When I was 7 years old, I withdrew my life savings and bought a bike.
My introduction to riding had come a few years earlier. My parents had purchased a bicycle from a family friend, whose child was not at all enamoured with cycling. This bicycle was a gaudy, sparkly, pink machine, with white handlebars and tassels (which were subsequently removed, as per my instructions). Aesthetically, it wasn’t really “me”, but beggars can’t be choosers, and I was thrilled to have my very own bike.
Living in Melbourne in the 1990s meant that we had a backyard roughly twice the size of our house, and therefore ample space to ride laps, training wheels still firmly attached.
I remember the first time I rode without training wheels, and the feeling of first terror and then joy as my dad ran alongside me.
This bike did the job for a few years, until it started to fall apart, and I needed an upgrade. I had saved $300 in my Dollarmites saving account, by which I mean my parents had made regular donations into my account on my behalf (thanks mum and dad).
I don’t remember where I bought this next bike from, or even which brand it was. But it was metallic forest green, it had Shimano gears, and it was my pride and joy.
I have so many memories of that bike, riding around the streets of Newport. One time, I was riding to the shops, and I found a man’s wallet on the ground. I took it home, and dad looked up his name in the White Pages (1998 life). The grateful owner of the wallet gave me a $20 reward, and I felt rich.
I remember the chain frequently coming off, and having to trudge back home so my dad could fix it. One day, this happened while the school bully happened to be walking past, and I was genuinely terrified he was going to chase me and beat me up (he didn’t).
I rode to the Lebanese grocery store at the end of the street and bought milk, bread, and the newspaper for my parents; the plastic bag containing these goods swinging precariously from my handlebars as I rode home.
The bike came with me when we moved to Queanbeyan, NSW in 2000. Family lived nearby and I rode the streets with my cousins. The roads there were such a treat to ride on; back in Melbourne I was confined to the footpath due to narrower roads and more traffic.
Despite these fond memories, I don’t know what became of that bike. I think I outgrew it and it was relegated to the garden shed where it rusted into oblivion. There came a point where I considered buying a new bike, but by then I was a lazy teenager. Besides, I was no longer allowed to ride on the footpath, and we had moved back to Melbourne. The prospect of riding on the roads terrified me, and I had no one to teach me. My next bike wouldn’t come until nearly 10 years later…