About Bob Zimmerman - Riding Bikes

About Bob Zimmerman - Bike Riding


Schwinn Bike I was always small for my age, at least until I reached High School. That's why learning to ride a bike was a bit more difficult for me.

Bob on a tricycle

While sifting through my parent's photographs the other day, I came across this picture of me on a tricycle when I was only two. Notice that my legs don't even touch the pedals!

I learned to ride my first bike when I was about 4 or 5. One of my first memories is riding a bike and being able to turn the corner around our house.

What excitement!

We had a small bike that my brother Ron and I both learned to ride on. It had training wheels at first, but I was so small that I needed to lean it against the backyard fence, climb up on a wooden box and then mount the seat. From there on out, I rode like a bat out of hell, hoping not to fall over or to have to stop.

Later on, I remember having my own bike. It was red and had a basket and two gears. It had the kind of gears where all you had to do was pedal backwards a quarter turn to change to high or low gear. I think it was called a "Bendix" transmission. I also got a speedometer for it, and from time to time had a headlight and a bell or horn. It was fun riding at night down the dirt roads with the headlight blazing out the trail.

I often rode my bike up and down our street, because the oiled road ended in front of our house. Further on down the road it was just dirt. By riding fast, you could make a rooster tail of dust. It was fun to pretend to be racing.

During the hydroplane races (around Labor Day), we would inevitably make little boats that we tied behind our bikes. It was fun to ride up and down the road racing each other. The hydros made neat dust rooster tails when they went along the dirt road.

At other times we would use clothespins and playing cards to make motors for our bikes. By placing the cards so that they hit the spokes, it made a satisfying buzz as we rode along. Usually we overdid the addition of cards, so that we had them on the front tire and back tire at the same time. After a while the noise became too annoying and we took them off, or they simply fell off somewhere.

I remember that one year it was a special treat to be able to ride my bike to school. It was fun putting my books in the saddlebags and riding a couple miles to school. I would lock up the bike during the day and zip home after school. It was all right as long as it wasn't pouring rain. Rainy days were the pits! One other time I came out after school and discovered I had a flat tire. What a bother. I had no way to fix it, so I had to walk the bike all the way home.

When Ron and I had the Bellevue American newspaper route, we rode our bikes around the community delivering papers. It was really hard to carry all the papers because the route was so spread out. I think we had to ride 5 to 10 miles sometimes. And, of course, the paper had to be delivered before school on Wednesday mornings. I remember getting up around 4 in the morning, folding and rubber-banding the papers and heading out to deliver them. What was really bad was that it didn't pay very well. And what a bother to have to do it every week. Going on vacation was always a pain when we had to find someone to deliver them for us. We didn't miss it when we decided to quit.

Another time I remember that I was riding my bike around the neighborhood on a really hot afternoon. I went to see if my friend, Peter Haskell, could come out riding. While waiting at his back door, I remember hearing a terrific "boom". I thought someone had lit off a firecracker. But it was not to be. My back tire had simply exploded!

Usually we were pretty careful while riding our bikes. Of course we tried to do a few tricks-- riding without hands, kneeling on the seat, sitting backwards and so forth. One time, though, I remember Ron and I were riding down the Kamber Road hill. The hill was fairly steep, but we couldn't see any reason to go slowly as long as we could go the same speed as the traffic. However, I misjudged my speed and when it came time to turn off, I was going too fast to do it safely. Now, at any other time I would have had no problem making the turn by using the entire road. But on this day a car happened to pull up to the stop sign. It was too late to come to a stop, and too tight a turn to use just one lane. So I came screeching and sliding into the side of the car! How embarrassing! The driver was alarmed, surprised and upset. I think I learned a good lesson, and was lucky to avoid a more serious accident.

two seater bikeWhen we moved to Eastgate, we somehow came to own a two-seater bike. I don't remember riding it double very often, since we always fought over who would get to ride in front. But I do remember that we rode for hours going around and around the block. It was so fantastic to be living where there were paved streets to ride on. Often I remember riding the two-seater around the block with no hands. It took practice learning to lean just so to make it go around the corners. We had contests to see who could make the most circuits around the block with no hands before having to grab the handlebars. Usually we could do it forty or fifty times, needing only to panic when a car came unexpectedly around a corner.

When we moved to Pine Lake, I didn't ride much. I guess it was mostly because I didn't have as much time. Schoolwork took a lot of time. Besides, there were a lot of hills there, and anytime that you rode very far it meant coming back up the hills again. Also, by that time, Ron and I were learning to get around places in dad's car or truck.

The last big fling with bike riding came when Ron and I went bike touring on Orcas Island in the San Juans. We rented bikes in Seattle and carried our supplies in backpacks. It was fun taking the ferry and then biking along the roads on the Island. We camped in the State Park and returned the next day. We learned that biking can be fun, but a lot of work.

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Revised 10-01-00