About a week ago, I read my teammate Danielle’s blog post on how she started cycling at a young age and I could immediately identify with the feeling of freedom she described from riding a bike as a kid. Reading her post brought back memories of my childhood and how much fun I’ve had riding bikes throughout my life. I suppose the happiness I feel when I ride is what has kept me interested in doing it all these years.
From as early as I can remember, I have memories of riding bikes. I started with a plastic motorcycle that I pushed around with my feet as a toddler, and it seems as if I always wanted to be on two wheels since those early years. There were many occasions during my life where I could have easily moved away from riding bikes to do something else, but the happiness happiness riding brings me has been strong enough to keep me pedaling.
The neighborhood I grew-up in as a child was filled with other kids who also enjoyed riding bikes. Of course, since this was the early 70’s, there were very few restrictions on where, how and what we did with our bikes (or without them in fact). In the 70’s, BMX was just starting and it definitely caught my attention. I remember going a mile or so down the road to a place called the “dips” where a large group of kids would gather to ride short trails and jump their bikes over dirt mounds. I was too young to do anything too crazy, but enjoyed watching the older kids catching what I thought at the time was huge air. I also loved listening to their stories about racing at the local BMX track.
I had a department store bike at the time with a banana-style seat on it because BMX bikes were still very new and not sold everywhere like they were only a few years later. I made a decision to convert my bike to the BMX style by removing the banana seat setup and replacing it with a seat from a ten-speed bike. It kind of worked, but by no means was I able to do any serious dirt riding with it. I still tried though, and soon became addicted to the feeling of zero gravity when I was catching air off of a jump.
I moved out of that neighborhood in the third grade, but still continued to ride my bike. Homes were further apart at my new place and I started using my bike more as a mode of transportation rather than just for recreation. If I wanted to see a friend, the only way I could get there in a reasonable amount of time was to ride. Since I was doing longer rides, I decided to get a geared road bike to make my commutes even faster.
“I wonder what having a chain and some gears would do for me?”...
I soon found that doing long rides on my geared bike was as much fun as the jumping and trail riding I was doing on my BMX bike. By the fifth grade, I was doing 20-mile road bike rides to my grandparents’ home and other long rides around my house just for fun. There was nothing I liked doing more than riding my bike and pretty much all my free time after school or in the summer had something to do with bike riding.
While still in elementary school, I started to race BMX bikes on the weekends during the summer. I pretty much stayed local with it, but did some Pennsylvania State and NBL National Races here and there. BMX racing was a blast and I still think most of my MTB riding skills came from doing this type of racing. But even though my focus at this time was about going fast on a bike with 20” wheels on the dirt track, I never forgot about the fun I had doing long road rides. Eventually, at about the age of 15, I started riding my road bike more than my BMX bike and a short time later made the switch from BMX to road racing.
I’m not sure exactly what got me started in road racing other than my love for riding. I knew that in order to be good at road bike racing I had to ride a lot, and since I liked riding a lot, I continued to race. I guess maybe racing also gave me an excuse to keep riding my bike when everyone else my age seemed to be less interested in bikes and more into cars, school activities and other things. I tried other sports and activities as I was growing up, but nothing captured my interest as much as racing did.
By the time I was in college, mountain bike riding was starting to gain popularity. I had kept one of my old 26” race cruisers after I stopped BMX racing and tried riding the horse trails with it in a county park near my home. It was a fun bike, but the tall singlespeed gearing made riding those trails pretty difficult at times. Knowing full well the advantages a geared bike gave me on the road, I was excited about trying one of these new off-road geared bikes to explore the woods with a more efficient machine. I soon bought one and was not disappointed with my off-road riding experience. It was kind of like becoming a kid all over again and having a new world put in front of me. But, even though I really enjoyed mountain bike riding, I didn’t consider racing it until a few years later.
I was racing on the road a lot during my college years, so the mountain bike was nothing more than a training tool for me at the time. I did a few off-road races here and there, but I primarily focused on the road until my focus shifted in the mid 90’s. I owned a bicycle shop during this time and the growth of MTB riding and racing was infectious and exciting to witness. Since then, I’ve spent more time racing on dirt than I have on pavement. I’ll do a handful of road races every year, but definitely spend more time racing off-road because I just have more fun doing it, and because riding deep into the woods away from the confines of civilization will always be special to me.
To me, riding, racing and life should be about having fun, being happy and going on adventures. There is no way I could have raced for the past 32 consecutive years without feeling excited about it and having fun doing it. Even now, riding a bike still gives me that feeling of freedom I first felt when I was a child and also gives me happiness through new adventures. At this point, it is hard to imagine living life without being able to ride a bike and I’m grateful to have discovered the happiness from riding at such an early age.
Happy trails and enjoy your ride, my friends…. Gerry
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I try to keep life simple, even though there are so many things to make it complicated. My bike has been riding with me for most of my life and it has always known just how to unwind a complicated situation by providing me with quality time to ponder possible solutions. Perhaps if everyone rode bikes everyday, it would make the world a better place. Gerry Pflug: Pfun With Pflug http://pfunwithpflug.blogspot.com/