1. Pink Bike of Undetermined Origin ("Freckles") My first bike. It had the pom-poms on the handlebars and training wheels. The derailleur cover had a picture of a little girl with brown pigtails and freckles, hence the name. I'm not sure what happened to Freckles, frankly. 2. Red Huffy BMX When I was eight, everybody had a BMX bike. This was a Christmas present, I think. Never got any air, and I was too afraid to sail into mud pits and the like, but I did manage at least two concussions on the asphalt in front of Dee Alford's house. Like many BMXs of the time, my Huffy had those awesome puffy Velcro bike frame shields that, um, shielded my bike frame from various dents and scratches. I think I gave this to my brother at some point.
3. Red Huffy 10 Speed I eventually lost interest in fixed gear bikes and was awarded another red Huffy—this time a 10 speed—as my personal gateway into adolescence. Much time was spent riding the bike from my neighborhood (Foxcroft) to the neighborhood on the other side of Fairview (Foxcroft East). Fairview, being the main road to Southpark Mall, was uncrossable, but fortunately, there was a hollowed-out underpass for bikers to use. My parents thought the underpass was creepy (it was) and forbade me to do it. I didn't care. Haynes Mansfield, whom I had Fox-Trotted with at Teen Cotillion, lived in Foxcroft East and I was determined to ride past his house in a moony daze at least once a day.
Post-Mansfield, the bike sat forgotten in the basement (with the exception of the few times I used it to ride to piano lessons) for the majority of junior high and high school. In 1998, I had the bright idea of dusting off the bike and bringing it to the School of the Arts with me. I didn't think to buy a lock. It was stolen one week later, from the front porch of the fabled "Death Star" of NCSA party house fame.
4. Gray Mongoose 21 Speed Saddened by the loss of my Huffy, I immediately asked my dad to consider buying me a brand new bike for my birthday. He agreed. With the help of my brother, who had become a huge bike nerd at this point, I settled on a gorgeous, graphite-colored Mongoose 21-speed with V-brakes and a quick release wheel and seat. I felt that I had moved up in the world.
Early in the summer of 1998, I embarked on what would prove my last (and most painful) family trip with my dad and stepmother. I bought a chain lock for my new bike—at WalMart. For five dollars. Needless to say, my bike was missing when I returned from vacation. I'd had it about two weeks.
5. Blue Mongoose 21 Speed This bike survived being stolen twice before finally succumbing to its inevitable, horrible death. My dad, in one of his nice guy moods, felt really bad about the premature loss of my Mongoose and offered to buy me another, as long as I bought a lock for it. A good lock. I took him up on the offer and purchased some kryptonite. The lock, however, didn't come in so handy when I left my bike lying in my friend Jordan's backyard a mere 2 days after purchase. Did I mention that Jordan lived 2 blocks away from the aptly named Happy Hill Gardens Projects?
The second theft occurred in the spring of 2000. Me and my roommate Renée were drunk on margaritas and our windows were open wide. You could hear the cicadas buzzing around and, if you happened to be in our living room around 9 pm, the sharp crack of breaking wood.
"What was that?" I called out from the kitchen. "Nnnnn," said Renée from the couch.
Then I saw the crackhead with the 6 foot lead pipe on our front porch. We screamed. And then we let him ride away on my bike, which had been locked up to the porch's lintels.
The police found him 2 hours later, on my bike, breaking into someone else's house. The gears never changed right after that. And we never did figure out where the pipe came from. It looked as if he had dug it out of our yard.
After the lead-pipe incident, I felt like the Mongoose and me were meant to be together for all time. I rode it everywhere. I rode it all over Winston. I rode it all over Asheville. I discovered the joys of biking home drunk from the bar. Then I moved to New York and rode the bike to Jackson Heights; abandoned subway stations in the Bronx; the Floyd Bennett Airfield; Asbury Park; Fort Lee, New Jersey; Coney Island. I even rode it to work. I was committed. But, as I can see now, I was lazy. The sheer staying power of the bike seemed to me some magical charm. Is it any wonder I took risks?
My bike was dismantled during a month-long period when I left it locked up on a desolate corner in Red Hook. I knew better; in fact, I didn't go and check on it because I knew something horrible had happened and I couldn't face what I had done. They took everything—even the chain, even the handlebars. The frame was bent and twisted as if someone had taken a sledgehammer to it.
"Goodbye, bike," I said.
6. Maroon Fuji 21 Speed $80 on craigslist. You can't beat that. Still, I knew that I couldn't get attached to another bike so soon after the loss of the Mongoose. Six years! Gone! And it was all my fault!
So, when I got apathetic and left the Fuji outside—even after reports of the whole bic-pen-undoes-the-bike-lock scandal—I wasn't surprised when it disappeared. One morning, my neighbor called out from his stoop to ask me how I was doing.
"My bike is gone," I said. And that, as they say, was that.