Read the childhood series here
(Long before mountain bicycles, you still remember the BMX madness in the 1990s? Back then I did not know BMX stood for bicycle motocross, instead, I thought it was a brand. I think there should be a rule that all kids should be able to ride a bicycle at least one point of childhood life. Image source: http://bicyclensw.org.au)
It was great to be back home – I missed my kids the most (the Big Boss had a tough time going to school knowing that I was coming back in the afternoon) and my car the next (haha, don’t worry, my wife understands me). And whilst I was away, my son has been busy – very busy indeed. I am not sure what prompted him but he has been checking out bicycles at the hypermarkets. He did that some months ago but he was not pressing for purchase back then.
When he was small, we bought him a 3-wheeler but he soon got bored with it. We decided to hold back from buying another until he has grown up to ride a proper one and not another 3 wheeler (that is for babies, he once remarked). Lately, he has been bringing up the subject on it again – he got to know some of his classmates come to school on a bicycle and that seemed to captivate him.
He too has been toying on the idea of able to go to school on one – he said we can save on school bus fees but I think he knows that will not fly with us. There are too many junctions and heavy traffic between the house and the school for us to risk him with riding alone (unless the school was next door to the house, of course). And we have seen him looking in envy at the other kids at the playground.
The writing is on the wall for us to get him one – we just have been delaying this until we see him outperforming his “peers” in school (and from we saw and heard so far, he seems to be on the right track). My wife told me that he has even identified the exact model that he wanted me to buy once I am back.
And speaking about bicycles, do you still remember your very first bicycle?
I don’t recall when I started to ride a bicycle on 2 wheels (instead of a 3 wheeler) – probably at my grandma’s house where there always a couple of old big bicycles laying around for us kids to practice (still remember those with steel brakes?) and where no one says “no” to any kids.
Before that, I have seen and ride as pillion on those older black bicycles in Taiping (remember the brake lines was in steel?). And then some of the older kids in the neighbourhood had chopper bicycles (although I did not see anyone riding one with gears). Image source: Wikipedia.
But what I can recall was that I was able to ride on 2 wheels by Standard 4. We did not have bicycles at home so any chance of riding them was at my grandma’s house. There was also the place where I ride my first racing bicycle although I was too small to ride comfortably (I kept thinking I was going to fall over) – the change of speed gears was fascinating though.
Then one day when I was in Standard 5 (or so), my neighbour (lovely family from Sarawak) came over and asked if they can take me and my siblings for Christmas Open House at one of their relatives’ house. And there is where I saw it for the first time – a BMX bicycle. It was small, agile and it simply looked great. The design was NOT old school but it looked like a Ferrari on the fly.
I saw some kids riding it and since we were kind of “out of place” in the crowd, I was only able to see it from far or so I thought. When one of the aunties, after seeing me sitting down bored at the living room, remarked to one of the kids that they should “invite” me to play along, I got closer to it and was happy when they handed me the bicycle to take it for around. I was in heaven when I took hold of the bicycle and took it for a spin.
We took a turn riding it and I managed to put in another few rounds in it. Santa must have understood my wish back then.
When I got back, I mentioned that to my Dad but he only kept silent – a BMX bicycle was a luxury item back then. In a time when we had to rely on public bus, trains and my uncle’s car to move around, a bicycle was the last thing we need to strain our expenses. But not all was lost when we shifted house to another apartment block and we had one of the friendliest neighbour – a Chinese family and soon, 2 of the teenagers in the family (they were pretty much older than me) became more like big brothers to me. And one of them had a BMX bicycle.
I did not dare to ask the brother for his bicycle – if anything happens to it, I don’t want to put any strain my Dad to pay for the damages. But the brother noticed this one day and asked if I wanted to take it for a ride. At first, I politely declined but he insisted (and soon his father who was inside the house asked me not to be shy and the go-ahead to take the bicycle for a ride).
I took it for a ride and it was very smooth – I hardly hear any noise from the bicycle chain & sprockets.
The brother had greased the chains too well and it shows in the ride. I just took it for a ride around the neighbourhood and was worried if I had taken it for too long – my parents would disapprove of this. When I returned, the brother was inside the house and when I called him, he looked surprised. He expected me to take another few rounds and returned it only when I had enough.
He mentioned this to me and told me that I can take the bicycle for a ride at any time – he was getting too big for the bicycle and he hardly uses it (his Dad got him a motorcycle for his commute to school). And if no one was using it, it will only collect dust. And soon I was using it when I had to go to the shops (which was about 1.5 km away) to buy things for my Mom and at the same time, taking the BMX for a longer ride.
Riding fast on a BMX was definitely better than walking to the shops.
Although I was happy to be able to ride a BMX whenever I need, I was still apprehensive and shy of asking my neighbour to use the bicycle. At the end of the day, it was not my bicycle. Further, since my younger brother was also hooked to the BMX, we were worried that we may be using too much of something that we did not owe. And my Dad knew about it but he kept his silence.
But when I got top marks for my final year exams, something happened. Not known to me, my Dad has been making plans to buy a BMX bicycle for us (well, it is actually for me but my brother got his chance on it too – when I allowed him).
So on one fine weekend, my Dad came back home early and said that I need to follow him to buy something. Thinking that he is asking my help to carry some of the houses sundry items (as how he often do when he gets his monthly salary), I was all up and ready to go after he had taken his shower. We walked but in the wrong direction of the sundry shop – clearly, we were going to buy something different.
I kept quiet as we walked – my Dad did not give any clue of what he was intending to buy and why I need to follow him. Things got a lot clear when we reached the bicycle shop. We walked in and my Dad asked me to pick the colour (and the model) of the BMX bicycle and it will be all mine. It took me a moment to realise what was happening but then realised he was buying one for me (I later found out that my Dad had made an arrangement with the bicycle shop owner to pay in instalments for the bicycle).
Finally, I had my own BMX bicycle – it was maroon in colour and all shiny. The brand was Shimano similar to the image above. Image source: BMX Society.
And it remained in the “family” for the next few years until I started to lose interest on cycling and was more interested in motorcycling which was more high-powered and more expensive (where once again, I learned at my grandma’s house using my uncles’ bikes).
And now, it is my son’s turn to experience what I have gone through and I am very sure he is going to enjoy it.