The Chainlink

A recent post by someone who, as an adult, is just wanting to start riding, got me thinking.  I've been riding since age 4, and have always considered myself a cyclist, even when I lived in bike-unfriendly suburbs and didn't ride very often.

For those of you who went years without riding, or didn't start until adulthood, I'd like to know how and why you went from non- cyclist to cyclist.

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I grew up riding a bike since about age 5. I remember the day my dad took the training wheels off my first bike and I just took off down the driveway immediately. Didn't realize back then that he had been looking forward to helping me learn to get my balance without the training wheels--oops! We lived in a small New England city, and I could bike everywhere--to school, downtown, in the forest preserve by our house--anywhere, as long as you could deal with the hills. By the time I graduated from college, though, I grew sick of dealing with them and by the time I moved out to Chicago it didn't even occur to me to bring my long-forgotten bike. I couldn't afford a car so walked and took CTA everywhere. Gradually, though, it dawned on me that Hey! It's totally flat here! So began a series of bikes (two junkers stolen, one more just given away when I finally got my first "nice" bike in 2001, which I still have along with two vintage additions to the fleet) and the renewed good times of riding everywhere.

When I was a kid, my dad would take all the family bikes out of the shed on Patriot's Day (Massachusetts holiday--third Monday in April) and put them in the garage for us to use all summer. They went back to the shed on the weekend Daylight Savings Time ended in the fall. But about five years ago I finally figured out that the good times didn't have to end in October. This is my fourth winter as a year-round biker and I figure if I can make it through this one, the next 30 years should be a breeze! Still no car, but now I ride to work in style. So happy to have found a community of people who offer continuous inspiration and advice!

I learned to ride without training wheels when I was about 4, and rode pretty much strictly BMX until college.  I didn't ride as much when I was 16-17 because of the car culture in rural Michigan.  I grew up in a very car-centric gearhead family, so cars are a revered art form and a source of power and pride.  If I hadn't gone to college, I would probably have dropped cycling completely in favor of cars and car culture.  Once I went to college though, I wasn't allowed to have a car on campus, so immediately I reverted to biking everywhere.  I used what I knew, BMX, which led to mountain bikes, which led me to working at a bike shop, which led to racing mountain bikes for the college team, which led to road bikes and then commuter bikes, and all over the spectrum until I arrived here, fully immersed in bicycle culture and not planning to stop.  I still have to drive a car to get to work for now, but I've been supplementing it when I can with Metra + biking.  Eventually I'll have my debts paid off and I can work somewhere that is easier to get to by bike and maybe even *gasp* sell my car.  The day I become car free is the day I become truly free.

Why I stopped: I think bike riding after middle school was uncool in suburban NJ.  Cars ruled the roost.

Why I resumed: In my mid 20s I moved to London where I met wife-to-be who commuted by bike.  I started riding so we could explore the city together.  Now we have a kid and I ride through everything.

It started as a child when you realized your world expanded from the back yard, then as a way to go see your friends across town, then as a weekend "no driving" type thing, then realizing that in a city with mass transit and trails you could get around by bike in most occasions.

I remember when the bike racks were installed on buses and that kinda sealed the deal knowing that if I had a breakdown and was miles from home I could still get home or at least a reasonable walking distance near it.

I only stopped when I lived in rural parts where biking would be for exercise only and with no place to go or bike only trails.

Something about putting the bike in the car then driving to a park or place where you could ride seemed weird.

I was born in LA (suburbs) and we lived on a huge hill.

my parents didn't trust bikes so I got a skateboard (go figure) but back then no one did stunts

then my friends all converted theirs to scooters, so I did that too.

then schwinn came out with the stingray and we all just HAD to get one.

my grandfather LOVED sears so I got one. yay

then we moved to a farm town in Indiana; and a bike was every young boy's "freedom" - without one

you were in prison (some of my friends lived 2-3 miles away "out in the country"

then I got a paper route (age 11) and covered the whole town via bike.

I was very happy.

high school - welcome to the world of owning a car (only jobs were 20 miles away)

college : walked everywhere. girls didn't date guys with bikes (at least that's what they told me)

post college : I moved to lombard and the prairie path called my name.

bought a Miyata 112 (from Sportif) and suddenly was hooked again.

1993 started triathlon training and took it up 2-3 notches.

2005 - started biking into the city from Lombard (and swim at ohio street beach). life is GOOD

2006 - rode to METRA station EVERY day. faster and cheaper than driving. Hmmmmm

2008 - moved back to city and became a full time bike commuter; joined chainlink and the rest is history.

great thread !


I stopped riding around grammar school as well since I outgrew my bicycle. I tried picking it back up again a few times but I always thought I was too weak (asthma, weak legs, pneumonia in winter, low endurance....). I always had some crappy mountain bike. Granted, I'm on the delicate side. But, I didn't realize until I had a somewhat decent bicycle that the machine that moves you really matters almost as much as the engine. I'm a weak engine, but, at least I do what I love. Meh.

Also, when I lived in the suburbs I got sick of CTA delays making me late to work. I realized commuting 30 miles a day by bicycle was much faster (even at my slow pace) than public transit. 

Now I ride my bicycle almost everyday. Lately, though, I've been wimping out due to snow and ice. I also recently discovered the beauty behind bar mitts and pocket warmers. :D

I've also gone through a ton of bicycles... I once had a low rider. Yup. Couldn't do any tricks on that. For anyone who complains about me being slow-wish you'd seen me on that bike. I was slower than a slother. (okay. Exaggerating.)

25 years ago I got a road bike for my birthday. Added a mountain bike, Trek's first. Stopped for awhile to raise two kids as a single dad, date a nice woman, work full time and part time to put my son through school and also run for public office. Picked it up again. Have not stopped.

I enjoy the daily challenge and adventure, am free and happy on a bike and still relish the boyish wonder of exploring places unknown.

Wolf-Pup said:

I once had a low rider. Yup. Couldn't do any tricks on that.

I don't think that means what you think it means.  Lowriders aren't meant to do tricks on.  Did you mean freestyler, as in BMX freestyle?

This is a lowrider:

And this is a freestyle BMX:

Thanks for the question, Jeff.

I rode as a kid from 5 until high school ... constantly when I was not building forts, jumping off garage roofs or building homemade, motorless go-carts.

The wife, now my ex, gave me the bike, because I was gaining weight. I dropped 50 pounds the first summer by biking and dropping soda from my diet.

I lived in Lisle at the time. The Green Trails subdivision does not have sidewalks; it has miles of asphalt trails behind the homes that weave around ponds, parks and a golf course. I biked after work and weekends. Idyllic. That led to street riding and eventually a 16 mile commute to Westchester.

The straight-forward answer to "you must have had some pretty good experiences" is that biking now still makes me feel like a kid again, not a mid-life crisis thing, like buying a red sports car, but that "I am free to fly through the air with the greatest of ease and go wherever I want like a fearless pirate" kind of kid thing. Every ride, I kid you not, is a swashbuckling adventure for me.

This has become my new favorite thread! I'm bumping it up to the top in the hopes that more people will add their bike history stories...

me too.  I will share mine (which is kinda my ah-ha moment) by tomorrow.  Trying to focus and keep getting pulled back in to the forum. 

Nançois 8.5 said:

This has become my new favorite thread! I'm bumping it up to the top in the hopes that more people will add their bike history stories...


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