Bike Riding of Old

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When I was a kid, I used to ride my bike with my brother. I had a blue Schwinn Stingray and I’d sit on the handlebars, facing backwards, and Kris would sit on the seat and steer. We’d both pedal, with me pedaling backwards and Kris pedaling forward with his feet on top of my feet. It was amazing to us how fast we could get going with both of us pedaling.

We started wandering way past the boundaries set by our parents. We eventually got all the way to the Kansas River, that splits the city North and South. We eventually found a park, a couple miles from our house, where some kids had built a make shift BMX track. I don’t think there were banked corners, but it had lumps in it and was all dirt, with no grass.

We never spent too much time at the track. It was the fall and during school. By the time we got down there and each of us rode a few laps, we had to head back home before it got dark. No one said a thing about kids making a bike track in the park. We didn’t think a thing of it, except that it was super cool.

I went by that same park yesterday. I was pleasantly surprised that there were a few kids hanging there. But all were really young, with at least one adult for each kid. But, the bike track has been gone for decades. It is just flat, boring grass now.

I was thinking how strange it is that there is no chance that a bunch of kids could get together and “build” a BMX track in the middle of a city park now. I got called into talk to the Topeka Parks Department Head a few years ago, for mowing a mile loop in a park by my house. He threatened to arrest me for mowing the grass down to the level that the city was supposed to keep it at. I explained we were having a race there the next weekend and that 8 inch grass didn’t work, but he was adamant on his stance, since he’d received a nasty call from a County Commissioner that lived on the park.

Anyway, it all seems wrong. Why not have a bunch of kids on their bikes riding around in the grass in a little used park. It is what we all call cyclo-x, but for them it would just be fun. Sometimes I wish that Americans today had a closer mindset to Americans of old. “If it doesn’t hurt anything, then why not?” was the logic my parents and the parents of most of my friends used. Most of the best experiences I had with I was young didn’t involve any adults at all. Why not let our kids get together to invent and build some stuff on their own. It couldn’t hurt.

This is nearly the exact bike I had when I was young.

15 thoughts on “Bike Riding of Old

  1. chad

    Kids are still building dirt tracks. They just have to be more remote. I blame it on greed. No one wants to get sued.

     
  2. Rad Renner

    We’re close to the same age, and I remember doing crap like that, too. We’d take rakes and shovels into the woods and scratch out trails and jumps. Nobody cared, not even when somebody broke an arm. Some park official got pissy because you mowed the grass? Seriously, that IS what’s wrong with America today.

     
  3. Steve Wathek

    My brother and i would do the same thing but i never thought about him helping me pedal. He would face me so i would have to look over his shoulder every now and then to see where we were going. One time we ran straight into a parked car. Pretty funny, no one hurt.
    As far as bmx tracks. I lived in Wi. and we had no official bmx track so we made our own with a table top jump and whoop de doos ( i think thats what we called them).
    Kids dont do anything by themselves anymore Steve. Many People are so scared of their child being abducted they put them in organized sports where they can be watched at all times.
    I blame 24 hour news. When was the last time you drove by a baseball field and saw kids playing unsupervised in street clothes? That just doesnt happen anymore. Video games also are part of the blame.
    We built our bmx track without asking anyone for help or for permission. We could be gone all day as long as we were home for supper. Not anymore.
    Damn, i’ve just realized i’m an old man.

     
  4. Tim Bergeson

    Great post Steve.

    I have the same memories with my brother. Great old thoughts. My Schwinn was green. We lived at the top of a hill in OP, KS. built jumps at the bottom, then went to the park and built more.

    We have a park nearby us now in Minneapolis. There is a large section unmaintained. It is used primarily as an unofficial dog park. The kids have built some nice size kickers, rollers and berms in there and it flows pretty well. I have been known to launch off of a few jumps with my 7 year old from time to time. There is also an occasional tree fort (presumably built with the help of their dad/mom as there is one in a Cottonwood 30+ feet off the ground). Every time I go there it restores my faith in “kid-land”.

    It is still out there, you just got to look harder and harder these days to find it.

     
  5. Big E

    We got a call from a police officer this weekend because one of our boys skateboards. And he and some friends were skating at an abandonded loading dock. The cop said they were polite and good kids but they couldn’t skate there. When I asked why? The officer said because someone thought they were breaking in. What a crock of shit! This place was smashed up already. Why should they care if some kids are playing and getting exercise. I just don’t understand the mentality. Seems like once they’ve established that they aren’t doing any harm they should just let them be.

     
  6. -kw

    Right now, this very second, kids are doing all kinds of amazing stuff. Even some adult kids. All the really good stuff is off the radar, though. As it should be.
    But it’s better if someone sweats ’em when they accidentally get discovered. Gives them something to push back against and lets them discover for themselves that they know something the general public doesn’t.

     
  7. Kim Carveth

    Great post and great points! I have many fantastic memories with kids in the neighborhood, figuring out things to do (without adult involvement) and never being bored. I had the same color bike but mine was a 3 speed…wish I still had it!

     
  8. Jim

    Maybe if kids were allowed to ride everywhere from a young age with proper infrastructure all along that would’ve helped the country stay out of its own ass.
    Maybe if the park super had done so he wouldn’t have gone all rentacop on you.
    Maybe folks wouldn’t be so fat if they developed a healthy attitude towards play.
    That’s all I got.

     
  9. Stanley

    My bike looked like that but it was hot pink with big mod flowers on the banana seat and brightly colored tassels hanging from the handle bars…neon plastic spoke thingys from cereal boxes..had to beat my siblings to them.

     
  10. H Luce

    There is a rather extensive and well hidden BMX track in one of the local parks, not found yet by city employees, and it’s been there for quite some time. The City Government of Topeka is full of snotty, officious, and overbearing bureaucrats. Anarchy Now!

     
  11. BC

    Thanks for the reminder to not accept what present day society dictates. I have a young son and want to make sure his childhood is not consumed entirely by electronics and that he has the opportunity to find joy in the things I (and you) did as a kid.

     

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