The Book - Bart Beck

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About Bart Beck

MY FIRST BICYCLE

My Dad was employed at Fairbanks Morse, which was in the same part of town, as the bicycle shop, and on this one particular morning Dad told me to meet him at a certain time, that evening, on the Flint Avenue bridge. He didn't say why, and at that time, kids did not question orders that originated at the summit. If your dad said "meet me on the Flint Avenue Bridge at 5:15 PM", you were on the bridge no later than 5:10, in case there was a little difference between his watch and the one that belonged to the man that blew the Fairbanks Morse whistle, at five o'clock. When Dad arrived he said that I should wait outside of the bicycle shop. He went inside and came out shortly, pushing my new used bike. I had learned to ride on one of the neighbor kid's bike, so I just got on and we rode home together.

Not all bikes, at that time, were equipped with coaster brakes. Some of them had no flexible connection between the pedals and the rear wheel, and the only brake that you had was the effort that you applied to the pedals, in the reverse direction. Mine was of that vintage. It was a good thing, because if I sat on the seat, my legs were not long enough to reach the pedals while they were going through the lower part of their circle. As a result, if I wanted to sit on the seat, I would give each pedal a push, when it came up, and then wait for it to come up again. The only other way that a kid, with short legs, could ride a bike, not equipped with a coaster brake, was to put one leg through the frame and ride it from one side, or straddle the frame and stand up. That is how I learned to ride.

In those days there was only one size of bicycle, and that was the one that was made for grown ups. It was the same with bicycles as it was with shoes and overalls, "buy them a little big, the kid will grow into them". The top of the line, in bicycles was the Ranger and the choice sled was the Flexible Flyer.

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