sell from $29.99 to $39.99. The helmet should be certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Look for the initials CPSC on the label.
1006 E. Warner Road, Suite 106, Tempe (480) 730-1081 or www.landiscyclery.com
Adventure Bicycle Co.
2336 E. Baseline Road, Mesa (480) 649-3394 or www.adventurebicycle.com
929 E Main St., Mesa (480) 964-3330 or http://patscyclery.com