My Bicycling Adventures

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

I’m old. How old? Well how about, I remember when kids rode bicycles without the mandatory knee pads, elbow pads and helmets, I’m that old. I watch the little kids riding by our house now wearing more safety equipment than a linebacker for the Chicago Bears. The only safety equipment we had was the little steel clip that stopped your pants from getting caught up in the chain.

Do you remember pantclips? You didn’t need them in the summer because all the boys wore shorts, but once you put on long pants the legs would get stuck in the chain at least once a day. Then you would have to steer over to someone’s lawn, fall over sideways and lie there trying to turn the pedal by hand to get the pant leg out. By that time your pants were shredded and you knew you were going to get it when you got home.

I once lay there all through November and into December. Finally my dad came out on Christmas morning and turned the pedal for me. When I opened my presents all I got was a new pair of pants and a pant clip. Merry Christmas, you little jerk!

Bicycles were dangerous in the 40s, especially for boys. Once you stood up to pump up a hill, your feet would slip off and your crotch would land on the crossbar. The screams could be heard blocks away. If you can remember back that far, most boys learned to ride on some older guy’s bike which would be too big for you. You had to put your leg under the crossbar and ride on an angle. Girl’s bikes didn’t have a crossbar. How cowardly was that?

As a kid I rode bikes all the time. When I was 12, I delivered for Brown’s Drug Store on the corner of Monarch Park and Sammon Avenue. I don’t mean I was a dealer – although I could have been and didn’t know it. I never thought to open the little bag to see what was inside. If I had I could be rich by now – or doing time in Kingston.

Once in the wintertime I was crossing an icy Danforth Avenue, fell, and almost slid under a streetcar. Scary moment! Both the driver and I had to go home and change our pants.

It was risky riding bikes in the wintertime, but when I look back I was being paid a whopping 30 cents an hour; for that kind of money I had to accept a little danger.

But eventually I stopped riding bikes. It was a sexual thing really. It was one thing to try to talk a girl into climbing into the back seat of my 47 Monarch Coupe, but quite another to ask her to place her bottom on the rear fender of my CCM bicycle.

About 25 years ago I decided to try to ride a neighbourhood kid’s bike. It is one of the skills you never forget – or so they say. (I’ll bet they weren’t 60 years-old when they said it) I didn’t try anything fancy like standing on the seat, no hands, or sitting backward on the handlebars, I just tried to ride the flipping bike. I fell right in the middle of Hilda Street in front of all the neighbours.

It wasn’t my fault. Well it was, sort of, but I had an excuse. I had never ridden a bike with hand brakes before. I learned on the standard foot brake. If your folks were wealthy enough to buy you a Raleigh Racing bike, you would know all about handbrakes. But back in the olden days, and if you were not one of Timothy Eaton’s kids, you stood on the pedal and pushed down with your heel. I was trying to turn, squeezed the handbrake too hard, and ended up on my bum in the middle of the road.

A least it gave Bucky Udell and Al Bergin something to laugh about and, of course, tell the tragic tale to everyone in the South Ward, the Legion, and beyond.

Except for weathering the embarrassment and the pain, I eventually laughed about it too. As I recall, trying to pick gravel out of the cheeks of your own bum with tweezers can be a bit awkward. I finally had to get my wife to do it. I still remember her chuckling when she dabbed on the iodine.

(Image Supplied)

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