Stories of Summer: Bike rides

“C’mon Kids! Let’s go for a bike ride!”

Looking back, I think there must have been a secret signal my mom gave my dad that made him whistle for his five kids and get us mounted up on our bikes destined for parts unknown. Bike rides were the stuff of summer. Sometimes they were afternoon delights, sometimes we waited until after dinner. Always, they happened only if we all had our chores done, and, they were the best part of the day. We could be gone for hours, and ride far and wide, stopping or coasting as needed. Dad and the kids off on bikes surely was a welcome respite for my mom, any mom. Mom did sometimes ride along, most especially if there was a stop at the ice cream stand. We were a sight to see, all seven of us on bikes.

My Dad was a Wisconsin State Trooper so his schedule was nights or days, weekends or weekdays, and sometimes many days in a row…and one pay day per month. Summer could be a struggle of resources and of nerves. A bike ride was good clean cheap fun for a big family. My clever dad built most of the family bikes but my bike was a hand-me-down blue Schwinn. I loved my bike. I had a big front handlebar basket and a back fender carrier, and wide tires that made my ride smooth. My bike was the pocket protector of bikes considering 10-speed bikes with skinny tires and sleek seats were becoming so popular. Meanwhile my brothers rode banana seat wonders complete with clothespins and joker cards clipped to the fender support, making noise on the spokes. My sisters were partial to handlebar fringe that flowed in the breeze behind them.

We rode in a long single string on the busy roads but more free form on the quiet streets. My Dad always made it fun and interesting, plus it was always a chance for instruction along the way. We learned hand signals, road etiquette, and safety tricks. We stopped in to hang at the police or fire station, or pick up or drop stuff off wherever, or, buy a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk and fight over who got to carry it home. Sometimes there was no destination at all in mind and we got to choose which way to ride. I liked to ride on the streets with the big yards and what seemed like mansions. My brothers liked a park as a destination but even better, a gas station…and penny candy. We rode from one end of town to the other. We got to know our city, all the shortcuts, and where all the public fountains were.

I think our family bike rides helped us feel encouraged and empowered besides being just plain good exercise. In the August issue of Martha Stewart Living, not yet online, there is a lovely article about bicycles available, which are much more like the comfy cruiser I had as a kid. I hope it’s true what they say about riding a bike. I think I really want one! Maybe bikes run in the family although I don’t think my husband and I ever did much biking. But our daughter and son-in-law do enjoy biking a lot. You can read about their bike tour of Belgium on their blog, DC Editors in Cambridge.

Did you ride bikes when you were a kid? Did you have any bike rules or tricks? Did you have to share a bike? I’d love to hear about your bike memories.


Graphic above from the Graphics Fairy.


About Robin Arnold

Reader, writer, gardener, geek, maker of homes in several states, now settled in Virginia with husband Bob, and Hazel and Wilson the tabby cats.
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3 Responses to Stories of Summer: Bike rides

  1. i enjoyed this story about bike rides with your parents were not at all into riding bikes. though, it was very much how i got around for many years.

  2. I loved reading this.My family was big on bike riding as well…though us kids were the only riders and it was more of a way for our parents to get us all out of the house so they could catch a few moments peace. We had an old dirt alleyway behind our first house and that's where we would ride up and down one of the small hills. Do you have any pictures of your old bike? Or of you and the gang all mounted up for the day's adventures?

  3. Billy Coffey says:

    My kids are just now getting used to no training wheels on their bikes. I still ride mine most every morning. There's nothing like an old, beaten up bike to make you feel good. Loved this, Robin.

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